Thoughts on the E-peen

I read a fair number of online geek forums, but none more frequently than 40Konline, where I am a regular poster and where I go to discuss Warhammer 40,000, which is a favorite hobby of mine. The reason I prefer this forum to the others dealing with the same topic, is that there the moderation staff insists upon civil discourse, keeps the threads tidy and on-topic, and generally do their best to make sure the stuff you read there and the discussions that you engage in are as free from the idiotic spam, trolling, and flaming that makes other forums so distasteful to me.

27310-Nerd-rage-gif-Kx5mThe problem, though, is that this moderation creates a degree of tension between the moderators and the community, who sometimes feel slighted or insulted if they get a note from a mod indicating they are violating the forum rules. This regularly flares up into various members huffing and puffing about how their ‘free speech’ is being taken away or how the mods are ‘Nazis’ who are driving forum members away with their overzealous adherence to the rules. This regularly pisses me off and, since I have a blog, I’m going to rant about it a bit.

The internet, you may have noticed, is an unpleasant place full of very unpleasant people. The phrase ‘don’t read the comments’ is almost a truism at this point. If you read an article about a woman who has done well in <insert field>, the comments will be filled with sexist vitriol. If you see a picture of two men kissing, homophobic diatribes won’t be far behind. If someone expresses an opinion on anything, the opposite opinion will be quickly offered (which is all fine and good) but accompanied with insulting language, aspersions cast upon the poster’s parentage, and a fair amount of profanity. You can see this on any forum, anywhere, anytime of day or night.

That this is childish and antisocial behavior goes without saying. Of course, if you confront such antisocial behavior, all this typically does is engender even more antisocial and rude responses. No amount of tongue-lashing on your part will keep the seething masses of douche-baggery from wailing and gnashing their teeth at your door. Indeed, if you delete, modify, ban, or otherwise punish people who behave in this manner, it is seen as some kind of affront to their sanctified self-image. You are decried for being a hater of freedom, a fascist pig, a fool, and an ideologue (not that most of them would know that word).

To this behavior and the purveyors thereof, I say this: Fuck you, you insufferable scabrous douchebags.

Forums are not governments. If they edit your speech, this is not transgressing upon your rights anymore than if a priest scolds you for blasphemy in a church. You’re in a church, there are social rules to be observed, and you can get in trouble if you violate them. The idea that you have ‘free speech’ on a privately-owned forum is ridiculous. The newspaper doesn’t have to publish every asinine letter to the editor it receives, and neither does an internet forum need to tolerate your pointless name-calling and profanity. If you act like an ass and are treated accordingly, this is called ‘justice’, not ‘oppression.’

Furthermore, and more importantly, the Internet is a social setting. As much as you feel like you’re alone, sitting in your desk chair and typing away, you are actually in interaction with lots of other people. Just as you wouldn’t run around being a jerk in public, you shouldn’t run around being a jerk to people online. Disagreement is fine, argument is fine, but when you spill over into verbal abuse, there should and needs to be somebody there to say “cut that shit out, ass.” Likewise with spam. If you’re having a conversation about sailing and somebody butts their way into the conversation and starts talking about waterskiing, this is considered rude. Likewise online, if somebody is talking about salad dressing and somebody butts their way in to pick a fight with vegetarians, this is also rude. The internet is not a soap-box, it’s a massive dinner party. Behave accordingly.

Finally, the fact that so many are affronted at being called out on their bullshit is, itself, a unique and odious form of bullshit. In the vast majority of cases, we are not posting anything of importance or value on the internet at all. The idea that we are so insulted when given a warning notice from moderator is ridiculous. So what? Those are their rules, now you know them, and continue on. You don’t have to post there anymore. If you do, obey the rules. That’s it. How is this the kind of thing that engenders pages and pages of self-righteous diatribe? How can your self-esteem be so caught up in your post count on an internet forum about toy soldiers that you feel the need to invoke the US Constitution and start whining about your ‘rights?’ Calm down, buddy – it’s just an internet forum. Get over it. Move on. Nobody really gave a crap about your opinion anyway; it won’t be missed, especially not given how rude you were being.

