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I had an internet nemesis.

Having a nemesis is awful. But it can also be very rewarding.

Having a nemesis is awful. But it can also be very rewarding.

After I posted the video from my talk at Hot Art Wet City a few weeks ago, I had a great exchange with sewing designer Abby Glassenberg on Twitter about something I spoke about – my internet nemesis. Abby just wrote a great post about her experience with a nemesis and asked others to share theirs, so here’s mine:

If you’ve followed my work since the early days of CrochetMe.com, you may have been aware around eight years ago that I had a contentious relationship with someone online. You may have had to look closely if you weren’t also following her, because I very quickly discovered for myself the A-#1 rule of handling nemeses and trolls online: DO NOT ENGAGE. Because I didn’t engage her publicly more than once or twice, there’s no gaping crater in the early crafts internet to serve as a reminder of the battles fought. There may be some of her blog posts about me that remain. I haven’t looked.

So. Back in the day when I was still getting my feet wet with CrochetMe.com, I struck up a relationship with a new contributor to the magazine. Eventually, that relationship soured. I found it very challenging when that happened. I’m outgoing and opinionated but not terribly keen on confrontation, and she got confrontational real fast. She called me names, asserted things about me that were patently false, and picked apart my work with a passion and energy that eventually became quite flattering but that initially broke my heart.

The reason she got to me, after the initial shock wore off, was that she voiced many of the concerns I was very insecure about. She called me a fraud when I already knew I was making things up as I went along and hadn’t yet gotten comfortable with that being a valid way of doing things. She tore apart my every decision and honed in on the exact factors I’d struggled with. She accused me of possessing qualities I loathe in others but secretly fear I exhibit. She accused me of being things I’m simply not, in ways that transcended personal insult and entered the realm of flagrantly offensive.

The realization I had, though – that she was saying the things I feared myself (except for that last part about the offensive name-calling) – is what allowed me to get over her. I couldn’t say anything to her to change her mind or her behaviour, though I tried so very hard. But I could work through those fears myself. I could sit down with the voice in my head and force it to talk to me. In doing so, I did a lot of healing. I did a lot of accepting. I did a lot of growing. And as I accomplished those things, my nemesis faded in importance. Her words carried less sting. When I was hired to be editor of Interweave Crochet, she had a field day about it on her blog. I rolled my eyes.

Eventually, I found myself smiling when someone would tell me she was shooting daggers at me again. Clearly I’d gotten under her skin somehow. Clearly I was important to her in some way. But she was no longer important to me.

It’s been several years since I’ve cared at all about this woman or our relationship. I don’t check in on her, and I don’t have to stop myself from thinking about her. I’ve healed.

And I wouldn’t change a thing about this experience. Having a nemesis was tremendously rewarding. I don’t regret a single shed tear or sleepless night. It hurt like hell, but all important growing hurts like hell.

Before I had a nemesis, I cowered at criticism. I was afraid of going too far or getting it wrong or offending someone. Because of my nemesis, I have a very clear understanding of the difference between criticism and assholery; I welcome the former and roll my eyes at the latter. Because of my nemesis, I worked very hard to find my own voice and to accept the consequences of using it. Because of my nemesis I’m comfortable trusting my gut and I know that sometimes faking it till I make it is the best and most rewarding strategy to employ. Because of my nemesis I feel comfortable taking visible risks, since the ugliest of ugly things have already been said about me. And even when she said those things, I couldn’t help but notice that about six people agreed with her and everyone else didn’t.

In many ways, my nemesis keeps company in my mind with the two or three people who have most dramatically influenced my career. That the other people were supportive rather than antagonistic doesn’t make the strength of their influence any different.

So now I’ll reiterate Abby’s request: Tell me your nemesis story. How’re you coping? Have you healed?

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Vashtirama

Hi Kim. Well, first of all, your experience with your nemesis taught me to keep my distance from her. So you helped others (me at least) in a way that you might not be aware.
But lucky me, I still get to have an internet nemesis to call my own.
I’ve learned how to coexist in online spaces so that we don’t bump up against each other directly; I know her triggers. (I could so bait her if I wished.)

It’s better than high school crap because online, I don’t have to face her in school hallways daily. No one forces me to sit in the desk next to a nemesis.
I’ve learned the weird flattery of having someone reserve crazy vitriol just for me.

Long ago I felt humiliated and so alone when she attacked. Over the years (omg years?!), I’ve seen enough caring from others that now I feel others’ compassion even though it’s usually invisible.

When I see her attack another, my heart aches for the person. I email her/him something like: “I’m sorry this happened to you. You’re not alone. I’ve been on the receiving end of that too and I know how awful it feels. It’s not you, she just does that to people.”

Until recently my biggest challenge had been to “choose my battles” in arenas where we intersected. Not because I’m tempted to engage, but the opposite: tempted to avoid any risk of a battle; but being silenced by a bully is unacceptable.
Nowadays we almost never cross paths.

jwatkiss

My experience was quite similar. Someone I’d called a friend suddenly (to me, anyhow) did an about-face and lashed out in spectacular fashion.

Like you, it forced me to face my own perceived failings and insecurities. And, similarly, I feel like I came out better because of it. Not because I cowtowed to this person’s will, but because I decided on my own terms who, what, and how I was going to be. It was (and continues to be) immensely satisfying.

And, like Vashtirama, I watched with sadness for other acquaintances (though honestly? with a great deal of self-satisfaction at the same time – it really *isn’t* about me) as my nemesis torpedoed other friendships in the same, profoundly hurtful way.

I used to feel anger, then sadness, then pity. But these days? I feel nothing at all toward my nemesis, but a lot of pride and wisdom for myself on the other side of that particular situation.

Abby Glassenberg

Kim,

Your talk about Mighty Ugly was the impetus I needed to write my own post about having an internet nemesis. Thank you for sharing these thoughts and sometimes difficult experiences so openly.

-Abby

Kim

So, I don’t have an internet presence, but here is what I think about your nemesis:
a) she’s jealous
b) she has way too much time on her hands

Vanessa

I don’t know if she’s a “real” nemesis but I think some of my posts have rubbed her the wrong way (she says I’m not being inclusive enough) and some of her comments have rubbed me the wrong way. She claims not to be bitter about her life situation but I’m wondering if there’s a bit of that when she reads my posts. I’ve had to stop reading her blog because my blood pressure spikes. ;) Mostly because I’m turning her into one of the monsters that tell me I suck. And that’s not fair to her, either.

Brigette

WOW. That’s what I have to say to one of the comments posted here.

Let’s not forget that there are *always* two sides to every story. And that not everyone on the Internet posts the whole truth.

I think the important thing to remember (at least for me) is that everyone comes into your life for a reason and that there are so many things to learn from each and every one, as long as you’re open and honest with yourself.

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