Have you ever been on an online forum, sharing words of wisdom with fellow business owners, vacation goers, cooks, surfers… or what ever the focus of the forum is… and suddenly you realize that the discussion has gotten out of control?
Usually what happens is some topic hits a nerve for at least one of the participants. They see RED! They can’t understand why the others do not understand the underlying issues (as they are convinced them to be) and feel compelled to write responses to push their idea on the others.
Next, others who may think of themselves as the voice of reason, or maybe they have a totally opposite point of view, get in front of their keyboards and click out a reply. The first person then usually reiterates their viewpoint, only taking up more space to do so, and feel they have gotten their point across.
Not so. Others chime in and on and on it goes.
I am not on a lot of forums, but I would say that everyone that I am on has at some point taken a momentary turn for the worse. What is it about the forum format that pushes people into putting their ideas out onto an exposed forum and why does it get out of control?
First, I think that we feel that when we are on a forum, we are amongst like minded comrades. If we are all interested in the topic and helping each other through participation in the forum, then we must all think alike, no? NO.
Next, this is not a discussion where you can see the other person’s face, their body language, and hear the tone of their voice. When we talk in person, we get immediate feedback from the other person as we are talking and as we are listening. We know how to moderate our responses when we see that we are hurting someone else, if they are dead set against hearing our point of view, or if they are receptive to even one little point that we just made.
When we are chatting via keyboard and screen, it just gets thrown out there, we feel better that we have said our piece, and had a chance to be heard. Many times we are just stunned that someone has joined the conversation and started picking on us. What? We were the voice of reason and suddenly someone has pulled us into the fray and torn us apart.
At this point people either recognize that the conversation is not going to be productive, or they get fired up and throw out another comment. It is like watching an accident happen.
So what do we do short of divorcing ourselves from all forums?
Participate in forums that you feel give you support or that you can help others. If you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a fire storm, recognize it for what it is… a discussion that is not going to have an agreed upon conclusion. Don’t be offended if someone starts to pick on you… just back out. That person has some issues that are not yours to deal with. Or, if you see a discussion that is out of control and you have not put in your 2 cents… DON’T. Just move on. Getting yourself all worked up and in the middle of the fray will not make you feel better. I can practically guarantee that no one comes out of these discussions feeling triumphant.
Solving big problems takes talking, listening, and compassion. I am not so sure that this is all available when we are in the forum setting. Take the setting for what it is worth.
PS – I realize that I am sitting at my keyboard, just spewing out information with no one to challenge what I am writing (at the time of the writing). Yes, I see the irony.