Not only am I a user of Facebook, I am also an administrator for a group dedicated to what is generally regarded as the peaceful season of the renewal of life known as Yule. Community and family are celebrated as the days begin to grow longer, if not quite yet warmer. Once again, the long season of cold and darkness is passing, as the signs of Spring and the coming abundance of resources are being seen everywhere. That being said, there always have to be flies in the proverbial ointment.
As an administrator for the group, I help fashion rules designed to protect not only the individual members of the group from each other but the group’s overall atmosphere of community and general reputation as being free from drama and ill behavior towards the greater Facebook community and vice versa. Social media being what it is, everyone has an opinion, and they have the right to express that opinion. However, as it is in our Constitution, the rights of the individual end when those rights bump up against and infringe upon the rights of other individuals. Sometimes distinctions are a little fuzzy about when member opinions may be detrimental to the overall health of the group, but other times the line is an obvious and insurmountable wall. One such insurmountable wall is the expression of hate.
In the world of a Facebook group meant to hold values of peace, goodwill, the celebration of life and providing education to folks of like mind, or those who are simply curious and want to learn in order to enrich their own lives, hated of others who look or think differently is just not healthy for the group, not for its individuals nor for the group as a whole. Sometimes the hatred is obvious (as in the overt images/words put forth by White Supremacists). Other times, it is more insidious. It’s the hate inside of the mind of someone looking for something to hate, looking for an opportunity to attack something because they are so intolerant of the opinions of others. It doesn’t even matter if the opinion expressed is actually for their benefit. They don’t take the time to think about what is being expressed. They hear/see a few words, make a misinterpretation based on their own wildly biased assumptions, instantly attack, and they attack viciously. They are so blinded by their own biased hatred, they cannot hold even the shortest amount of reasoned discourse without resorting to vulgarity. They wield their words as if swinging a verbal frying pan with the intent of battering the other person into a mush puddle on the ground.
Being a group administrator in this current atmosphere of intolerant intolerance can be quite stressful and very much like walking a tightrope. Every group needs new members, but you cannot be indiscriminant of who you welcome when your belief system, as the consensus of the group follows it, is the polar opposite of others who claim to follow the same belief system. Names overlap. Terms overlap. It appears you are of one belief system under one umbrella, but you are not. Not even close. Bear with me as this becomes very important, as you will soon see.
In an effort to maintain group cohesion and a welcoming atmosphere, you may choose to screen who you let into your group. One of the most common methods is to ask people questions about their interest in joining your group. If your group requires the answering of questions to apply for admittance, you examine those answers carefully. No matter how well stated the answers, you take a look at the applicant’s profile to see if anything jumps out at you as a red flag. If they haven’t answered the questions at all, you take a look at the applicant’s profile to see if there may be a language barrier. If their entire profile is in another language, all you can do is message them to please answer the group questions and hope they figure it out. (You also have doubts, as a caring admin, about how a non-English speaker will fair in an English speaking group.) Sometimes people merely think they are the exception to the requirement, and it is necessary to gently inform they are not. Then there are the times you check a profile only to discover it is the bane of not only your personal belief system, but it also goes against the core values of your group. It is the profile of a White Supremacist. The place where names and terms overlap. The belief system which makes the uninformed think that you, also, are a White Supremacist.
Now is when the real fun (read that as stress) of being a tightrope walking admin begins. Remember when I mentioned this age of intolerant intolerance? Well, here is where it pops up to take a bite of well padded buttocks. I have been an administrator of this particular group for a few years now. I have denied people based on the fact that they were strictly spam merchants or even because they were sex profiles, but this was my first, full on, White Supremacist. I do not capitalize the term to lend it dignity or respect of any kind. I do so because of the gravity I feel for the situation. At first, said looked so innocent.
“Innocent?”, I hear you ask. Yes. It looked innocent. I saw a picture of two lovely little girls, but then I noticed behind them a typical, self serving, white pride slogan of only three words with the number 14. If you don’t know, the number 14 refers to the 14 words of the white survival manifesto about preserving the white race for the future of white children. For the sake of the group, I had to deny this person entry. If I had allowed him in, and he had begun stating his views, it would have been pandemonium. I knew that in the ensuing chaos, more than one member would have been lost, quite possibly banned for life. I wasn’t having it. Not. At. All. With a heavy heart that it had now become necessary to protect the group from further attempts by White Supremacists to gain entry into our group under the mistaken impression we are like minded in philosophy, I wrote a new rule designed to prevent conflict within the group. I wrote it. I announced it. Little did I know what was coming my way. Remember that verbal frying pan I mentioned earlier? (There is a White Supremacist manifesto referring to 14/88. If you wish to know more about this hate filled hot mess, you can Google it. I give it no respect.)
