Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bullying with Patty Blount & a Giveaway for her novel SEND

Today I have invited the wonderful Patty Blount to visit the blog and she has offered to tell her story about what bullying can do to an individual.

It’s been five years since I clicked Send.
Four years since I got out of juvie.
Three months since I changed my name.
Two minutes since I met Julie.
A second to change my life.

All Dan wants for his senior year is to be invisible. This is his last chance at a semi-normal life. Nobody here knows who he is. Or what he’s done. But on his first day at school, instead of turning away like everyone else, Dan breaks up a fight. Because Dan knows what it’s like to be terrorized by a bully—he used to be one.

Now the whole school thinks he’s some kind of hero—except Julie. She looks at him like she knows he has a secret. Like she knows his name isn’t really Daniel...


By Patty Blount
"In 2004, my son had a growth spurt. He hit five foot nine, started shaving, endured some vicious acne and all the other curses of puberty and so, became the favorite target of a group of little boys who thought it was great fun to tear down the giant. His torment had gone on for months before I ever learned about it. Here’s how I learned about it:

“I don’t want to live anymore!”

Imagine hearing these words from a sobbing sixth grader incapable of being strong a minute longer. Imagine them screamed by your child.

Do you shrug it off, ruffle his hair, and tell him to stop being so dramatic? God help you both if you do.

Never take words like these for granted. Please.

I took them for exactly what they were – a plea for help. He finally told me what had been going on for months. I intervened and got him help. Today, he’s in college and doing well, but I will tell you he bears deep scars from his ordeal.

Let’s skip to 2009: a new executive at my day job directed us to start incorporating social media into our work. I knew nothing about networks like Facebook and Twitter and had a lot of homework to do before I could figure out how to meet his directive. The more work I did, the more grateful I became that none of these networks were around back in 2004.

If they had been, I would have lost my son.

Social networks are great tools. They give a voice to anyone with an internet connection, they allow us to remain connected to folks we’d otherwise have lost touch with, and they expose us to news before the networks can report it. Here’s the irony:  the things that make social networks so great are also the things that make them so dangerous. The problem with everyone having a voice is that we can’t readily determine which voices are qualified to support the opinions being stated and which are just hot air. Remaining connected can easily become stalking. And, ‘news’ may be nothing more than rumor. (Bon Jovi did not die in December of 2011, as had been reported on Twitter.)

I have two more bullet points for the Danger list: First, many of us are more likely to say something snarky online than directly to someone’s face. Psychologist John Suler calls this the Online Disinhibition Effect and what’s really scary is most of us aren’t even aware we’re caught up in it. According to Suler, the internet makes us all anonymous and invisible and because there’s no online authority, exaggerates our own sense of self.

In other words – it’s a power trip and power is pretty much the bully’s objective, isn’t it? If social networks had been popular in 2004, my son’s bullies would have been able to take their cruelty viral. It would have left the classroom and followed my son home – a relentless and growing presence looming over his every waking moment. How long can anyone sustain the strength needed to keep ignoring spite like this?  

Second, there is the immediacy of it and I want to stress that this is NOT a trap limited only to teens. Adults are just as likely to lose their tempers and take inappropriate action based on emotion as teens. This is actually why I chose SEND as the title of my book – because the Send key is RIGHT THERE at the top of the screen, just itching to be clicked before you’ve carefully crafted the message you want to express. Social networks are the LAST place any of us should be when we’re caught up in an emotional crisis because when that crisis is gone, there will be regret. Only this time, your angry words are preserved for the entire world to see. And comment on. And share. And ridicule. And even hold against you when you apply for a job.

I think it’s important for all of us to remember two things: first, technology is not a toy and second, children are not short adults, which means that is exactly how they’ll treat technology. Social sites, smart phones and the internet have the potential for positive and negative results. I don’t know how children can distinguish the good from the bad without guidance from adults. That guidance shouldn’t stop just because a kid turns eighteen."

"How old were your children when you bought them a cell phone? Are they on Facebook or Twitter? Do you know who they’re talking to? Better question – do you know who’s talking to them?"

Patty Blount is a software technical writer by day, young adult author by night. She wrote her debut novel SEND (Sourcebooks Fire) about a bully trying hard to cope with the suicide he caused after her son's ordeal. SEND is available now at Amazon and other book retailers. Visit her at or on Twitter @PattyBlount. SEND also has a Facebook fan page called SEND (the novel). 

The Giveaway:
 Patty has been very generous and donated a signed copy of her novel SEND. This giveaway is open to everyone and will last until 10/14/12. The winner must respond in 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen. To enter the giveaway go --> HERE!