So one morning I was going through my DA messages and there was one from deviant RaikuHoshigami with a rather interesting proposition. Basically, he suggested that I write an article on "Cyber-Bullying" as it pertains to MMD.
He raised some really interesting points with respect to this subject and in a nutshell these were all points that affect many of us here on DA who are MMDers, either directly or indirectly. Especially since outside of Japan, many MMDers are exactly in the demographic groups most likely to be affected by "Cyber-Bullying"; namely those who are in their pre-teen and teens. There are also instances to my direct knowledge where some who are in their early 20s have been negatively impacted in their experiences with MMD by others on DA. So, this is a subject worth visiting in a little more depth.
So what we will do here are the following:
- What is Cyber-Bullying as it pertains to MMD and why Cyber-Bullying is bad for MMD
- The "MMD Police" and why this is a "bad" thing
- What you can do if you're a victim of Cyber-Bullying
I've included at the end a list of links for more information and help on this topic.
First off, in the United States, cyber-bullying is illegal. California has specific legislation that deals directly with this type of activity. Most other States have this area covered under existing anti-harassment or anti-stalking legislation. Most major Police Departments also have anti-Cyber-Bullying units and they do take this matter seriously, more so than perhaps physical harassment cases. So be warned, if you engage in this type of activity, you can end up in serious trouble with the Law. Also, don't think that just because you're hiding behind a screen name on the Internet that the Authorities can't find out who you are and where you live. It's actually a lot easier than you may think.
Also a very important point. Cyber-Bullying can only occur between "kids". "Kids" being defined as minors as provided by Law. An adult that is engaged in this type of activity against a minor can be charged with harassment. At the very least this can lead to being charged with a misdemeanor (= hefty fine + other penalties) and in more serious cases a felony (= jail time). The penalties upon conviction for a minor are no less severe and can even lead to a mandatory stay at the local Juvenile Detention Center (Juvenile Hall in more common palance).
What is Cyber-Bullying as it pertains to MMD and why Cyber-Bullying is bad for MMD
Cyber-Bullying occurs when someone makes a nasty digital communication (remark /post /comment /picture /message /website /blog/trolling) that is designed to hurt or embarrass the recipient Especially if this behavior is repetitive and when others are bought in to perpetrate further attacks on the victim. "Kids" and especially teens are much more likely to be adversely affected by this type of behavior than adults. In extreme cases, cyber-bullying have led to cases of clinical depression and even to suicides by victims in the USA; which is why the Government and other Authorities are increasingly concerned about the problem.
The most likely form that this will occur within the context of MMD is when people make nasty remarks on someone else's MMD picture or video. For example, a lot of kids like to create OCs (Original Characters) that are a reflection of themselves - call them avatars if you like. So just imagine what would happen if a child spends hours with the PMD editor, creates a self-image for use in MMD, then posts a picture of this model on their DA page. Along comes someone and they post a comment such as: "That's ugly ...". How do you think that child will feel?
Let's compound the problem. So the person who posts the comment gets his friends to post similar comments; now you have a group ganging up on the child. In traditional bullying, a kid can run home, shut the door and is safe within the confines of his own home. They cannot do this when they're on the Internet because the Internet brings the world into their home.
OK, they can turn off the computer and the problem would go away right? Well unfortunately, no. First off, most kids aren't mature enough to do that and secondly, those postings will still be there the next time they go back on the Internet.
When I looked around DA, especially at the names used by many of the groups dedicated to MMD, I can see that this MMD community has had a lot of what kids refer to as "drama". This is where one group of kids pick on another kid or kids and basically there's been a series of online battles occurring within the confines of DA without the knowledge of most adults. The end result is that the community becomes fractured and many kids leave the hobby completely due to their negative experiences.
