Seeing Red
October 9, 2007

Bobbie left an excellent comment yesterday pertaining to the second of the three situations I discussed in my previous post. As I attempted to answer that comment, I realized that between the comment and my reply ... was yet another post. Hence ...

I'm a psychologist by profession, and what I am about to say is from that point of view.
I have observed the kinds of 'forum wars' you describe on practically every forum I've ever been a part of (or even just read.) Usually -- not always, but usually -- they are started and sustained by people who exhibit signs of a certain kind of personality disorder -- signs that are obvious to someone trained to recognize things like that, but perhaps not by those who are not trained.
A hallmark is a very exaggerated sense of their own importance, for openers. Usually they need (and relentlessly solicit) constant attention and admiration, yet have little concern or empathy for others.
Well-meaning, well-intentioned, thoughtful people fall into their trap in forum discussions because they believe they are responding to and reasoning with a 'normal' person (I use the term loosely). In fact, the best thing to do in these instances, really, is to disengage. Don't participate. It just feeds the fires. You cannot rationally engage with this kind of person, so don't bother to try.
Didn't mean to turn this comment into a blog post, but I felt it needed to be said. Next time someone starts driving everybody nuts on a forum, you'll know what to do: Disengage.

The trick, of course, is to make myself do that and quit going back to those threads where sh-- err, that person is participating! ;) These people are usually quite skilled in at least one of two things: pounding on people's buttons ... and being everywhere at once, often ruining otherwise excellent conversations. And, naturally, irritating people enough through this behaviour to get those of us who know better ... to engage them anyway.

The sad thing to me, is while this comment does attend to the forum wars issue in which it is relatively easy to simply disengage if we practice a little self-discipline ... that doesn't address the issue in society at large. It seems that there are some people who snap who simply need to be heard ... and then there are the trolls from whom we should disengage until they can act like normal folk. (again, normal being a loosely applied term!)

What it doesn't attend, is that snap that the seemingly normal members of a group show ... usually it feels like it's out of nowhere although we all know that it's rooted in something, be it biochemical or past experience. (The third example from yesterday's post.) Some of that kind of snap is a sense of entitlement and a fear of change. In the case of my third example, the changes occurring at 9Rules (and the new changes are launching today!!!!), people had to apply ... they had to hold to a certain standard, in order to get into the organization. So, to a certain point, I can understand that belonging to 9r is something of a trophy, a prize for excellence in blogging. Not a popularity contest, so much as your blog was read and weighed and analyzed ... and found worthy. Your prize was the leaf logo that you could then place on your site.

I understand that people, myself included, thought they had done the work, gotten in, and that was that. I flitted around their community areas ... felt kind of intimidated ... and did not really join in the community. Like some others, I joined with my blog content ... not with me.

The thought of having my "prize" stripped away when the community changed, generated a moment of sadness. As in, aww, I thought I had done what I needed to do ... now the situation has changed. I can either lose my "trophy" or I can participate in yet another online community.

I chose to stay. Participation was undefined. And maybe I'd be able to blend into the community better now.

But whilst I don't particularly like change much of the time (it messes with my ADHD behaviours), I recognize that the only constant is change.

But why did some people SNAP over this? I mean, there are people in unbelievable snits of rage. Why? It's not their community if they haven't participated in it. And, considering that someone has to own the server space and pay for the bandwidth, even the community doesn't fully own the community.

In other words, I don't pay for the bandwidth or the server space. I don't pay for the programming. I don't pay for the designers. I don't own it. I can't really complain when things change there. I can be sad about it. I can try to present a case for why a change shouldn't take place.

But it ain't my place and it ain't really my decision.

What I don't get is the people who can't see that. Has the issue of entitlement, not just in the United States, but around the "Western" world gotten so entrenched that the slightest disagreements become worthy of vitriol and viruses?

And how far is the distance between that verbal snap online ... the verbal snap at work ...

... and action?

It's not just things like the shooting in Crandon, Wisconsin. It's not just the extremes. What about what happened to Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a student doing nothing violent, who was tased repeatedly whilst attempting to leave his university library? Why did those police act the way they did?

Why do we want to applaud Jodi Foster's character in The Brave One for what boils down to another snap. Vigilantism. To a certain extent, and I don't think this really spoils anything in the movie, the character engages in cold-blooded execution, murder.

Why do we make these violent and often self-righteous snaps? What about our society allows them to happen? Why are some of them "acceptable" and some are not?

I do not accept the standard easy answers. It is not caused by music or movies or video games or Dungeons and Dragons. Listening to music describing violence, watching violence in movies, playing violence in a game ... these things might be a reflection of our lives. We've seen real violence, we use a violent song to give us a kind of catharsis. A sense that we're not alone in that pain ... and a putting away of it. We take a frustration out on a video game because it is not acceptable to do such things in real life. It serves as a safe substitute.

And then there are those who become lost inside their media. Instead of using the media to release tension, to dissipate the anger ... it builds up further.

It's not the media who cause a snap. It is something within us.

What causes that snap, the "descent" into anti-social behaviour? I suppose, really, that has been my question all along.

How do we as a community of people, online and off-line, pay enough attention to each other in the right ways that no one snaps? Okay, that's more than a little utopian instead of practical, but you get this idea.

Preventing the next Unabomber, the next Columbine, the next workplace shooting does not really include ridding the world of angry or violent media.

It has to do with connections with people. It has to do with really seeing each other and holding each other accountable for our own behaviours.

But in a society so large, can there really be true accountability? If you don't want to face your consequences, can't you always keep on the move, feeling more and more disaffected and isolated until that snap is even more inevitable?

Where do we go from here?
Why is the path unclear?
When we know home is near
We'll go hand in hand
But we'll walk alone in fear

Posted by Red Monkey at October 9, 2007 9:47 AM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


mikster said:

I think a sense of entitlement can definitely bring on a sense of entitlement in some people. But to what degree is hard to gauge. Helluva post Endy.

I'm gonna stumble this one.


October 9, 2007 11:17 AM


Heather said:

Excellent post...I'm not really on forums a lot, but I have experienced EXACTLY what you are referencing with a few people (when I first began blogging).

Initially, I allowed myself to get in heated discussions with folks who were online bullies. I'd chat with April about it and she, also being a therapist, told me to DISENGAGE.

It was tough, but I did it and found myself to be much happier. A few times these folks tried to lure me back in, but I ignored the comments and it eventually went away - at least for me.

It's pretty much my approach to these people - regardless of where or how I meet 'em...

October 11, 2007 9:07 PM
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