Discussion Forums: A Necessary Evil
Discussion forums are a necessary evil. The positive aspects of a forum generally outweighs the negative but the negative can be considerable. This is due largely to other forum "participants" you will encounter.
Have you ever left a forum annoyed or upset? I bet you have. Most people approach a discussion forum in good faith expecting a positive and constructive experience. There are those looking for answers and those who know answers who are willing to share. This is great!
There are others however just waiting to pounce upon you...you are the prey. In most every forum there are those with personality issues who will victimize you to varying degrees. I'm talking more about your conventional discussion forums and not social networks like MySpace, Facebook, etc
I will alternate the use of gender for every category below.
The Bully With Thousands of Posts
The bully feels licensed to push you around because he has thousands of posts and has been around for awhile. The bully likes that everyone can see his large number of posts and for this reason feels he is a big deal. Yes, I know this is rather infantile but the bully often does have a child like component. The bully sees the forum as his territory and thus entitled to rough you up. The forum bully tends to be rather blustery, overly direct and well, a bully. You went into the forum in a good mood and now you feel beat up and victimized---thanks forum bully.
Looking for Conflict
There is often a person lurking around in a forum who desires conflict. She is generally a wound up and bitter person who of course is personality challenged. If there were someone in her household to fight with she would...and probably does. Forums however are a nice substitute or supplement for her and she takes full advantage.
She will pounce upon your forum entry quickly. She will purposely misconstrue or "misinterpret" your entry in a way which puts you on the defensive. You will feel a need to explain yourself or clarify what you meant. She will try to keep the conflict going or ratchet it up even more. This is enjoyable to her but defeating to you. Thanks Looking for Conflict for making something out of nothing and for needlessly draining me of energy. Conflict and the Bully often go hand in hand or have significant overlap.
The Know it All
The know it all has been there done that with all things. He comes across as pompous and condescending. He sees himself as a gift to humanity and it vexes him to come down to your level. He may point out a spelling or grammar mistake you made without addressing the primary elements of your inquiry or thread. The know it all has little desire to help you but instead wishes to use you to try to show everyone else how smart he is. Thanks know it all for implying how stupid I am and for the gift of your presence.
The Social Crusader (SC)
The social crusader (SC) sees sexism, racism, and environmental issues everywhere. She will be offended for something she thinks she saw or detected within your entry. There may in fact be nothing in your entry that is offensive but the social crusader is nevertheless sure you are a bigot. She is a bit delusional and almost always to the far left. She generally detests everything that most people respect and hold up as admirable i.e. family, country, marriage, the flag, concept of a god, etc. She sees herself as very progressive and sophisticated and you as backward and inbred. Thanks Social Crusader for making me feel guilty for no reason.
The Team Up
A Social Crusader, for example, often knows at least one other person in the forum like herself. Birds of a feather flock together as they say. She may send a private message asking her crusader friend to make an entry against you in some way. This passive aggressive, back door, team up is a real bummer for you. It can make you look like you are wrong when actually you are correct. It can make you look like the problem when really you are not. The bully, conflict, the know it all, etc. can all initiate this bummer of a tactic.
You wish to participate in the forum and learn something about, for example, search engine optimization. The spammer replies how you can save money on tennis shoes from Hong Kong. Or, he informs you that if you drink Acai Berry juice you will become immortal and provides a link for you so you can purchase some. Wow, thanks spammer for the unwanted solicitation and for ignoring my inquiry or comment/s.
The Simpleton (TS)
The simpleton (TS) is innocent but nevertheless very annoying. She offers "assistance" that has little or nothing to do with your thread starter. She gives you tangential and irrelevant feedback making you feel like you are going crazy. She often sees herself as a genius and feels she is contributing significantly. She feels as if everyone understands her input when in fact no one does. She tends to clog up a forum with meaningless input. She has little to no insight into her condition and doesn't purposely mean to cause you harm.
Every once in awhile a moderator can fit into one or more of the categories discussed above. This is a real bummer! I was in a forum once where the moderator edited my input to misrepresent or distort my position. Most moderators are pretty good though and deserve your cooperation and compassion. Afterall, they have to constantly deal with spam, mis-placed posts and, many other headaches.
You will find the annoying phenomenon described herein in most every discussion forum. You can go to a forum about unicorns or puppies and will, sooner or later, have an unpleasant experience with another forum member.
I want to go out of my way to say with full confidence that most everyone in a forum is nice and sincere. Discussion forums are great in terms of learning and people helping people. The positive aspects of a forum outweigh the negative.