This was the post I made in the group which started the debacle of miscommunication and incivility:
This is the angry misunderstanding which came back at me, and the political poke at Person A disguised as defense of me (Notice my weak attempt at humor helped not one bit):
The very first rule in our group is about being polite and that there be no name calling. Person B is pointing out to Person A her misunderstanding of what I said while also goading her by placing her in what he obviously considers to be a derogatory category. He’s not actually calling her a name which is a nice sidestep of Rule #1. Unfortunately, under the guise of defending what I said, he’s actually trying to goad her, which he did quite successfully. I have tried to diffuse the situation with politeness and humor, but Person A is completely unwilling to reassess what I wrote in order to reach a reasonable understanding of what I actually meant. Trying to speak to her privately is where I was first nailed by the verbal frying pan.
The truly uncivil verbal assault went thus (and thankfully in private communication):
(*1 If you want to know what “orlog” means, Wikipedia has a fairly good explanation. Personally, I think she misused the term.) (*2 “GTFO” is an acronym I feel is easily understood. I do not feel the need to spell it out.)
At this point, I was going to quite happily remove her from the group and ban her permanently. However upon my return to the group, I found that the conversation had, more quickly than I could have conceived, continued it’s decent into uncivil hell. I have marked over names to protect privacy in this very public forum. My sincere apologies for the somewhat incoherent organization of the comments of the posts, but this is exactly as it appeared in the discussion. The other participants were responding faster than I can type. By this time, behavior control was completely gone on the parts of both Persons A and B. Neither was willing to acknowledge their own unreasonableness nor even entertain the possibility they might could have handled the situation or worded statements in any way better than they did. Both A and B preferred to take extreme umbrage at being brought to task by an Administrator of the group whose job it is to ensure the adhering to of the rules of the group. There are only 8 of them, and they are clearly written. (The use of the screenshots is the only way I could conceive of to convey just how quickly the discussion became so utterly ludicrous.)
In the end, both individuals did remove themselves from the group. Had either person put forth any effort to control their tempers and allow the misunderstanding to be resolved civilly and rationally, I actually would have been quite happy to keep them both in the group forum. I did actually reach out to Person B in hopes of possibly retaining him in the group once we had a discussion about where his behavior crossed the line as much as A’s behavior had, but he was unwilling to even acknowledge my attempt to communicate.
There is NOTHING about this group that is political. There is NO PLACE for politics in this group. There is NO REASON for members of this group to become so out of control of their behavior towards one another. There was more than one verbal frying pan in this free-for-all of anger, and quite frankly, I am still reeling even days later.
I have come to the conclusion there was nothing I could do about Person A. As far as I can tell, she was one of those who people looks for hate and things to be angry about, and she is probably finding those things everywhere, even if it doesn’t exist.
As for Person B, he appears to have anger issues regarding those people he deems to be exhibiting what he sees as “SJW” (Social Justice Warrior) behavioral intolerance. He did to her what he had just accused her of doing to me. Not only does this kind of finger pointing escalate bad behavior, but it makes the job of the people in charge of keeping the peace more difficult. All parties see themselves as either wounded or, as in this case, justified in continuing the bad behavior. Neither sees the other, or anyone with a differing view point, as being worthy of civility.
It this very perception of anyone as being unworthy of civility that is breaking down any attempts at profitable discourse in far too many aspects of our current society. It has somehow become okay to attack anyone and everyone who speaks in opposition of not only your beliefs or ideas but of your own bad behavior. Further, it makes no difference how much respect they are being accorded. Even being politely rebuked is cause enough for far too many people to feel incivility to be justified. Either way, there’s really no good reason for the horrible results of the hostile interaction.
I believe it comes down to a choice of personal behavior. If you choose to be uncivil towards others, you will receive the disrespect you deserve. If you choose to remain civil, far more people than you realize will take notice and keep you in higher regard than those being rude.
In summation, especially in the written format, the currency of the high regard of others has much higher investment returns than being unreasonable and unwilling to just talk to one another nicely.
Let’s keep the verbal frying pans to ourselves, shall we?
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Sometimes it takes a lot of coffee to loosen up enough to toss what's rolling around in the dark corners of my mind into the light. Any coffee donations would be appreciated. (In memory of my 'Big Girl' Daisy.)