On the whole, I wish the entire internet had more moderators like they have over at 40Konline. I’m really tired of having to wade through post after post of eye-blistering jackassery just to see some interesting commentary on the latest Bioware video game. Keep it civil and keep it clear and we’ll all be able to get along better.

 

Late Addendum: Just came across this article in the Daily Beast. Read it. Very relevant to the above and distinctly enlightening.

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About aahabershaw

Writer, teacher, gaming enthusiast, and storyteller. I write stories, novels, and occasional rants.

Posted on January 2, 2014, in Critiques, Theories, and Random Thoughts, Gaming and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. GAYYYYYYYY!

    RON PAUL 2012!

    [courtesy of The Colbert Report.]

  2. I’m actually surprised more sites haven’t moved towards something like Slashdot (amongst others), where any forum poster can up/down vote something and you can set a threshold for not showing things that are severely downvoted. (There’s sometimes a secondary system that flags people who are voting outrageously to prevent abuse of the voting, but the majority is usually enough it seems.)

    P.S. Your father smelt of gosh-darned elderberries.

    • Yeah, I think that’s a pretty good system (and it certainly makes less work for mods). I think some of it might have to do with the administrators not having access (for whatever reason) or not being aware of said system. There might also be issues with its implementation that make it more complicated (though I have no idea how).

      P.S.: Why are you smelling my father, anyway? Is that some kind of old-man fetish thing?

  3. I used to use the forums of a heavy metal singer a few years ago, and it got to a point where you would read a post, comment on it and a day later, you’d be wading through 3 or 4 pages of the same few people would have had an argument, involving name calling which had absolutely nothing to do with the topic the thread was about.

    In the end, I got so fed up with it going on all the time, that I exploded and had a rant saying that my nephew who was 5 (at the time) had more maturity and sense than them and that they were ruining the forums for everyone (I did use some bad language too in my rant I’m afraid, saying it was the same few c***s doing it, tho I didn’t name names).

    Sadly, said forums are now no longer in use and have lost contact with some the people who I actually had some decent conversations with.

  4. Relevant to this post, read this:
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/05/the-smartest-book-about-our-digital-age-was-published-in-1929.html

    Or, perhaps better, go and read Revolt of the Masses directly. I’d read some before, but never thought of it in this context before.

  5. I agree with you about bad manners and the need to respect the conventions for the setting you are in. But is part of the problem that the usual visual and social cues we use in real life are just not there online? The result is that online some people assume they are in a bar, others assume they are in a seminar etc.
    Maybe different kinds of visual cues, fonts etc. are needed that bloggers or site admins can put up to show their expectations for that particular site? And how about having various kinds of text length limitations?
    Suppose WordPress users could choose to set their blog to only accept posts of 400 words minimum and replies of 100 words minimum? Those blogs would be used quite differently from ones where you could set the constraints to (say) posts of 60 words max, replies of 20 words max. Would be interesting to see how this affected who contributed, and how .

    • That would be interesting, yes. Given what Ortega discusses in the Revolt of the Masses, however, it might not matter. So long as the moderators are seen as ‘elitist’ and there is a sense that the posters are strong through their (presumed) numbers, they will post with the belief that they have the will of the people on their side.

      Most forums already have rules posted for what is considered acceptable posting, anyway. People regularly disregard them, because they think they’re right and the moderators of the forum are wrong. Silly, but there you go.

      • I was thinking more of programming the limits in. Each bloggers would choose from one format for their own blog from a set of programmed options . That would give contributors a range of choices including probably some blogs with no-limits (ie the present option). No idea what would emerge but it could be interesting to try out 🙂

      • Fair enough. Might be interesting. Thankfully, mostly only polite people post on this blog, so I don’t have to worry about it just yet. 🙂

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