Christina Wolfgram
August 27, 2015 8:03 am
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If you still haven’t seen Pretty Little Liars’ summer finale, “Game On Charles,” get out of here! Major spoilers ahead.

PLL creator and showrunner, I. Marlene King has always been vocal on social media, so much so that diehard fans (like me) sometimes feel that she’s less of an all-powerful boss-lady on one of television’s most popular series and more of a pen pal, a fellow member of the #PLLFamily. However, Twitter users have not been treating Marlene like a member of their family lately. After the show’s finale two weeks ago, she’s been inundated with hateful comments from fans claiming that any remaining unsolved mysteries are actually plot holes that the show’s writers carelessly neglected.

This mob mentality is nothing new and could be attributed to a sensation called the “nasty effect.” Two years ago, The New Yorker reported on the phenomenon of people making mean comments on the Internet that they wouldn’t dare say in real life – communication from behind a keyboard can become so impersonal that commenters can forget that their words are read by other real people, resulting in seriously horrible exchanges. The “nasty effect” was penned in a study done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that observed Internet negativity has a way of snowballing. Once readers see nasty comments, their opinions become polarized. Maybe some PLL fans had lukewarm feelings about the finale, but only decided to grab a metaphorical pitchfork when they saw all of the hateful comment directed at Marlene.

Instead of being swept up into the waves of negativity, Marlene took a few days off from social media before returning to defend her show. It seems that she had a few moments where the staggering amount of backlash might have caught her a little off-balance. She toed the line between setting the CeCe story straight and falling prey to the “nasty effect,” corresponding directly with fans who were questioning how she’s running the show. Facing criticism head-on this way would be difficult for anyone; imagine how hard it would be to keep your cool with thousands of people bombarding you daily.

She addressed those who are convinced ‘A’s identity was a spur of the moment decision:

And those who are hunting for “plot holes” to tear down the CeCe reveal:

Marlene also gave a glimpse into what it must be like for her to check her Twitter notifications:

Otherwise, her response has been surprisingly positive, focusing on keeping the PLL community a loving environment, rather than a hateful one. “Love that we are talking again, and the haters are laying low,” she said in one Tweet. “Opinions appreciated. Hate not appreciated. #PLL Family.”

Marlene makes an awesome point. Twitter is a place for conversation, a place where anyone can share and discuss their opinions. It’s fantastic that there is a corner of the Internet where people feel that their voices are heard. Following the PLL finale, there has been a healthy, informative conversation about the revelation that the show’s longtime villain, ‘A,’ was revealed to be a transgender woman. The back and forth has been so thoughtful, so productive that when a Pretty Little Liars Twitter account made a transphobic statement this week, fans — even those who didn’t agree that CeCe “should be” ‘A’ — were quick to specify why the Tweet not OK.

While it’s important to keep using Twitter for conversations about everything from transgenderism to whether or not Wren might be secretly evil, it’s also vital to be wary of falling into the “nasty effect.” A well-rounded, reasonable opinion speaks way louder than rash, angry negativity. Marlene is sharing some amazing behind-the-scenes details (like that mini-Charlotte was cast over a year ago – dang!) and setting a really fabulous example of how to respond to hateful comments with love. Rather than letting the “nasty effect” take a hold on her, she’s standing by her team, her show, and her fans.

To me, it’s just one more reason to love the PLL community.

(Image via here.)