There have been different times, in the course of HW history, that I have been concerned about a shift in culture or a shift in the attitudes of HW members. Since our forum is made up of individual humans (and the occasional Sci-Fi Alien), this is actually a very natural thing to have happen. We are humans. We make mistakes. Besides that, since the forum is constantly changing and new members come in all the time, we have a constant influx of “new blood” that hasn’t had the opportunity yet to learn from HW’s past mistakes.
For the most part I am always proud of how the HW Leadership, as a whole, handles these issues. There may be some disagreement initially, but in the end we all come together and give a unified front to the forum members. However, in November of 2012 there was an issues that was addressed by the forum team, but the final step in resolving this issue was never completed. As I was the one spearheading the UH issues and bringing up the concerns regarding them, it naturally fell to me to bring these issues before the forum as a whole once the issues were resolved, to which I come with an apology. For while the issues were resolved, I dropped the ball and never posted what I am about to post now in the hopes that I can rectify my mistake.
In November of 2012 our forum had three members say, for one reason or another, that they were going to leave HW because they felt like a burden. They felt like they were not being a productive member. They felt attacked by another user.
When the first complaint came across I was very sad, but I took the attitude that these things happen and there is only so much that can be done. We can’t please everyone. The second time, I was a bit concerned that there were two members in a close timeframe, but it could be a fluke. Then the third one happened and it wasn’t a fluke anymore. It was a problem. It was something the forum team needed to evaluate and fix.
Which happened. After much discussion some decisions were made and the issues going on were resolved. All was happy and well again, but to our discredit, we never addressed the root of the problem with the forum in its entirety, and that was my fault.
What was the root of this problem, you might ask? Well, all seemed well and good on the outside of HW, so it took some sleuthing to deduct that there was a common denominator in the issues that were occurring. The Holy Worlds Chat Room.
You see, we really have very few issues on the Holy Worlds forum, for the most part. I mean sure, we have some petty issues that arise, and we have occasional swear words that get used and addressed, or something needs to be moved to Tricky Subjects, but nothing really big normally happens around here.
Chat was a whole other kettle of fish. I may not get in there much these days (much to my own disappointment), but I have always kept very close tabs on things. Not only do I have my own little group of chat frequenters who come to me and tell me when things have gone terribly wrong in chat (let’s clarify, they are not tattling, it’s really an issue when I learn about it), but I also have a habit of reading back through the log from time to time (because I love hearing about you guys and whats going on, even though I can’t always participate).
In fact, it may or may not surprise everyone to learn that I deal with more chat user handling issues than I do forum related user handling issues. An awful lot of things are said in chat that should not be said, and a lot of feelings end up hurt because of it.
With this realization came much contemplation. Why were our members saying things in chat that they knew better than to say on the forums in a post? Was it because members subconsciously knew that no one was looking over their shoulder in chat?
The reality is that yes, in some ways, that was part of the issue. I mean, we all fall into this, making us lax in judgment when we enter the chat room, for while no one was purposefully going around trying to be mean and find ways to break the rules and bring their fellow members down in chat, that didn’t change that we had a problem.
So what exact was going on? Well, to be quite honest, I think that our members honestly fell into an internet syndrome that I harp on all the time (ask any HWer who knows me well). It’s the Android Syndrome (if you don’t know what an android is, you must not be a sci-fi fan
, so for clarification, an Android doesn’t have emotions, which is why I call this syndrome the Android Syndrome). See, when we are in chat, we can have the tendency to forget that there is a human on the other side of that screen. They have real emotions and real feelings. And while we can’t see the way in which our words impact them, they do still impact them, be it positively or negatively. Because we can’t see the way in which someone reacts to what we have just said, we can sometimes, unknowingly, keep saying things that can be hurtful without realizing the effect it has.
This is why internet relationships require so much more work.
We have to always be mindful and ensure we don’t fall into the Android Syndrome, and because chat is so fun and fast-paced, we can easily get caught up and say things without thinking.
Add into that that chat is real time, requiring instant responses, and that means that our reactions are ten times more likely to be driven by our emotions than forum posts, because with forum posts we have time to read over what we've written or even write out all our emotionally driven thoughts, then hit delete and write a more tempered response, if need be.
Now you’re probably thinking, “Okay, Airi, cut to the chase. How is this going to affect me in chat? Are you going to start restricting chat and placing all kinds of rules in the chat room for me to follow?”
Well, let me alleviate all those fears right now. The simple answer is no, I’m not. In fact, I will not
micromanage chat because I think that is wrong. Chat is the HW hang out spot, which is a good thing and something HW needs.
So what am I going to do, then, you may be asking? Well, I’m simply going to bring awareness, because I think that’s the big issue here. It’s not so much a cultural shift as it is forgetting that we need to be aware of our words, and the tone they carry, in chat as well as out of it.
See, HWers are smart. They always have been. And they don't do things out of a genuine desire to hurt others. They just lose sight of things, at times, like any other human being. And that is what I think happened. People get caught up in the moment, which is easy to do with real time (actually, when Chat is busy with two or three conversations there's even less time than real time because you're trying to get your reply in before the other conversation pops up) and thus the simple fix to this is a reminder.A Few Reminders For Chat:
Firstly, I want to remind everyone that our way is not the only right way. I cannot tell you how many times a member has come to me very upset because another member either told them or implied that they were not saved because of what they believed about the Bible, a passage of scripture, or the manner in which they debated a theological topic in chat. Remember, you don’t have to answer every comment that is typed out in chat. It really is okay to just let something slide.
Secondly, every single chat member needs to offer grace, but most especially those receiving a comment which hurts them. This is the internet, guys. It’s non-verbal communication. Therefore the way in which someone meant something may be totally different than in the way you received it. If you can’t see the body language or the goofy teasing grin on their face, you may take the comment to be mean, when in actuality the comment was meant to lighten the mood. Also keep in mind that HW is a combination of all kinds of different personalities. Some that meld well together, others that clash. So perhaps the reason their comment offends you is simply because their personality doesn’t mesh with yours very well and if the comment had been said to happy-go-lucky Jane Doe, it would have rolled off her back like water droplets on a duck.
Thirdly, let me say right now that no HWer should ever, ever, ever have their salvation questioned by other members due to their differing beliefs on a subject. It’s not okay. The Bible says judge based on the fruit, and with online relationships you really have no fruit by which to judge because you cannot see a person’s life and actions. You can only see their words which, as we all know, are very hard to get a read on (no pun intended).
In addition to that, remember that nothing is more valuable or important than your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. In the past we have had members flat out argue with one another over things like HP and Twilight. Really, guys? Can’t we discuss these topics without ending in a mudsling? Remember that the person is more valuable than their opinion on the books/movies.
And finally, keep in mind what the Bible says about gossip. It’s not okay. The Lord doesn’t tolerate it, and neither will the forum team. Gossip will become a UH issue not only because it is so detrimental to the community and the forum, but also because the Bible speaks so strongly against it. So make sure that your words are edifying when speaking of another member, and that they do not tear down.
Respond in love.
Don’t take everything so seriously.
And once more I apologize that I did not post this back in November when I should have. As always you are more than welcome to contact me if you have a concern or are struggling with something. I’m more than happy to help your sort through your emotions and what is going on.