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nezi_nes

Hong Kong

Just keep swimming...in a sea of thoughts and ideas
INFJ
JUST FINISHED IB HAHAAA :DD
Check out the link to my 4th blog (i.e the only one that works) https://writingsofthedeepblue.blogspot.com/

Message to Readers

Hello hello fellow users,
Join me in this unofficial speech/letter that I’m writing to WTW about their decision to unpublish pieces about violence and suicide. It was originally written to you guys but I got too passionate and started talking to WTW in the rant instead and changed all the pronouns from "they" to "you" midway. Lol.
Please read on and let me know how you feel in the comments.

WTW's decision on unpublishing pieces on violence and suicide should be revisited.

October 11, 2018

Dear Write the World,

Thank you for being an amazing platform where young writers can express and share ideas with others, and I love your concept and drive to continue managing this website. However, there is something I’d like to address. I am here, because of the same thing that happened to a piece from my series, to challenge the fact that any piece containing suicide and self-harm must be taken down and “cannot be considered for submission for a competition or peer review”.

We can’t write about suicide and self-harm. Your policy is understandable. You’re doing it to protect users from graphic images and so on, and prevent the author from glorifying the act and spreading offensive images to others. However, I do not support your one-size-fits-all policy that, no matter what the intention, anything including suicide or self harm must be unpublished. This is ridiculous. Some pieces contain self harm and/or suicide, or are about the aforementioned, but they are definitely, absolutely, certainly not created to be a means to glorify them. Instead, many of them seek to explore the consequences of theoretical causes or situations. Write the World, isn’t this what writing is all about? We as writers, and most of all, teenagers, can’t do real experiments on how some factors in life drive people to think and do certain things, so writing provides a means to explore these things, in the form of poems and prose. Considering the case that led me to write this in the first place, I actually wrote this part of my series as a portrayal of a character at her extreme ends to show what social media can do to self-esteem and well-being. This scene is admittedly an extreme scenario of what it can do to people and is very unlikely to happen, but it’s still useful to tell people, “what can happen if this goes too far?” Therefore, I would consider this piece as worthy of publishing, simply because it opens up new ideas and thoughts about suicide and its many causes, and raises awareness about the negative consequences of these factors. 

Relating to the previous point is that many pieces containing violence are deliberately introduced by the author to illustrate an aspect of society that is faulty- for example, I read user aggressivebackflip’s piece "platonic", in which its use of violence shows the lengths people can go to when in poverty, and also explores the ethics of using violence when fighting for the justice of a loved one. Yet, I have heard that her pieces were banned just because they contained violence and gore. This is not fair. All writers can and should be invited to think about and explore these questions without actually having to do these in real life and hurt people. This is how we grow as independent, open-minded people. It’s not about the cut and dry content anymore, or whether or not pieces contain gory images, this is a reminder to people that these things can happen in life, and they’re not going to be pretty. So what? Publish them anyway.

Finally, this website is mainly geared towards teens, and I would like to ask you: would you rather have us sheltered at all costs from the terrible things happening in the world, or enlighten us with reality, which this is what we’re all inevitably going to face in adulthood? Looking from your point of view, it is true that unnecessary violence, death and gore just for the sake of it, or to deliberately provoke and upset people, should certainly not be accepted into the community... but this? I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is limiting freedom of speech and thinking, but it is darn near close to it.

Write the World, you can really do better than this. You have done so well already in growing and nurturing this community and it is a shame that this is one of the aspects of this site that falls short. If you would like advice, please judge whether a piece is worthy or not of being published by reading it holistically. Using my own example, you probably didn’t read the whole of my series and thus did not understand the message that I was trying to get through: that suicide is never the answer to pain. (Incidentally that is also a key theme of Keats’ Ode to Melancholy, but that is beside the point.)

I sincerely hope your team reviews your decisions in this understandably difficult grey area, which is processing the publishing of pieces on self-harm, violence and suicide.

