#Barfgate: Or How Your Internet Life Can Be Turned Upside Down Overnight

In good company: Once an upset blogger was done dragging me through the mud, she turned her keyboard to try and take down random people associated with the awards.

#PeterTrouble: The misdirected anger and considerable efforts of an outraged blogger had me fending off media and feeling concerned for my carefully cultivated online presence. At least I was in good company. When done dragging me through the mud, she turned her keyboard to try and take down random people associated with the #Petertweeter Awards.

Over on the Twitters, a little community recognition awards show that I came up with, the #Petertweeter Awards, has fallen into no small heap of controversy.

Apparently, one of the satirical awards that the #Petertweeter organizing committee came up with, “the Barfiest Couple,” was deemed in some circles (OK, one circle) to be bullying. There was, it seemed, a problem with celebrating “a couple so incredibly cute that it makes you sick.”  The word “Barf” seemed stuck in a craw.

What’s more, a blog entry stating as much caught fire and spread quickly across the Peterborough social networking scene. And then considerably farther than that.

I’m not exactly sure how a category that celebrates love and affection was seen in such a negative light, but, there you go.  Different strokes for different folks.

It came as a total shock to the many couples actively campaigning to win the award, I can tell you.

It came doubly as a shock to me.

I had gone to bed completely unaware of any problem, you see, and awoke the next morning to find that my internet world had been effectively used against me.  Many of my online friends, colleagues, and clients had been alerted to the fact that I was a bully.  Actually, much of my offline world had been notified too — the two are so completely intertwined.

It was an absolutely horrifying moment when I realized that the blog that reported this so-called bullying had spun out across the internet, showing up on Twitter, Facebook, and various websites.  It had been emailed to various local media, to my business partners and clients, and spammed to the comment sections of several pages of this website — including my front page and portfolio.  On Twitter, it was directed, by name/avatar, to a host of people that I work with regularly.  Who knows where else it was initially plastered to.

Amidst the shock — amidst the suckerpunch sinking gut — I had to take a moment to admire the industriousness of this blogger.  There was some serious effort put into pointing people to my personal Facebook page, my business, and my website — to alerting media and attempting to rouse support for her (bizarrely misguided) cause .  There was a lot of care in making sure this stink was as high as heaven.

And then things started getting truly bizarre.

It spun so far out of control that, at one point, a commenter on the original blog post compared my actions to that of a person who enables rape.

I wish I could say I was making this shit up.

Simpler times: Posing with #Petertweeter Award co-hosts Catherine Hanrahan and Dani Stover. CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT/PETERBOROUGH EXAMINER/QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO.

Simpler times: Posing with #Petertweeter Award co-hosts Catherine Hanrahan and Dani Stover. CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT/PETERBOROUGH EXAMINER/QMI AGENCY FILE PHOTO.

I spent the day having to explain that which should have been obvious: that we all believed that celebrating the love and affection that two people have for each other is the furthest thing in our minds from bullying. And how it could all have been avoided had the blogger decided to, you know… talk to me first. I mean, my phone number is on this site.  It is way easier to look me up than to spam me.  With the size of my online footprint, I’m really not that hard a guy to find.

Of course, Peterborough being Peterborough, I had to answer to the media on the whole scandal.  No biggie, really, as I regularly appear in quite a few local media outlets.  But it was quite strange to have do so in this light.

And then Global Television called… And then CBC…

All-in-all, the whole thing cost me the better part of a day of work — with clients having to wait while I cleaned up the mess.

Now, because the #Petertweeters are what they are — inclusive, sharing, positive, celebratory — the committee collectively decided to change the name of category to the “#Peter Pair Award.”

Not quite the same giggle-factor, I know. But if it helps people sleep better at night, why the heck not, right?  What’s a little censorship between friends?

Truth be told, the new name always makes me think of breasts, which in itself is a bit alarming.  Won’t anyone think of the children?  I mean, we’re calling it #Peter Pair!

Eventually things settled down.  Returned almost to normal.

As normal as things get around here at any rate.

I do have to say that, as the hoopla died down, it was an incredible feeling to have 100% positive reinforcement from the general public.  It was great to have a unanimous backing that the issue was, in fact, probably not an issue at all.

Still, it was odd in that the whole thing could have been simply resolved with a phone call.  Heck, an email would have done the trick.

Anyhow, earlier today, in the comment section of the Peterborough Examiner article that covered the whole zany scandal (which has come to be known, comically enough, as #barfgate), there appeared this strange missive:

Nothing, and I mean nothing sums up the ludicrousness of this whole situation quite like that comment: senseless, out of the blue, somewhat crude, and completely and utterly off the mark.

I laughed when I read it.

I did.

I laughed and I laughed until tears rolled down my cheeks and my belly hurt.  I suppose it was partly a laugh of relief, partly a laugh that truly expressed the lunacy that I felt towards the entire issue.  It was the laugh of a person who might just have a bit too much on his plate.  One that could probably use a  good night’s sleep.

Anyhow, the water is now well under the bridge.  The Peterborough online community still has some ruffled twitterfeathers, but it will all soon be forgotten.

Not by me though.  Not so quickly.

For me, I still have this uneasy, queasy feeling.

I also have some terrible accusations about me at the top of any Google search for my business.

What if that blogger had called me something worse than a bully? What if I she believed that I was guilty of thievery, racism, sexual assault?

What if those accusations were picked up by the wrong people? I mean, there are definitely people who agree with that particular blogger’s tactics.  And I did have to answer to a pretty good list of media sources about what was going on.

It sends a shiver down my spine.

All because because someone didn’t take the time to ask a question or reach out with a request.

It’s a scary world, the internet.  Once something is on there, it’s on there for good.  And one of the things that is on there forever is the fact that I promote bullying. All you have to do is Google me and it’s right there in pixels.

Oddly, I don’t really feel like the one who is kicking sand in the schoolyard.

I feel like the kid with sand in his teeth.

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