Rubbernecking the Ridiculous: Tips to Reduce Forum Thread Outrage

You know how cars on one side of the road end up slowing down, compelled to get a glimpse of a tragic accident on the other side of the highway?

That's what I find myself doing in some online forum threads.

What inevitably I see there is the verbal equivalent of a ten-car pile-up. Something that might have once been a respectful point... decent adult discourse... a unique perspective... something we could all learn from... now pulled apart and twisted together again, turned upside down and made grotesque.

A nose where a nose should not be. A leg where an arm once was.

All tangled up metal and smeared with gore and not quite human anymore. Or perhaps all too human. Because I look at it and am still reminded of what it had once been. And mourn what it's turned into.

See, the thing is, I know going into particular threads that this is likely what I'm going to see. Yet I lurk, anyway. Why? Why do I do this to myself? Because each time I do, I feel my blood pressure jet-packing skyward.... I see my belief in basic human decency hitting the southbound express lane...

And I have only myself to blame for it.

Which got me thinking-- there have to be a lot of other folks out there facing the same problem. More silent folks who know we shouldn't look, but still do, due to our own personal weakness... our own compulsions... our own mysterious need to see the unfathomable. Folks who could cure our own ailments by simply hitting that X button in the corner of the browser window. And yet sometimes we still find ourselves crossing the county line from North BlissfulIgnorance to Lower Curiosity.

So I've pulled together a few alternate suggestions, of ways to deal with Forum Thread Rubbernecking for habitual lurkers. Ways to diffuse the irritation, to experience even the most divisive thread with a gladder heart, and to drive past the car crashes without a direct route to Depression. Perhaps one of these techniques will help you, as well:

  • Pretend every thread is the next season of the hot new soap opera, As the Stomach Churns. Meet the insidious Lola, the two-faced Thad, the overcompensating Raven, the off-her-meds Angelique, and the contradictory and conflicted Javier.
  • Bone up on psychology and play, "Name That Disorder." Uncover phobias, unspoken cries for help, inferiority complexes, covert narcissism and sociopathic mindsets.
  • Make it into a drinking game, where points are earned every time name-calling occurs, stereotypical labels are flung generously, self-contradictions occur within the same paragraph and report buttons get hit. Chug when threads are removed by administrators.
  • Imagine all the participants are giant cranky 2-year olds, complete with Dora the Explorer and Barney t-shirts, rubber pants and security blankies. Predict when naptimes will occur and when the next "time-out" will be awarded.
  • Make a list of ten impossible-to-believe stand-alone forum quotes a day. Compile them into a best-selling coffee table book.
  • Parallel different personalities with literary figures and compare where plotlines diverge.
  • Create abstract art to represent each horrifying thread. Sell your work on Etsy, or at local arts fairs with titles like "Flame Warfare No. 12," "2Cute4U19's Confusion" or "Rage in Caps."

Yes, for those moments when you simply cannot make yourself X out, there are still ways to minimize the disappointment, the horror, the disbelief. By employing some simple strategies, it may be possible to get through social media with one's soul intact. Together, I hope we can make the Internet Highway a smoother, healthier, less road-ragey ride for everyone.



Shirley said...

I need more coffee I could have sworn "smeared with gore" said "smeared with Al Gore." Sleep would be good too. :) Lately, I stay away. It gets redundant drives me up a wall.

Jenn Thorson said...

Shirley- It might have been smeared with Al Gore an election or two back. :) Me, I'm trying to practice more restrain in looking, myself. We'll see how long that lasts, though.

Mark said...

You write tongue in cheek, but you've got a point about viewing forums as narratives with their own plot lines and characters. Isn't that what "reality" television was all about?

Jenn Thorson said...

Mark- Interestingly, I initially toyed with including a bullet on social media being like its own reality show, but then I realized it wasn't as much of a humorous metaphor as just general truth. :)

Dougist said...

This is great Jenn!

Since about 2000 I've belonged to discussion board that has about 100 supposedly adults who are on-line friends and fellow gamers (yes, I'm one of those)

Every week or so a thread erupts into a horrific wreck, fire trucks, police, hazmat crews are on the sceen. Just when all is well, some jokester (and these guys all have black-belts in on-line jabbering) will pitch in a post that just starts it all up again untill one of the groups counsel member shows up and PM's everyone to STFU!

It's like the cycle of life. I don't think I'd feel comfortable if I couldn't expect it to occur ever three weeks or so...


Jenn Thorson said...

Doug- You are a far braver person than I! I bow to your ability to not get riled up by all the silliness. How do you manage to not let it get you down?

Anonymous said...

Right now BlogCatalog looks like the Rupture is fast approaching - people wondering about Heven/Hell and if God exists and a possible UFO sighting.
And there's one character who's merrily dancing.

See, I'm already applying point number 1.

Now I'm gonna go apply point 3 with coffee because I can really use some right now.

LOL @ Al-Gore

Jenn Thorson said...

Jaffer- You are certainly using the tips to their very best advantage already-- I'm terribly proud of you. :) I have so far only responded to threads asking for blogging help, because I think they might be relatively safe and rupture and rapture free.

Of course, ya never know.

Get some of that good coffee. I can't imagine what seeing all that is like pre-caffeination.

Matt said...

I'm a member of dozens of message boards. Most are topics that would be slightly embarrassing for a grown man to visit. (so I like RC cars and motorcycles...c'mon)

Jenn Thorson said...

Matt- Don't worry about it-- people live longer when they keep in touch with their inner-kid. I mean, just look how long cartoonists and cartoon voiceover actors live. :)

Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

I actually encourage my new Teen Driver to look.