Thank you.
This was originally a rant to WTW users that turned out to become a full-blown speech to WTW. I really didn't intend to submit it to this competition, but seeing as the format of my speech fit exactly with the competition's requirements, I just did. Also it could potentially be read by WTW itself and have a chance to really change the policy. I am also aware that it is a bit cheeky of me to criticise WTW, and then proceed to send it for moderation in WTW's own competition, but here it is. I was quite pissed when I read that one email on my piece.

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  • October 11, 2018 - 9:53am (Now Viewing)

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29 Comments
  • nezi_nes

    ALangford, thanks for your input on this situation. I agree with what you say, and I agree with the fact that this website should not turn into a venting ground for people who are desperately struggling who should instead turn to professional help (for fear of triggering others into a relapse). It's also interesting how people write in terms of dealing with their struggles- some write about exactly that to alleviate their struggles, some deliberately avoid topics of such darkness to distract themselves from them, as you said. So it is hard for WTW to determine and manage these pieces, namely their intentions and effect on readers. So I also sympathise with WTW on this. I am just asking for them to relax their policy a little bit to give leeway to people who want to properly express themselves (of course as said earlier and in the comments, with the right mind and not to glorify etc, this will be holistically determined by WTW). How to prevent people from being triggered? Put tags, put a message at the start of the piece to encourage readers to seek help if they are in a bad place. For people who write to avoid problems in real life, the tags help as well to signpost "hey ok this is not something I want to read about".


    8 months ago
  • ALangford

    HOWEVER it's fairly easy to see how it can really trigger people who are recovering because if you're on the site and you're trying to keep that positive mindset it's already easy at the moment to find pieces that remind you of your worst times and threaten to pull you under again. I know that the issue seems to rest on self-expression, but given that there's a whole community of struggling people here who are also exposed to things you write which could trigger them, it has to be about them too. I also think it's a good idea to encourage people not to censor themselves, but to try out writing about different topics - it can be a very therapeutic process, distracting yourself from problems you're having by writing about something else. Certainly I find that at certain times all I can write about is my mental health and I suspect it might only exacerbate the problem. There is always going to be a degree of romanticisation when people write about this and it can create a dangerous culture that convinces people that the only way they can write interesting works is to have experienced these vastly negative emotions - this, again, is a pressure I have felt as a writer and it's massively pernicious. I think another very important thing to bear in mind is that some people end up using sites like WtW as an outlet for their emotions as an alternative to seeking help. The people on here who offer support, as lovely as they are, are not trained to help people who are struggling - and, in fact, by saying the wrong thing or not understanding the situation, could make them worse. I think that allowing people to publish things freely about this could very easily start to function as a viable alternative to speaking to people in real life or locating a help service for these problems, which could potentially be very dangerous.


    8 months ago
  • stripedfly

    Due to SomeFormOfWriting leaving for these very reasons, I applaud you for taking this step and standing up for more rights for the users.


    8 months ago
  • ALangford

    Hi
    So I have a few general comments on this:
    Fundamentally I agree with the gist of what you're saying. I also have had a piece rejected by admins for its content and since then I have definitely been afraid to publish anything much more mature than slightly twee love poetry and in a way it can make you feel ashamed of occasionally feeling a certain way and it can definitely lead to self-censorship. It doesn't tackle the root of the issue, it just makes people feel like they can't talk about it or it's somehow a burden to other people. In reality we all still write about our mental health and our worst days because for a lot of us it's our only viable outlet, but we just feel it's unsuitable for others to see or hear about, which can increase internalisation of the stigma. I also think it's a fairly inevitable topic for anyone in their formative years, and also discussion of mental health is so rife on the internet anyway that shielding people from it can seem purposeless. The holistic thing seems like a good idea to me because I think sometimes people struggling with depression and self-harm and suicidal thoughts need to be shown that these things, ugly as they are, can be made into really beautiful writing. It's also kind of annoying having to disguise negative feelings in really obscure metaphors about weather or fruit or some nonsense because you want your writing to signal that you're not okay though that might only apply to me lmao. Wait there's a second half of this comment but I'm going on my laptop because my hand hurts from typing on my phone ew


