Thoughts on Tone and Why We Can't Leave It Alone
by potatohouse (2014-03-11 14:40:39)

This was a response to El K's post on the political board regarding how we could clean things up and why people don't use the report/ignore user functions. He asked me to make it a new thread, so who am I to question the Boss:

I have two thoughts on your "Report Poster" inquiry and your comment on the tone of the board:

1. As it relates to your suggestion about using “Report Poster” and, even to some extent, “Ignore Poster.” I imagine it confuses and frustrates you as to why people don’t take advantage of these features that are designed to minimize conflict and allow people to have a more pleasant experience on the boards. Why do we ignore these gifts and, instead, keep flying into the flame? Well, let me take a stab at it.

For the most part, I don’t think people always want someone else to fix the problem. And they don’t want to ignore it either. I’ve never used an ignore feature anywhere because I value the whole experience. And I value the exercise in restraint when I am presented with an opportunity to test it. I don’t think I’m special. I’d just simply rather see it all and trust myself to make the right decisions. I believe that “Report Poster” suffers a similar fate because people either again want to deal with issues themselves or, like another poster alluded to, there is a misunderstanding as to when “report poster” is appropriate. Honestly, I would shy away from using it because ironically I would think it would cause MORE work for you as a moderator. Work that you shouldn’t have to deal with.

I think a lot of this is human nature and this behavior can be found in any number of places like this. But I’ve also wondered at times if there is an added element based on the makeup of your members. Whether it can be attributed to spiritual background, general personality makeup or even the educational and social lessons many of us received at the school that bonds us together, I think you are dealing with a population that is even more inclined to speak up and address an issue rather than ignore it or report it.

I apologize for commenting on moderation, but I often see you bemoaning the vast number of people here who are unable to control themselves from interacting with a certain poster (or a select few). You ask why people can’t just let them alone if they don’t agree. And, honestly, you’re right. Peoples’ inabilities to avoid “taking bait” or “getting sucked in” is definitely a flaw. But, again, I think you are by in large dealing with a group that has a difficult time standing by when they feel action is appropriate. Even if the expression of that action leads to more problems.

2. As to the “tone” of this specific board, you know you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle. So many people here are exceedingly intelligent and articulate, yet the communication will invariably breakdown. It’s sad. I do agree with AZDomer that overall this board is pretty civil as far as political discussion goes. But that doesn’t mean it’s ideal. And clearly, you’re not okay with it.

I’ll take another quick stab at what ails the two opposing factions and why we repeat defective behavior over and over again. As with any conflicting groups, it almost always has nothing to do with the viewpoints and everything to do with a minority vs. majority standing.

When you are in a minority and you still choose to participate in discussion, you do so knowing you are going to meet mostly opposition. You should expect that. But it can also become frustrating and exhausting to always be the one taking on the whole team. And frustration and exhaustion are no friends to even-keeled emotion. Posters coming from this side should take full stock of why they really choose to post. If it’s to vent the frustrations that come about from constantly being piled upon, then you’re really more interested in feeling good about yourself than you are in making some sort of useful contribution. And you’re literally throwing gasoline on a fire you’re trying to extinguish.

When you are in a majority, there is a feeling of safety and comfort that comes along with that status. You know most of your thoughts will be backed up by others with similar views and that if you find yourself in a dispute, help is never far (if you need it). It is VERY easy to take this for granted. Or at least, to take how POWERFUL this is for granted. Unfortunately, feeling safe and constantly having your views ratified by others leads to one of the more unnecessary and destructive communication behaviors: Piling On. Something about jumping in and adding to the fight is just so seductive. But, just as the example above of a minority viewpoint poster doing a drive-by, what you’re really doing is making yourself feel good and damaging the chance at a useful or productive dialogue. If ten people have already said what you are about to say, chances are, you are adding nothing positive and only serving to dissuade minority viewpoints in the future.

We should all be cognizant of which group we fall into here (or anywhere) and when we catch ourselves engaging in those behaviors (or something similar). Because when you’re in a discussion or argument (especially as it gets passionate), you almost always have the choice to either (a) puff your chest and feel good about yourself or (b) try to be productive. It’s not always easy or possible to avoid the former, but I’d wager it leads to the vast majority of dialogue breakdown. And this board, despite being filled with intelligent, educated, compassionate and articulate people, is no exception.