Enough is enough

March comes in like a lion…

I told myself I wasn’t going to even give this the time of day.  Or mention this on here.  But here I am.  Giving it the time of day.  This is gonna be a long post, so feel free to leave now if you’re not in the mood for rant.

I will preface this with a question: If you could leave a MEAN, anonymous comment on a blog…without getting caught…would you do it?  Or would you be too afraid of the universe somehow playing a sick joke on you and outing you?

You see, last week I received my first hateful comment on this blog. I know, you’re thinking What has this chick done to piss someone off?  I deleted it because, quite frankly, it was dripping with vitriol, and it looked bad on that blogger’s part.  Like, really bad, people. Not to mention that this person was insulting my integrity.  
I learned a lot about how to interact with people when I went off to college.  So much so, that I now over-analyze everything.  Shanna recently wrote about over thinking things.  Her post really resonated with me. But, here I am, still mulling over this nonsense.

Everyone makes mistakes. Some are silly, some are serious. Mistakes can lead to misunderstandings. Misunderstandings can lead to anger and hurt.  But what happens when one party is not willing to meet you half way to make amends?  Especially when you are the one that extends the olive branch? 

Well, that’s where you just have to agree to disagree.  You can continue being friends, or you can just become acquaintances. (Anyone else find humor in dissecting the levels of friendships with otherwise “total strangers” in cyberland?  I digress.)  Or, you can don a cloak of anonymity and leave hateful, bullying blog comments for the person who tried to make amends with you.  Unfortunately, that’s the route this person took.  And by unfortunate, I mean for them.

some ee  cards: your anonymous blog comment really put my in my place and taught me a lesson

You may be wondering how I even presume to know who my anonymous commenting “friend” even was.  I’m a smart cookie.  Not only that, I’m no novice when it comes to cyber-bullying or cyber-stalking.  I was a victim of it in my first semester of college.  And let me tell you—you see the internet through a different set of eyes when you are harassed and threatened online.  And that metaphorical playing field turns into a sandbox when people you care about are approached by that person offline.  

My college cyber-stalking experience was a harrowing one.  These persons e-mailed me pictures of myself that they collected from my AIM profile (yes, I just felt old admitting that), and my sorority’s website.  The group would bombard me with instant messages from different AIM screen names.  I would block one, only to see another username created to take its place.  At one point, I had 6 different accounts harassing me on AIM simultaneously, tearing me down by insulting my weight, race, and gender.  It was clear they wanted me to be aware that they knew who I was, and it was clear they had a vendetta.  They even e-mailed me telling me when and where they saw me on campus.
someecards.com - Remember Sweetie, Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, Just like poop...
Then, one of my sorority sisters told me that a strange girl came up to her and stated that I had stolen “her cousin’s boyfriend from her.”  How did this Northern Belle manage that, exactly?  I learned that it was all due to one (1) date I had with a guy whose ex-girlfriend happened to be a raging lunatic.  Yes.  One date.  Needless to say, crazy “swimfan” ex-girlfriend was a deal breaker for me.
During that ordeal, I literally was afraid of stepping outside of my dorm room. This is coming from the girl who was used to dodging drug dealers in her old neighborhood in New York City.  I can’t explain to you the anxiety that this brought into my life. This was my freshman year of college…my first time living away from home.  I didn’t own a car, so I couldn’t just escape this peril on my own.  I’d have to call my parents, terror-stricken, and have them take me home.  And that would have just about killed them. 
So what did I do? I told my RA, who spoke with the dorm’s director, who spoke to the Office of Student Life, who then escalated it to the Vice President of Student Affairs of the university…aka the badass mofo lawyer  you don’t want to face in court.
I hardly had to do a thing in my defense. Oh, except I kept soft and hard copies of the e-mails…and of the hateful instant messages…both screenshots AND scripts.  I’m not stupid.  Trusting, but definitely not stupid. After submitting the evidence, the university was easily able to trace the IP addresses of the individuals.  The college senior who masterminded this whole attack on me was given two options: apologize and do really shitty community service…or politely be dismissed from the university–without walking the stage–after 4 years of classes.  Sucked to be her.

Fast-forward to this anonymous comment.  There are tools at your disposal to easily track who visits your website.  Statcounter is one of them, and I opened an account a few weeks ago not thinking I would need it for more than tracking my blog’s statistics.

The minute I got the FIRST (non-anonymous) comment last week, I visited my Statcounter account.  It logged their computer’s IP address, approximate GPS coordinates, their Internet Service Provider (ISP), referring link, entry page, links clicked, time spent, and the exit link.  The exit link was the comment form.  I labeled the IP address with their identity so that I could see if they returned.

This Tuesday, the same IP address returned and left this comment:

anonymous comment

Insanely offensive? No, silly rather, but the point of the matter is that they chose to leave a mean comment.  I’ll say it again; they CHOSE to leave a mean comment. On top of that, they chose to make it anonymous so that I could not reply nor know who was the culprit (so they thought).

This person then returned a few hours later (after I had disabled anonymous comments). To leave another anonymous comment?  To see if I had deleted it?  I have no idea how this person’s brain works.

The anonymous comment was left during business hours (10:19 AM)…and here’s the zinger.  Oddly enough, Statcounter logged the ISP’s name as this person’s workplace. How did I know? I already had a hunch–I’m not stupid. A simple Google search with the blogger’s name led me to their LinkedIn profile (including their picture)…and their employer’s name beneath their title.  Talk about a public relations nightmare.

I’m not sure what this person’s motives are…but I will tell you this…the same visitor path (referring link, links clicked, exit link) repeats itself at another location (IP address).  Hint: it’s their own blog URL that is the referring link.  And it is after business hours.  You guessed it–I now also know the IP address of their computer at home.

someecards.com - I know I could simply unlike or delete it, but I would rather bully someone into not wanting to partcipate anymore. That's just how I roll...

So I asked myself this last night, should I e-mail the person and advise them to stop behaving like an idiot, providing all the evidence I’ve garnered (activity logs, screenshots, etc), or should I blog about it, so that other bloggers could benefit from this experience?  Obviously, I chose the latter.

I DO NOT PLAY GAMES when it comes to online harassment, whether you want to call it cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, Swimfan-stalking…whatever.  I chose to nip this in the bud while informing others on how to protect themselves simultaneously.

I do not have children, but if I did (and if I chose to splash their pictures all over my blog as is my given right) you can bet your bottom dollar that I will take any necessary precaution in protecting myself.  Let it be known that Statcounter is not illegal and is one of many tools available for site analytics.

Know that your actions can be tracked online.  Know that it is not prudent to have your full name as your e-mail address if you’re going to engage in destructive behavior online.  Know that it is a waste of time to leave negative comments on a blog.  Don’t like them?  Don’t go to their blog.  Simple.

So I ask my not-so-anonymous commentator…is it worth it to continue with this grudge?  Is it worth it to associate your troll-like comments with your employer’s company name?  I don’t think it prudent.  Take this as a friendly warning.  I know how to protect myself online and, hopefully,  as a result of this post, now do many other bloggers.

Linking up with: Amy, Kelsey, and Jean.