In school, I was never popular. And I was okay with that. I never had any desire to be the popular girl. I didn’t care about being part of the popular crowd. From an early age, I was comfortable in my own skin, okay with who I was. If someone didn’t like that, they were welcome to keep on truckin’. I truly didn’t care. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I did have were worth their weight in gold to me. When it comes to friends, quality always wins out.
A friend is someone I’d share a secret with. A friend is someone I lean on when life gets too real to keep to myself. I have a friend’s phone number. I text or talk with them several times a week. A friend has seen me in my pajamas. Without a bra. (Okay, well only the friends that are girls. The dudes are not privy to my slovenliness.) A friend stands the test of time.
Recently, though, I’ve had to make some adjustments to my definition of “friend.” I am part of an amazing group of women writers. Few of us have met in person because we are flung all over the globe, but that doesn’t stop us from feeling like we know each other. I talk privately with many of these women throughout my day. I share secrets with them. I get writing and parenting advice from them. I lean on them when their health issues that are frightening intersect with my own. I lend them support as much as I can and we build each other’s morale when the parenting and writing gigs get us down. I actually miss this group of women when I haven’t checked in on them for an entire day or so. Even if I don’t comment, I just pop on to make sure nothing has gone wrong with anyone, that no one needs help that I can offer. It’s like the internet version of your mom checking on you while you sleep.
The importance of this group and their adjustment of my definition of “friend” didn’t become overly apparent to me until this week. A popular writer–and I use that term loosely when referring to this person for reasons you are about to learn–took a meme written by one of the ladies in our group, ripped off the words, made a new meme out of it and–HERE’S THE KICKER–assigned her own watermark to the image without crediting the original author of those words. Even though the original meme credited the original author. Even though the words came from a tweet that was published in a book earlier this year. Even though the meme did very well on the “writer’s” Facebook page and was shared oodles of times, thereby ripping off not only the original author’s words, but severely limiting her reach as well.
When confronted, the “writer’s” response was, “Everybody does it.”
I’ve got one thing to say.
What started out as someone being nice and ASKING for what she had every right to DEMAND of the “writer,” turned into an all out, balls-to-the-wall, internet bullyfest with the “writer” claiming her gigantic following was cultivated by her talents alone, and that those who were most angry had puny followings.
She feels the right to get away with this because she’s bigger than we are? Oh, ho ho, I think not, little “writer.”
You see, she may get away with this now. But I believe in the power of misfits and little guys. Through all of this, the members of my group stood behind our lady writer who was wronged. Members of our group, of their own volition, commented and called out the “writer,” sharing side by side images of what she ripped off with her followers. We let our followers know what she was up to and that our friend wasn’t the first one whose work was ripped off by the “writer.” We stood up for her and continue to do so. We won’t stop.
Because it’s right.
Because we recognize the quality of her work.
The quality of her friendship.
Because we know that one voice in the crowd gets drowned out. But combine those puny voices, cultivate that bond, and we become a force to be reckoned with. Something powerful and important.
Someday, and it probably isn’t far off, the “writer” is going to learn a lesson I learned way back in school. It’s simple really. She can build an empire on whatever she’s ripped off of other people and boast about the number of followers she has, but someday, when they learn they’ve been duped, that she is less than what she’s represented herself as being, they’ll see her for the “acquaintance” she made of herself in their lives. And they will walk away, making her a veritable footnote in history. The original author, on the other hand, who may have a puny following right along with the rest of us, is made of genuine, authentic material and has been nothing but honest and true. She’s the friend. She’s the real deal. Those are the people who stick around. Those are the people who aren’t a footnote twenty years down the road.
Everyone always forgets the footnote. If they ever paid it any attention to begin with, that is.