Actually, I'm not OK, thanks for asking. Not that anyone did. This has been the most shocking thing about the events of the past 48 hours. It wasn't even an anonymous jury of 51 people lining up to say "not only do we dislike you, but we hate you so much we actually want to remove your right to even have a voice." It was the fact of how few of the people I thought I was close to actually even *noticed*, let alone cared, when I disappeared without a trace.
Argh. No. Start over. See, this is why I haven't wanted to write, tweet, even turn on my phone for the past two days. The anger and depression and bitterness just spills out of me like an ugly thick, black bile.
I was actually proud of myself, how well I'd been dealing with the seasonal change this year. As the days lengthen and November spins into the dark, horrible, miserable month of December, I usually sink into a deep, dark depression. I thought I'd escaped this year. I'd given up drinking, been keeping creative, feeling fairly engaged, trying to stay social - and then this crashed down on me like a ton of bricks.
I'll be honest, the past two days have been rough. It's been a round of crying jags (to the point where my boss noticed how red-eyed and sunken-cheeked I look and told me I looked "mashed") and bursts of paranoia and even the old friend, the suicidal urges. I try to keep busy, but how the hell am I supposed to get through the day with a tiny thoughtworm whispering in the back of my head "just give up, everyone hates you, you're a wretched, useless old woman and you might as well spare the resources of this earth by throwing yourself under a train now."
Why? For what?
I've talked before, about being banned from ILX, the online community I've been a part of for about 9 years now
. The last time, it was a mistake, an abuse of power by a new mod. This time, no. It's for real.
ILX operates a bizarre popularity contest called the "suggest ban". It was meant to act like a form of self governance against trolling and deliberately offensive posters. When it was first installed, it acted in that capacity, and within a short time, 3 notoriously vicious posters had been removed from the site. The moderators declared it a success, despite the misgivings of several posters about this form of mob justice.
Since then, things have deteriorated. Other people started getting banned - not people who were particularly vicious or nasty, but simply posters who had "large" personalities, or unusual or nonstandard political - or even aesthetic - views. It became obvious that it was no longer being used to control behaviour, but to punish OPINION or attempt to conform expression of ideas, rather than actions. The definition of "trolling" was clearly being widened to include "any and all repeated posting of ideas that contradict the hivemind." Instead of readdressing the issue of the suggest ban, it was simply modified, from a permanent ban to a 30-day reviewable ban.
Things turned ugly around the end of July/beginning of August. A long-term ILX poster - Mark Craig, aka Bimble - committed suicide, while under a Suggest Ban. I was in contact with him via email through the whole period leading up to, and after his banning, up to a few days before his death. I was well aware of the other issues he was facing in his life, both emotional and physical, during the lead-up to this devastating decision, and despite the allegations of a former ILX0r with an obvious axe to grind, AT THE TIME
, I honestly believed that the Suggest Ban had little or nothing to do with his death. If anything, he seemed happier, more engaged with life, without the constant drag of negativity that others' reactions to his particularly ebullient posting style and sexuality.
Now I've actually been dealt a suggest ban myself, and am dealing with the emotional fallout of it, I'm not so sure.
Yes, I come with mine own set of emotional and mental health issues myself, that predated ILX and have nothing to do with it. I have long-term issues with abandonment and rejection that several different courses of psychotherapy and CBT did nothing to shift (in fact, in one case, may have made worse.)Excommunication
has long been used as a threat and a form of control for communities, religious and otherwise. Shunning
, the emotional equivalent, is commonly known a form of Relationship Aggression
, a facet of abusive relationships and bullying.
A suggest ban comes without warning, after 51 people have clicked that button. There's NOTHING in the system to say "you're getting close." There's no explanation of WHY you have been banned. Just a blank screen, saying "you have been barred."
If it's supposed to act as a punishment or deterrent, shouldn't it refer the person being punished to some reason *why* they are being punished? If it was a particular post or exchange that triggered the ban, wouldn't it be helpful to tell the person which one it was, rather than leave them hanging in the dark? The refusal to share this information seems perverse at best.
