As a moderator of a few online groups, I often get hate mail thrown my way. I’m used to it. I have a pretty thick thin when it comes to online harassment and bullying. But there are some things I just simply do not tolerate and sometimes you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t when it comes to policing comments and discussions.
I’ve been called some pretty terrible things over the past few years since taking over one fitness group that has 11,000+ members from around the world. I do have help from two other people with moderation but they don’t do the policing. I mostly vent to them in private message about how many times a week I do get hate mail. I often share screen shots too of the hostile messages I receive. It’s nice just to have someone to vent about it. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s online bullies who hide behind a computer screen and fake username.
Every now and then, we get a real winner come into the group. These people are all the same. They feel that they don’t need to read the rules or code of conduct because the rules don’t apply to them. It’s all about entitlement. And when you do enforce the rules, they become extremely belligerent.
Don’t be an asshole
Our number one group rule is “Don’t be an asshole” – this was a group rule even before I took the group over. When I took the group over as owner, there were only 6,900 members. The group had been unmoderated and had attracted all the trolls and worst people on this unnamed adult website that I won’t mention here. If you’re into alternative lifestyles, you can probably guess which site I am referring to.
The number one reason posts are closed is because people post spam. They either post a personal ad, or other types of spam promoting some kind of website or business. Trainers are especially bad for this.
When I issue a timeout from the group, they receive an automatic message from me saying why they were booted from the group. I have no control over this. And most of the time, I ignore messages that people send me because they are just trolling.
But every now and then, we get a real gem come through. Like last night. I’m still reeling from this one.
Being a mod isn’t all fun and games
Last night was a first for me though as a moderator. I’ve been called all kinds of names but I’ve never been accused of being — a racist before. Like, what? That’s what happened after I removed a personal ad from the discussion board.
She had typed, “Don’t be an asshole and ask me nonsense questions.”
I called her out for posting a personal ad, and said, “we don’t allow asshole behaviour here. Your post is overly aggressive and over the top. Please read the rules before posting again.”
She then proceeded to block me, and wrote back on the public forum saying, “you’re calling me an asshole because of my skin color? You’re the asshole.”
It was one of those “what the actual f” moments as I looked at my phone in disbelief. I couldn’t even tell what she looked like from her small avatar.
I walked over to my computer, sat down, logged into the website and went to contact her. But she had already blocked me. I was willing to resolve this via private message but – there’s no way to do that when a person blocks you.
And so, in return, she was given a permanent ban, which I really hate doing. I only save that for spammers, scammers and people who misuse the group for personal gain.
I have a hard rule in my own life. I treat all people equally, regardless of age, race, body size, etc. If you’re decent to me, I’ll treat you decent in return. If you’re an asshole to me online, you’re going to get blocked. I have no time for that.
I sent this discussion to the male moderator of the group. I asked him for help a couple of years ago as I felt most of the attacks were because I was female. And he NEVER gets email from group members. It’s always me that gets the hate mail.
He said and I quote:
Asshole’ is a slur…when you’re a professional grievance-monger.
And I had another “what the hell” moment and had to look it up. It’s an actual term used in psychology. So, I figured why not write a post about it.
What is a professional grievance monger?
According to the Dictionary Reverso site, this is a person who has a feeling of resentment or injustice at having been unfairly treated. Or a real or imaginary wrong causing resentment and guarded as grounds for a complaint.
After a quick Google search, I can see that this term has been around for a while. Early articles quote the term from 2004. In an article posted on the clarionproject.org website, grievance mongering is called an extremist tactic. This tactic is often disguised as social justice warriors who are on the war path to keep their extremist agendas alive.
Instead of promoting awareness to topics to inspire positive changes, these people often resort to fear mongering or hate spreading messages. The posters are often filled with outrage and in my experience, are generally difficult to communicate with even under the best circumstances.
I know I’ve filed my own grievances for mistreatment throughout my life. But for me, the grievances were usually warranted after experiencing extreme cases of bullying and harassment in the workplace. It’s one thing to stand up for yourself against a toxic workplace, coworker or boss. It’s another thing entirely to fabricate an injustice that never happened.
How I avoid being a grievance monger
I don’t consider myself to be an extremist on any subject or topic. I do have things I am passionate about and passionate emotions can often be taken the wrong way online. I’m a bad texter as all my friends and family know. I prefer to write with a keyboard. When I’m on my phone, my responses are often short or blunt because I’m all thumbs when it comes to texting.
I’ll often come back to the conversation later and write a longer message via email or private message if I feel like I’ve hurt the other person’s feelings. In most cases though, I’m overthinking it and that makes the problem worse. Communication is a big part of who I am – especially as a writer. And if I can’t resolve things through speaking directly to someone I’ve upset, then it leaves me with serious doubt and guilt for days after the exchange.
If I share any information it’s to spread awareness in and I almost always offer up solutions to try and improve things. But there are people like the woman I encountered last night, who will make a big deal out of one comment exchange. And then they block you and run from the situation, before you can even defend your actions. Then you’re left with feelings of guilt and thoughts like, “did I do something wrong?” or “could I have handled this better?”
Anxiety is a bitch to live with at best of times and this is why I send very few emails these days.
Social media is part of the problem
With social media, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement or rush of a heated debate when you’re passionate about a certain subject. I think the pandemic has made it worse in some ways as many of us have been in isolation for months on end. It’s easy to forget that the person on the receiving end of your message has feelings too.
I know I’ve gotten into some stupid arguments over trivial matters like my favorite tv shows. There are some people who are just angry in life and want to vent or bitch about things because they can. I’ve learned to pick my battles now. I’d rather spend my energy on things that bring joy to others rather than tearing them down.
Twitter is probably my least favorite platform. The cancel culture is strong on the site and I often find myself hiding or muting trending topics. I’m mostly there to connect with local friends I’ve met. I prefer Instagram and Facebook for keeping in touch with family and friends. My friends lists are very small and I keep it to people I know well.
When it comes to dealing with irrationally angry people or extremists, I find it best just to disengage with them all together. If they don’t stop responding to me, I just block them. I’m willing to listen to different opinions, but I find that extremists won’t return the favor. I also find that if you share your opinion, they will argue it and tell you why you’re wrong until you’re left with no choice but to block them.
Reddit is by far one of the worst sites for this. And I deleted my account with 100,000 karma a while back. There are just too many trolls on these sites.
My unsolicited advice for the day
Anyway. My brain is all over the place today. I have a migraine coming on and my sleep was crap last night after this heated exchange with a random stranger on the internet.
I used to be an angry person. Or rather, I was still dealing with past traumas that I hadn’t received counseling for. Through writing, and therapy for anxiety, I have learned to let go of past traumas and have moved on from them.
Life is too short to live in constant fear and anger. And if you are living this way, you might be suffering silently from a medical condition causing spikes in cortisol. Cortisol can affect your emotions and I suggest you speak to your doctor about this. Stress can also cause some pretty strong feelings and emotions. Therapy helped me a lot. And there’s nothing to be ashamed of for asking for help when needed.
Holding onto anger and hate that these extremists feel, it’s not good for the body. I speak from experience as someone still healing from past traumas.
And to the woman who felt attacked last night — I’m not going to apologize to you because I don’t feel I did anything wrong. I think you have some soul searching to do.
To everyone else on the internet.
Before you lash out at a complete stranger on the internet and call them names or falsely accuse of them a fabricated injustice – you should look within yourself to find out why you feel this way. Tearing others down because you’re angry – you are part of the problem too.