Jenn Thorson said...

Meg- Yes, I can understand with that one. You're probably cringing inside every time she sets a tire out on the road. But no other way to learn.

Shieldmaiden1196 said...

That sort of thing is why I departed the one online forum I belonged to; it was a martial arts forum, and you can't begin to fathom the depth, the breadth, the height and splendor of jackassery that took place there, right down to students mouthing off to their own teacher's teachers and getting chucked out of the schools they trained in. Something about that comment box brings out one's Inner Moron.

Jenn Thorson said...

Shieldmaiden- That comment is so blindingly true sometimes, it might just be poetic. :)

Da Old Man said...

Jenn, I've been on chatboards for about 10 years. The stuff that happens is unbelievable. At least today, most of the ones who threaten to come and beat you up are more or less gone.
That used to be fun. Perhaps the funniest thing would be someone a thousand miles away stating they were coming to my house to punch me in the nose. I used to send them directions from a local well known landmark. LOL.

Jenn Thorson said...

Da Old Man- I haven't had people threaten to beat me up-- thankfully-- but the need to verbally lash out and misconstrue is amazing.

I'm just glad none of those folks have followed your landmarks and knocked on your door. :)

Tamera Daun said...

You are so right. Great post, by the way. I stopped lurking a few months ago when I felt myself becoming one of those "cranky 2 yr. olds". It helped, I guess. I can now read a thread once in a while without reacting. Ehh, but that drinking game could get dangerous with the high level of thread activity. We'd all end addicted, I'm afraid. ;o))

Jenn Thorson said...

Tamera- Well, Jaffer above seemed to think the drinking game could also be done with coffee.... But now I think of it, maybe being wired and online wouldn't be any more helpful in the same situation. :)

Thank you for sharing your experience! Sounds like there's hope for the rest of us, too. :)

Melanie said...

I think too much coffee is probably how some of the flame wars get started. I mean you can just picture it. Some person who spends a bit too much time on the computer has had a bad day and a worse night. Can't sleep, and about 4:30 am makes a pot of coffee. And about 8 am makes a second pot and by 10 am, said person is attacking anyone and everyone and being irrational besides.

I've belong to an on-line forum since 2000 and have seen these things erupt and die down in an endless cycle. I belong to a garden forum and for the most part we're all pretty mellow people, so it's only about every six months that it gets ugly, but when it does- wow! I try to ignore it all.

I like the points game for name calling. I'll have to remember that next time.

Jenn Thorson said...

Melanie- I've seen the same things happen on a couple of home decorating boards I've been on, so I definitely hear you.

Though I think some places are certainly more orderly than others.

You may have a point there about the caffeine. I also think some folks forget to take their meds. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jenn, it's SeSo! Just wanted to cruise by and say hello.

I had an interesting experience on a blog recently. The blog owner posted their very strong, personal political views, complete with inaccurate, hysterical half-truths based on, as usual, the politics of fear, judgment and stupidity. What "side" they were on is NOT important; rather, to me, it was the angry inaccuracies of their idealogy that I chose to address.

Since it was an--ahem--"open" blog, I commented mildly on the errors and suggested they review American Civics which, whether any us of like it or not, is in fact, the lay of the land.

Bad idea.

The person in question felt I though I had attacked them personally. I apologized profusely and told them I will never go to their blog again. And I shan't neither, y'all.

I've got bigger fish to fry.

This experience puzzles me, 'cause I was under the impression that if one wanted their stuff censored, one wouldn't allow open posting to begin with.

Anyway, thanks for having me.

I'm not Anonymous, I'm:

Anonymous said...

I think Shirley, Mark, Dougist, Jaffer, Matt, Meg, Da Old Man, Tamera, Melanie and anonymous are all wrong with their wrong opinions!

But I have to agree with you and shieldmaiden96 (she's my wife and you, well, you're the author of the blog and so you won't delete my comment, I have to agree with you). The rest, though: What a bunch of jerks! ;)

Anonymous said...

@unfinishedrambling - Mention my name and call me a jerk - it just got personal you (bleep) !

It's time to put point #3 into action !

You singled out yourself against 10 - big mistake ! You're (bleep)ed !


Jenn Thorson said...

SeSo- Heya! Thanks for stopping and joining in. You just described one of those futile online situations. Then when you get more than one of those folks in a forum situation, with all of them angry, not listening, filled with their particular brand of dogma, and wanting to have the last word and, well... for me, that's when the depression sets in. :) I'm sorry you had that sort of experience. At least on TheThriftShopper folks are quite mannerly.

Unfinished Dude- You just behave yerself there, Mister. :) No running with scissors, no stealing the other kids' toys.

And Jaffer, well, he's apparently going to have a nice big virtual hangover this morning. :)

Ah-- blog visitors, what can ya do? :)

Anonymous said...

Jenn, you are a great writer and I admire your thoughtfulness.

I love TTS also because it is a place where there is great mutual respect and regard. I've been on there almost two years and I've never seen flaming of any kind. Which is why I stay, of course. My life force is too precious and too finite to waste it on idiots.

I appreciate your letting my comments stand.

Dignity, always, dignity, lol.

See ya, SeSo

Jenn Thorson said...

SeSo- Of course I would let your comment stand, dear lady. :) I even let comments I don't agree with stand if they add something constructive to the dialogue.

I only saw flaming once in TTS and that person disappeared really quickly. I personally don't think they were well, though.

Yup, life's too short! Cheers to you!

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