This post may contain triggers for some, as we address the subject of internet predators further down. The TL;DR is this: please think twice before sharing personal information or photos, even with people you think you know. And do not ever hesitate to reach out to a moderator if another user makes you feel uncomfortable or fearful–no matter the historical conversation/relationship or how mundane you think we’ll think it is. We will always review any reports of possible predatory behavior, no questions asked, no judgement.
Welcome one, welcome all, to the Wacky Writers “how to be safe on the internet” lecture.
We have seen a few threads pop up historically (not recently) like these:
- Face Reveals
- How Old Are You
In case you haven’t seen me mention it before, I’m a mom. No, literally, I have kids. And as a mom (don’t you roll your eyes at me young person), that plays a big part in what I think is important about running a community such as this one. My biggest concern is and has always been the safety and well-being of our members. This community is primarily aimed at teenagers (though we are trying to expand into more adult territory, as well) and I feel it’s my responsibility, as a mom, to make sure all of you are using the internet safely, here and elsewhere.
You’ve heard the lectures, you’ve seen the PSAs. But let me reiterate a few things.
I know a lot of people don’t seem to take this very seriously, but let me just say, from the Site Wizard to all of you, it is very difficult to truly and thoroughly erase the 0s and 1s that make up the data you post online. It can be deleted, eventually, but you have no idea if someone took a screenshot, saved your post/photo, or even printed it out and passed it around somewhere. And in many cases, even data that’s been partially scrubbed off the face of the earth can be put back together. So please, think long and hard if you want to share photos of yourself when you can’t control how far and wide they may go, if someone had a mind to do so. Our community is comprised of a great group of people. But as we continue to grow (woo!) so does the possibility of users with bad intentions joining, also (not so woo). I take the privacy and safety of our users seriously, and have put in place safeguards against these types of people, but I can only do so much.
I highly discourage threads offering face reveals or age reveals or anything else that’s personal. They’re not technically against our Code of Conduct, but we want you to think carefully about what you want to share on the internet.
Some people might say it’s overdramatic. Some people might say it’s “too sensitive”. Even some others may say it’s “just wanting attention.” But I want to say in the clearest, strongest possible terms the following:
If you feel, for any reason, uncomfortable, put off, or nervous about an interaction with a user, especially one where you’ve provided personal information or it’s become sexual in nature, please please PLEASE reach out to one of us.
I cannot emphasize this enough. Our entire team is dedicated to providing a safe space and safe community for everyone. And we will always, without question, review interactions that make you feel uncomfortable. If needed, we will reach out to the user in question.
LET ME REPEAT THIS.
If you feel uncomfortable for something even as mundane as 1) a user you’ve never interacted with commenting they think your profile picture is “hot”, 2) a user frequently uses language or turns of phrase (especially sexual ones) that make you uncomfortable, even if they’re not engaging with you directly, or 3) a user who just seems to want to make “small talk” seems to keep asking you more and more personal questions, reach out to us.
It is never too late to let us know something is up. You could have shared all but your home address with somebody and we will absolutely not judge what your conversation was up to this point. The most important thing to us is knowing that our users are safe.
It can be embarrassing. I know from experience. Maybe you flirted back a little with somebody, innocent enough, right? Maybe it went further than that, and you were practically in an emotional relationship with this person. You may think “Well, I’ve already said and done all of this up to this point, I can’t just say no” or “I can’t decide that I’m suddenly uncomfortable with this”–NO. You can ALWAYS choose. Your rights to your privacy and safety DO NOT SUDDENLY DISAPPEAR with that face reveal or personal conversation with a user who ends up turning out to be someone different than you thought they were.
We will never utter phrases like “Well, you were kinda leading them on”, or “What did you think would happen?” People do dumb stuff, we know. We’ve done it too. Sometimes you feel like you went in too deep or for too long. There are too many stories of bad things happening to good people because they felt they couldn’t “stop being nice to that other person.”
This is what we are here for. This is literally our job. And we care about each and every one of you and want this to be a safe (and fun!) place for creators to create and people to socialize and relax.
I’m not trying to be a doomsayer or “scare you straight,” I want you, dear user, to understand just how seriously the mods and I take this kind of thing and that there is never a point where we’ll raise an eyebrow at you and say “Don’t you think you’re being a little oversensitive?”
We will review the information you provided. If you ask us to, we can reach out to that user and ask them not to communicate with you again (or even just for a little while). If you don’t want anyone (especially that person) to know you reached out to us, we can and will work with that too.
Now before I get to the end of this long-winded post, let me clarify. Sometimes people really did mean something innocently, or had a different tone in mind. Maybe they didn’t realize they were bothering you. People read things with different inflections and we’re not about to start banning people for saying something that was read the wrong way. But either way, that doesn’t matter–what does matter is that you can still reach out to us, and we can look into things to confirm that the behavior was, in fact, innocent. Even if there’s not any obvious indicators of abusive or dangerous behavior, it still lets us know to keep an eye on things for a while, just in case.
Oh, and additionally? You do not have to flag a post to tell us about something. Just click on this name:
→ @moderators ←
and click “Message.” We are all in this group. It comes to us as a PM. You don’t have to fear flagging somebody publicly - you can still bring it to our attention without the flag, if you’re afraid or nervous about flagging publicly. If the stuff that’s happening or making you uncomfortable is happening in PMs, mention that, and we can still address it. There isn’t some kind of penalty for a “false alarm.” But there could be severe consequences for not wanting to raise a “false alarm” that turned out to be something to be alarmed about. And of course, any illegal predatory behavior will always result in an immediate ban, full stop, and, if necessary, roping in the appropriate authorities to address potential or proven predators.
We love this community, and we love the friendships and relationships that have developed here and we want to continue to foster that–safely. We’re just asking you all to take a moment to think about it before you share personal information or selfies, and to be aware that the internet, while awesome, can hold some not-so-awesome people.
And as one last, final note, if things have gone really way too far, to the point that a possible predator knows where you live or has taken on IRL stalking behaviors, please please reach out to the authorities in your area to file a report and ensure your safety.
Discuss or ask questions (or offer additional internet safety tips!) below. Stay safe.