We all like to be a part of a group. When you belong to something outside of your home, then you belong. From then on, you aren’t alone but a part of something bigger. There are many different types of groups or communities that we belong to. Maybe you are a member of a church or you volunteer at a home for senior citizens, maybe even a member of a gang. Whatever it is, the people that belong to the same group are a part of your extended community. You may not know all of them personally, but essentially they are your “friends.”
This idea of friendship seems to be simple and straightforward but becomes complicated when you apply it to the virtual world that nearly every human being belongs to in some capacity. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have millions of followers and although they provide personal profiles, they are publically online. Each user has the ability to make their profile private, but just like with teen pregnancy, people don’t understand that the only way to avoid the negative outcomes is to simply not do it – to be celibate. Once you share a quote, picture or personal opinion online with your friends, it is up for grabs in a public domain. Your level of popularity determines how many people are able to see your information online.
So what happens when you post or tweet something negative about a person and it gets back to them? Since it‘s written online and is made public, it is no longer just an innocent opinion, but whatever remark has been made can be considered libel.
Libel [li•bel]: the publication of blasphemous, treasonable, seditious, or obscene writings or pictures.
Although the word itself, libel, sounds really official and the average person may need to look the definition up, it is real, and lawsuits can be very common and ordinary over it.
You may think, “It’s just gossip,” or, “I have a right to my opinion,” but when it has the ability to endanger a person’s job and/or reputation it becomes seriously personal very quick.
Typically, you only hear about it in public cases like the one about famed bad-girl Courtney Love, but it also happens to the private citizen.
Courtney Love’s case was about a dispute between herself and fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir. Simorangkir argued that Love owed her over a thousand dollars worth of clothes money. According to this site, “[Love] announced that Simorangkir was a drug-pushing prostitute with a history of assault and battery who lost custody of her own child and capitalized on Love’s own fame before stealing from her.” To this, Love responded by tweeting the following:
“She has received a VAST amount of money from me over 40,000 dollars and I do not make people famous and get raped TOO!”
But wait, that’s not all. Courtney then went on Etsy.com and MySpace with her libelous banter. Love’s lawyers defended her saying that no damage was caused to Simorangkir. However, how can this truly be proven? It is hard to prove because you cannot say exactly how many people saw it or were told about it and whether it affected their choice to buy from Simorangkir. Once a remark has been voiced online, the trail left behind is endless.
There is no doubt that Simorangkir was subject to public hatred after Love unleashed on her, but it was all due to her initial public comment towards Love. Love only made her comments after Simorangkir accused her of owing her thousands of dollars.
So, we wonder, although Love’s bark was louder than Simorangkir’s, who is at fault? We can argue that Love said worse things about the designer so she is the culprit but we can also say that Simorangkir is the most at fault because she was the one who started it. It is almost as if we can hear a little kid screaming, “But she started it, Mommy!!”
Truth is they are both at fault. Both parties participated in a libelous exchange. Both parties have been exposed in a public arena and both are subject to a diminished reputation. However, they both remain under the public eye. It is interesting how a little hatred can make people famous.
Personally, I have never heard of Dawn Simorangkir, The Boudoir Queen – have you? After this public debacle, her name is all over the media and whether it is a good or bad thing, she’s getting press. People who have never heard of her will be looking up her information on her site, and overall her followers may essentially increase.
This brings us back to the concept of online friends. I think it’s safe to say that Love and Simorangkir friends’ list increased during and after the libel case. The new followers aren’t people who actually know the two but want to follow them online in order to be a part of their extended community. They want to be a part of that group just like you or I follow other public figures like Martha Stewart or Romi Klinger. It’s a way to connect with them and others on your personal list who also follow that person. It creates ties, it begins a community.
They say it’s good to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. So since both will be close to you, try to keep it clean. You don’t want to end up in jail over it.