    8 months ago
  • aggressivebackflip

    brooo this is a great speech i dunno what to say


    8 months ago
  • aggressivebackflip

    oh my GOD this is a real good take on it and thanks for mentioning me


    8 months ago
  • Tziporah Dorfman

    Yes, I most definitely did read yours till the end, and I thank you for responding to my comment! I'm glad that my point came across well, because I was a little nervous about that, but I'm glad that things are good between us even though our opinions differ somewhat. And yes, I understand what you mean about people not knowing how to handle certain things and reacting awfully if they don't have the proper knowledge with how to deal with things. This was a cool discussion!


    8 months ago
  • nezi_nes

    @Tziporah Dorfman After reading your comment, I do realise there are different views towards this topic and that WTW is sheltering users for a reason. After all, not many people want to read about things related to gore and whatnot. It's also true that a small percentage of people may be introduced to the idea of self-harm and suicide by reading said piece, which is something I haven't thought about before reading your comment.

    How about, because you mentioned the possibility of the previous idea entering their mind and doing unwise things, that we caution the user with a general message at the top of the piece, something like "suicide is never the answer. If you feel like you need help, consult [...]" (can be further changed, this is just a rough idea). That way they come to the piece with knowledge about it already. To me it seems a little too "annoying" to have every single piece covered with that message, but like you said, it can help people with no concept of suicide/self-harm come to know about it in a safe way, so I find this compromise to be the best way forward.

    You mentioned innocence- hmm. I believe people can be innocent up til a point concerning serious issues such as self harm/suicide. There are young people, too young, who have taken away their lives just because they don't know how to deal with certain things, and I feel that this is an absolute MUST for people to know about, especially (!) young people because they haven't fully developed into mature adults yet and may not know how to deal with it. I would rather have young teens who know about suicide and its dangers than have ones who don't know about it and once they reach an obstacle, they get stuck in a perpetual negative life cycle because they don't know who to reach out to or what to do with themselves and might even kill themselves which is the opposite of what innocence is trying to achieve. You have to know about this at SOME point in your life, so why not earlier where it can be prevented the most? (Of course, given that suicide is never glorified or encouraged, accompanied by something to tell them it's not the only way out in life. Plus WTW's proposed decision to view pieces holistically to see HOW the piece approaches suicide and judge whether or not it should be published).

    So definitely, our values on innocence differ a bit here. And now I don't quite know what to say after that. Thank you also for hopefully reading this as well, and thank you for offering another point of view to this topic, I really appreciate this.


    8 months ago
  • Tziporah Dorfman

    Hi, so I hope I don't get booed off the stage, but I happen to disagree a little with what you're saying. Don't get me wrong, I agree with some points that you bring up, and as the saying goes, "I might not agree with what you say, but I shall defend to death your right to say it." Beautiful piece of writing, by the way. It sounds really good when I read it to myself. And it must be so annoying when pieces are taken off the site. But I have a little bit of a different spin on things. One point that you brought up, that were teenagers anyway, and that we'll find out all this in real life, I happen to disagree pretty strongly with. The older I become, and the more I learn about the world, the more I realize that I'd rather maintain NY innocence for just a little bit longer, if at all. Because one day, I'll be an adult, and know a whole lot about the world, and then I'll be wishing that I had just kept my innocence for a little longer. Now, I understand from what I'm reading that a lot of people feel otherwise, but there may be other readers without the courage to say so that actually would rather not read pieces featuring suicide, self-harm, gore, or violence. Perhaps they are squeamish or even just don't want to read about such things. And without a system by which readers can see which pieces are such, with the above-mentioned topics, the reader has no idea, and can only know once they read the piece, and by then it's too late. Also, you kept mentioning that this is a platform to share our thoughts (which it definitely is) and therefore it's appropriate to write about these things because we can't experiment with them. But what if there's a suffering soul out there, who's going through a rough patch, and suddenly comes across a writing on this site featuring one of these topics, such as suicide, for example. Perhaps until now, he/she didn't know about the concept, or knew about it but never considered it and now it suddenly popped into their head as an option. G-d forbid, this should never happen. Even if the story/poem/etc is not romanticizing it or even degrading it through the writing, but still it can put ideas into people's heads, so to speak. And that's something that I think I can safely say none of us wants to happen. Now I know people will protest and say that EVERYONE in this day and age is familiar with the concept, but I really must beg to differ. I for one did not until recently. And I have friends who most certainly don't. It may sound shocking, but it's true. And unless someone deems it fit to burst their little bubble of innocence (because I don't think it shall improve their quality of life to be informed about these things, honestly, I think they're quite alright, and this news would come as quite a shock) then they will continue their happy, carefree, innocent midset for just a but longer. Teenagers, and preteens too, think it's just so wonderful to "know it all" about all sorts of things meant for adults, but has anyone ever thought that maybe they would enjoy life just a little more if they didn't know all the horrifying things that they know now? Well that's my opinion at least. And as I said before, even though I disagree with your opinion, and think that Write the World made a pretty good decision, I still respect your opinion and I think you definitely have complete right to say it. I hope my opinion gives a little bit of a different spin on things. But as I said before, your speech was wonderful! And thanks for reading this till the end ;)