In Japan, the MMD community is demographically older. They probably have their own issues, but that's not the discussion here. Over here, "Overseas" as the Japanese refer to us, our demographics do include a much larger community of minors; and that is a good thing. I have seen kids use my models in ways that I would never have imagined. There is a lot of creative energy coming from the kids and that's really wonderful. By the same token, that behooves those of us who are adults to do something when individual kids (or other for that matter) are picked on. Kids get all over the place on the Internet. Most can be on their cellphone, IM, Twitter, Facebook and DA all at the same time in a manner that few adults could possibly emulate. For them cyber-space is their world and an environment in which they can thrive as fish does in water. Yet it can also be a dangerous place and as responsible adults we can and should help them when they get in trouble.
There's probably many things that adults can do to help; but this is what I've been doing for a year on DA so maybe you might get some ideas from what I am about to put forward. Mine is not the definitive solution; it is merely my way of doing things.
- I keep my DA pages "G" or at least "PG" rated. When I depart from this norm I make sure that my work is safely behind the mature filter.
- I will respond to 99% of any comment posted on my pages in a friendly matter. There's always that 1% to which my ability to formulate an intelligent response totally fails.
- There have been times when Deviants have come to "my side" of DA complaining that they have not been receiving "nice" treatment elsewhere on DA. My response has always been that they are ALWAYS welcomed in my small corner of DA. I have always done this for a purpose, and that is to provide people of all ages a "safe haven", in as much as I can, within the boundaries of my pages. People can come here, read about Miku and the other Vocaloids doing insane things and have a good laugh, grab a nice model to play with, read one of the tutorials and learn something or just look at my MMD pictures (and get another good unintentional laugh). My work was designed to make my pages be a safe place to hang out. Just peruse through the different sections of my DA pages and you will find evidence of this policy everywhere. I can't stop the drama, nor can I necessarily stop the bullying, but I can provide kids (and others) somewhere safe to go should they need it. It's one of the least things that I can do to contribute to this community.
That does not mean I am necessarily a "nice guy". I am not. I have chewed out people and quite aggressively at that if my buttons have been pressed the wrong way. That said, I am a skilled communicator and can usually differentiate between the posting of kids from those of adults so I will, in general, gauge my more aggressive postings accordingly.
And this leads nicely to the next point.
The "MMD Police" and why this is a "bad" thing
So, if someone wants to edit (say for example) the Windows100% model by Mamama of See U. So long as it's just for show, that's fine by me. Besides, I don't speak for either Windows100% magazine nor for Mamama. I have no idea what they would think about the edit. If they have an issue with it, that's between them and the person who made the edit. It is not my place to go to that person's page and post some negative remark stating that the edit was "illegal". Now, if they also decided to distribute that model, I might say something, but one can put the point across politely and nicely. What happens beyond that point is really between them and the copyright owner. Seriously, it really is none of my business.
Does this kind of reasoning make sense?
So, some people seem to make it a habit to go on to other peoples pages; sees something that they consider to be an "illegal" edit and use that as an excuse to attack the author. Note, that they have the tendency to attack the author and not just point out the transgressions that they have perceived in the work. There is a big difference and you can usually tell by the tone of the posting.
But the thing that really gets to me and makes me angry with this type of behavior is because of its potential to do real harm to the emotions of the author, and generally, this will be a kid or a teen. Unlike most adults, they would not have developed the emotional armor to protect themselves and can easily be seriously hurt by negative remarks.
DA is a place where people of all ages and abilities show their self expression to the world. Art is a very personal expression. Every piece of art contains a part of that person in that work. When you attack a piece of art (except as perhaps a trained art critic) you can easily end up inadvertently attacking the originator of that art personally and hurtfully. This is one of the primarily reasons why I almost never ever write a critique, unless I know the person well. Even then, it's phrased very, very carefully.
These are the two main reasons why I detest the MMD Police with a passion. First they are self appointed individuals who believe they have the moral right to attack someone because of some perceived infringement of copyright (which in itself as I have outlined elsewhere is a highly complex legal subject). Secondly, almost in all cases that I've personally seen, they then pursue their activities against someone who in most cases is virtually defenseless. If these are not clear cut examples of cyber-bullying or in the case of an adult, cyber-harassment, I really don't know what it is.
