People You Don't Like Are Online Too...
By Bob Hubbard
Over the last 7+ years I have been operating several online communities. Prior to that I ran or assisted on old style dial up bulletin boards (BBS's). So, I've seen quite a lot of interesting things in the maze of human online interactions. A common problem is when person A doesn't like person B. This can be for any of thousand reasons. From basic philosophical differences, political or religious, past personal history, to they just rub you the wrong way. Sometimes it's a huge reason, and other times, it's a reason that seems to make no sense or be so minor an issue as to be beneath notice. It doesn't matter, there's a problem, and they will let you know it.
The way they let you know varies, but in many cases will rotate through all of these stages.
* Don't complain about anything. Always stay silent, or complain in topic wondering where the moderators are. Don't they care? Don't they read everything on this 20,000 member 2,000 post a day site? Why aren't they here, right now taking care of the problem?
* Complain about every thing the other person says to management. Everything the "disliked" person says online must somehow be directed at you, so you must inform the management of this "vile troll" at every chance. His comment "Nice weather" must directly refer in secret code to the 2 feet of snow you had to shovel and hurt your back, so he is calling you weak even though he is a thousand miles away in balmy 70' weather. It's a shot and you're telling. So you private message, email and/or report that post, then since 5 whole minutes have passed and no one has done anything (since everyone knows site admins live by their systems and never leave) you fire back a heated message.
* Give up complaining since "they never do anything anyway" and begin posting your own preemptive attacks, always taking a moment to add in a complaint or shot at the slow acting and secretly supportive of the other guy site staff. When they staff tire of this and call you on it, your indignation is of course completely justified. After all, if they had just listened to you at first, there would have been no need for you to throw manners away, and how dare they tell you to behave? After all, "he's" to blame because he's there.
* Go to other sites and complain about the site and it's staff. After all, it sucked and they sucked too because they let "him" get away with everything, and all you were trying to do was call him on it. How dare they try to tell you that you weren't being a good member!
* When told to use built in tools like "ignore lists" or "buddy lists" or "filters" puff up and let them know clearly that you don't buy into that sissy stuff. Of course, just using your own built in ability to ignore things doesn't work either, because if you did, you would never see all those people talking about you.
* You quit. You go to other sites and complain how much the old site sucks and how they let their favored people attack you without fear of reprisal, and how you were singled out for just "standing up for yourself". You visit on occasions so that you can keep tabs on the conspiracy, and are sure to mention how you were "run off" or "quit because they sucked" at every chance.
Sound familiar? Know anyone who fits one or more of these? Do they fit you? Then, read on.
Most people are intelligent folks. They wouldn't go to a movie and sit quietly as some rude jerk yacks on their cell phone. They would go find an usher and get the idiot shut up. They wouldn't accept rude server at a checkout counter, they would call over a manager and lodge a complaint. Someone's smoking in the no-smoking area? Call a manager who will handle it. They don't however make the call, then get up and slap the other person around a bit until help arrives. During our lives we encounter thousands of situations that require we either ignore it as not worth our while, or call for assistance and let them deal with things. Online, somehow people think the rules are different, should be immediate, and shouldn't apply to us when we are "taking care of things ourselves".
To avoid many headaches online, most communities have installed filters, sometimes called "ignore lists". Use them. Put those who annoy you on them. If you choose not to because sometimes they do post something you like, then learn to filter out the rest and have the maturity to not fire back a heated response. Otherwise, the "pompous know-it-all", the "hot head", the salesman, the "everything outside of me is inferior" and the" I was to the mountain and have been anointed" all should be placed on your own ignore list, filtering out their comments and cleansing your experience. If you see them quoted by others, stop reading once you see their name and just move on to the next post. Most of these guys thrive on the attention and the audience, and if you don't feed them, they starve and leave.
Because staff are often overworked, and unpaid, and have real lives that don't revolve around groups, lists and forums, it may take a while for them to receive every complaint. Sometimes, they need time to confer among themselves to decide if something truly is a rules violation, or a legal violation, and what course of action is needed to solve the problem. Patience you must have, and resist the urge to grab torch and pitchfork.
Sitting there in silence when there is a problem never solves is, but neither does complaining every 5 minutes. The person who calls 911 (or whatever your emergency number is in your area) can be cited for abuse. Reporting 20 posts in 5 minutes, or every post good and bad from an individual, or threatening to "do something if you won't" usually qualifies as abuse on most sites. Harassing the staff is never a good idea.
Going elsewhere also rarely works. In some cases, it is a good idea. You and the community just don't share the same ideals or just can't get in sync. But going elsewhere and complaining all the time really makes as little sense as having a bad time at Walmart and going to Target and tracking down every customer and employee and telling them about it.
Most sites try to run within a set list of rules, and be as fair as possible. Biases will always be there as it's human nature. However if you work within the system, use the tools available, and give people time to help you, you will greatly enhance your own enjoyment of the site, as well as the enjoyment of your fellow members, most of whom aren't there to watch school yard arguments (though there are sites dedicated to such things) but to learn, relax and network with other like minded people.
Use the tools provided, give the staff time to handle things, learn to ignore the small stuff, and help the staff by not being a problem causer yourself, and the site will prosper and your enjoyment of it will benefit.
Bob Hubbard is an administrator of the popular martial arts sites MartialTalk.com and KenpoTalk.com. He is president of SilverStar WebDesigns inc., a web site design and hosting company specializing in affordable solutions for martial artists as well as a professional photographer. More of Bob's articles can be found at rustaz.net.
Copyright ©2007 Bob Hubbard - Copies of this article are free to distribute, provided all text is retained intact.