    8 months ago
  • nezi_nes

    Blotted Ink with a Broken Quill, JediKnightGirl, Dani A. Remlap- thank you for your thoughts, suggestions and encouragement!


    8 months ago
  • Dani A. Remlap

    Also, we need a tagging system, as mentioned by other users


    8 months ago
  • Dani A. Remlap

    Such topics should never be romanticized, but exploring them is absolutely something that should be done. I believe that tone and intent is extremely important and as long as it is handled well, I appreciate pieces that explore "darker" subjects


    8 months ago
  • JediKnightGirl

    I completely agree with this. Self harm and suicide are heavy topics but they're also important in today's society and need to be touched upon, especially in communities like this one where so many people put the words "depressed" and "suicidal" in their bios. It's never happened to me before but I can imagine the guilt and confusion that a writer must feel when a piece of theirs is taken down. This community was created to be a judgement free zone and although I see where Write the World is coming from, this policy, when used a little too freely, can be an infringement to "judgement free." I hope the admins see this and I hope that they really consider the effects of this policy.


    8 months ago
  • Blotted Ink with a Broken Quill

    Thank you for this! I wholeheartedly agree that we deserve to fully express life here. Wonderful.


    8 months ago
  • nezi_nes

    @Helen_xx, thank you! @she's-got-a-story, reading that made me feel sad. Being afraid of being judged is so demotivating in terms of one's passion which sucks. School anyone? Anyway, I love your last line, it made me chuckle :)


    9 months ago
  • she's-got-a-story

    agree agree agree.
    not to mention how incredibly terrifying it is to get an email from the admins. i was in middle school when i got a piece taken down -it referenced the suicide of a character's older sibling- and i was so scared that my acct would be taken away, and that i had done something wrong. up until this issue started blowing up recently ive still been scared to write semimature content, even for personal projects. ive taken down my own pieces out of worry/guilt. it's another facet of the fear of being judged, and it does not belong in this community.
    and that's just on made-up content. when writers get personal, it's even more painful- to get your own experiences censored because the rest of the world "can't handle it". (xoxo elisa) it makes us feel guilty and that's not ok.
    tags/maturity ratings would be a really great solution, because it would let younger writers stay on the site but avoid what they aren't ready to read.
    thanks for this speech. hope it doesn't get taken down too.
    x elle


    9 months ago
  • helen_xx

    This is incredible <3 and I fully agree xxx


    9 months ago
  • helen_xx

    This is incredible <3 and I fully agree xxx


    9 months ago
  • nezi_nes

    Hey Kahasai, Omicron, Anha and Araw, thanks for adding to this. I love your support and enthusiasm and agree with you guys! Sorry to see some of your or your friends' pieces taken down too.