The only person who can speak for the copyright holder is the copyright holder themselves and their appointed legal representatives. Anybody else is just a busybody, who if you want to stretch the logic only slightly, can actually do the legal copyright holder more harm than good. So really, the so called MMD Police is really helping no one other than themselves and hurting others in the process of pursuing their own selfish agenda.
If someone is editing a model they really shouldn't, there are positive ways of telling them what they are doing is not correct without hurting their feelings. And in general, when you don't attack people, they will generally do what you ask. It is simply effective communications put into action and is really easy to implement even on the Internet. So if you are moved to make a negative point, put it over in a positive manner. Seriously, it's not rocket science.
What you can do if you're a victim of Cyber-Bullying
If you find yourself a victim of a cyber-bullying attack (regardless of how you personally want to define that), do the following. Bear in mind that these are only suggestions and the links I've provided at the end of this article gives other strategies you can employ to protect yourself. Also, my strategy applies primarily to your experiences on DA.
- Get away from the computer until you calm down, or at the very least, away from the post that you find upsetting. Things that I do when something upsets me online is to "walk the dog". On some days, my dog gets a lot of walks ...
- If you must stay online, go do something else such as finding a nice new model to download and play with in MMD. Or go play an MMORPG. One of the (only) great things about Korean Free-to-Play MMORPGs is that they provide hours of mindlessly enjoyment grinding on the same mobs over-and-over again. This is a great therapy to work off frustrations and pent up anger.
- When you return to DA, HIDE the post that you find offensive - don't respond to it. Then BLOCK the person who made the post. If they return under another ID, repeat the process, but also REPORT them to the DA Staff. It is against the DA TOS to harass other DA users.
- Do not be afraid to get help, ideally from a parent, a school counselor or another responsible adult. Do this face-to-face ideally as it makes a big difference. Even if you may think that it's only a "little thing", if it bothers you, seek at least their advice or opinion.
A Note On Constructive Criticism
It has been bought to my attention by Deviants: mbarnesMMD, FeatherlessHeresy and Andvili, that I should mention that "Constructive Criticism" should not be mistaken for Cyber-Bullying. Within the DA environment, constructive criticism is a helpful mechanism in which other Deviants will try to offer a "critique" on a work that is on display. For subscription accounts, artists can specifically ask for critiques, but free accounts can't and these will end up in the comments section, which may cause them to be mistaken for something that they are not.
Critiques/Constructive Criticisms are intended as helpful commentary on the work on display. Deviants trying to help an artist develop will spend some time and thought to comment on what they like, don't like and suggested avenues to explore to improve either the work or the artist's skills. As such they can be an invaluable aid for artists. These are not personal attacks nor should they be mistaken for cyber-bullying posts or comments posted by "trolls" even if they present a negative view on the artwork.
Let me give you an example for clarification:
"The basic composition is fair, but you might want to review your color choices. Also the expressions on the model don't really work in portraying the emotions you are trying to relay with this piece. Additionally, the background choice is poor as it is distracting."
Rather a negative post, yes. But it does not attack the artists; it is just the subjective opinion of the work from the commentator's perspective. It's designed to tell the artist how this particular viewer finds the work. People are different so other people may say essentially the same thing in a different way. Critiques, which are also referred to as constructive criticisms, are an intrinsic part of the DA culture - after all, this is a site devoted to the Arts, right?
A cyber-bully attack is different. Here is a crude example:
"That sucks cuz you suck, a fat monkey can draw better than that."
See the difference?
DA is a great place for MMD. Plenty of nice people, great selection of MMD related works to view, plenty of useful information on MMD and of course a huge selection of free models. It should also be a safe place. People do get passionate about MMD and I've seen arguments, and provided that this is about the hobby, that's "normal". However, when it gets personal you don't have to put up with it. There is help out there, all you need to do is reach out for it. You don't have to face these problems alone (and shouldn't).
That said, if you yourself behave like an idiot and someone calls you out on it (like me): that's not cyber-bullying, that's just you asking for it. At the end of the day, treat others as you like to be treated by others and generally that's a good policy. And if that doesn't work in certain instances, please do remember that you do have other remedies.