It was 1am when I logged on to find myself barred. I was having a rough night; I'd fallen asleep at 9pm, to be woken by indigestion, so I thought I'd futz about on the internet to make myself sleepy. BAM. You are banned. It was like being slapped in the face, or otherwise insulted or injured by 51 anonymous people in a row, in some kind of Kafkaesque nightmare. No explanation, no chance of reprieve. YOU ARE SHIT. YOU ARE A BAD PERSON. WE LOATHE YOU. WE JUDGE YOU UNWORTHY AND WE WANT YOU GONE. WE WISH TO TAKE AWAY YOUR RIGHT TO SPEAK, OR EVEN EXIST.
I suffer from bad enough bursts of paranoia and self loathing as part of my illness. At 1am, with no one to speak to, no explanation, no one to even ask, this spiralled into such deep, black depression that - it seems odd to be able to type this calmly now - had there been a gun in my house, or even an adequate supply of medication, I have no doubt that I would now be dead.
"You'd kill yourself over a messageboard?" In the cold light of day, yes, it seems absurd. But can you imagine what it feels like, cold, alone, at 1 in the morning, mental illness rattling round your head, feeling that you have just been forcibly removed from the only permanent community you have ever known? No, I don't think you can. I don't think that until you have actually been in a situation like that, that you can ever really comprehend the kind of agony this produces. Human beings are by nature a social animal, even an introvert loner like me. It HURTS to be excluded. It HURTS to be ejected, forcibly, publicly, humiliatingly, from a group you considered yourself part of.
Now obviously, I didn't kill myself, though it has been a rough couple of days. I withdrew into my shell. Turned my phone off, stopped reading my email, stopped responding to Twitter. I wanted to ERASE MYSELF. I wanted to commit internet suicide, wanted to delete all my accounts and disappear. I mean, that's what that shadowy Jury of 51 wanted, right? To ERASE me, to make me DISAPPEAR.
It took two days to even get a response as to what had happened. This was the mystifying thing. I had said or posted nothing even remotely controversial in weeks. I had actually been friendly and joyful, and had started/contributed to a couple of successful threads. If it had happened in the midst of a heated exchange of opinion (such as the "clusterfuck" about gender and race bias in media "best of" lists - again, note - expression of nonstandard opinions rather than actual personal nastiness) then I would have had some explanation. But no, it happened arbitrarily, randomly, in the midst of a calm, even *good* period.
I had emailed a mod who had always been friendly to me (a mod who shares mental health issues, and unfortunately, also shares rape survivor status, so might understand why certain situations and misogynist behaviours trigger a highly defensive reaction in me.) during the last set of troubles detailed in the previous blog linked above. The vast majority of the suggest bans, they said, came from ILM, and dated back to the period 4 or 5 months ago (around the time of Bimble's banning and suicide.)
Sadly, I remember the incident well. An innocent poster started a thread asking why more women didn't post to the Music portion of the board, though the genders were well balanced across the site. I answered, as one of the handful of prominent female posters on ILM, explained some of my not-so-great experiences on the site, and tried to draw some conclusions about why other women might be put off by it. I was totally unprepared for the reaction this inspired.
Rather than listen to my criticism, this inspired a 200-post pile-up that turned into a highly personal character assassination of myself. "We don't hate you because you're female - or even a feminist" the argument went. "We hate you because you're an uppity bitch with a nonconformist attitude and an assertive sexuality that we find scary and threatening."
I took an ILX break after this incident. Not just because of the vile, nasty, personal nature of the pile-on, but the fact that the moderators stood back and did absolutely nothing. And yet these are the people who are the very same ones who are dishing out the Suggest Bans.
No, I did not kill myself, but my blood is still on your hands. I'm still dealing with the emotional effects of this, and it isn't pretty. My psychic defences have been overwhelmed, the depression has overwhelmed me. It's like a cloud of filth blotting out the sun. I take pleasure in nothing. The things I'd been looking forward to over the past few months - my trip to Istanbul, the delayed release of my band's album, even a gig on Saturday I've already bought tickets for, but now do not feel strong enough to attend - I want to cancel them all. They bring me no pleasure. My capacity for pleasure, for joy, for companionship, just seems to have snapped off, destroyed by that anonymous Jury of 51.