    9 months ago
  • Araw

    I totally agree with you on this. The tagging system mentioned by other comments seems like a great idea to counter this. Recently, I've had a piece taken down for mentions of suicide and self harm (only done once by the way) which is a shame because it had points on an issue completely unrelated. I feel like that the issue is not only with the trashing of pieces that deal with this issue, but also with the trashing of pieces that give banned topics even just a mention. I've also had something taken down for violence and granted I could have added a warning, but given that this piece was fictitious, does it really warrant being taken down? Anyway, I fully agree with all your points and hopefully this issue is addressed soon. Thank you for being the one to say something about it.


    9 months ago
  • Anha

    Thank you for this. With those kind of pieces expressing genuine concerns that makes people in our age group susceptible to such thoughts and actions, it seems like WtW's policy is a little outdated and not keeping the concerns of their audience - the people which pretty much make this site what it is - in mind in that we use writing to communicate ideas and experiences that maybe aren't so easily done in conversation, or even to get them out to a wider audience. While I acknowledge that there is a small gap between when most withdrawn pieces are published and then taken down where writers can get their pieces read and reacted to, by forcedly taking down pieces that raise issues prevalent in our age group without any room for discussion from the author or the community, this seems like what may be an intentional or unintentional suppression of freedom of voice. As someone who hasn't gotten any of their pieces taken down yet, but has friends who have had this happen to, I believe that these rules need to be revised and discussed from the administrative level of WtW for this to become the open and honest community it strives to be.

    @nezi_nes, this entire piece really hit home with me. Thanks for putting my inexplicable feelings into words.


    9 months ago
  • omicron7889

    I agree wholeheartedly with you, as WtW policies do seem overly rigid at times. Although I get why they keep rules so strict, I'd much rather have a tagging system like Paperbird suggested (or any kind of other identification system to know what kind of piece/subject you're reading) and a freedom to publish the pieces we want rather than an inflexible set of regulations. In fact I've got quite a few pieces I didn't publish simply because I knew there was a high chance of them being taken down. So if WtW answers you back on this, tell them to look at the comments, you're not the only one with this opinion.

    (oh and btw that is a very good speech)
    :)


    9 months ago
  • Kahasai

    I haven't had any pieces taken down because of violent content, but I have a fiction piece that I'm sure would've been taken down for the somewhat violent ending had I not put a warning at the beginning.

    I think WtW should be a bit more open about these topics, especially in consideration that we are teens talking to fellow teens. It's not as if we're adults tainting children minds. WtW should start looking at pieces not as adults, but as the target audience. If a teen wrote a violent piece, why should another teen not read it?


    9 months ago
  • nezi_nes

    Ouch...and 4 of them even :(


    9 months ago
  • SomeFormOfWriting

    I agree with this. I've had 4 (?) pieces taken down because of this, which is really unfortunate.


    9 months ago
  • nezi_nes

    Paperbird- the tagging system is a really good idea. I guess it would work by informing the reader at the start about the themes in the piece?


    9 months ago
  • paperbird

    I completely agree. The policies are too strict and they don't allow for freedom of expression. Writing, especially when by teens, acts as a method of understanding and communicating the world around us, and banning us from certain parts of this idea is ridiculous. I've had a few pieces taken down, not because I was trying to talk about these issues in a ridiculing manner, but because I actually wanted to discuss them using a fictitious format and such ideas were deemed too mature.
    Obviously, this could act a slippery slope for inappropriate content, and this is a website for young writers; however, there are other ways to deal with this other than trashing these pieces. A tagging system, for example, could improve the site.
    This rule should definitely be revisited. Thanks for sharing this piece.


    9 months ago
  • nezi_nes

    Hi Kenny, thanks for the encouragement! I believe we can do this and actually have some change in this situation.


    9 months ago
  • Kenny

    Great speech!! Hopefully they'll read it and come up with a better policy. Rather wrong of them to pretend that such issues don't exist, especially when the users are in the age group that's the most vulnerable. Good luck!


    9 months ago