What is it about forums that make people suddenly turn incapable of common sense? Conversations inevitably turn into a complete mess of people trying to prove how much smarter they are than you (and failing miserably). There’s always that point in which you know you should have made your last comment one comment ago.
I belong to several forums, and I really try not to engage in the idiocy. Somehow I stumble into them anyway, mostly because I just can’t keep my big mouth shut. As I write the comment, I can sense that it’s not going to end well, and I should just delete and move one. Usually I manage to listen to that feeling but sometimes it just doesn’t sink in, showing quite well that I, too, can clearly lack that common sense.
It amazes me how literal a person can be when it’s only words on a screen. We already know that the lack of face to face conversation makes people bolder, willing to say things they would otherwise never say, and even feel the license to be mean, disrespectful and downright ugly. People that would typically have a decent conversation can turn one into a nightmare when it’s just written words.
It’s like the whole adverb thing. People gloss over the words that tell you it’s not a literal translation and read only the words that call it a hard and fast rule that should be taken as gospel and if you don’t have strict adherence you shall burn in Hell in eternal agony. “Limit your adverbs” turns into “NO ADVERBS!” like you’re Faye Dunaway screaming “NO WIRE HANGERS!”
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Comments ensue of how “there are no rules,” and the point gets completely muddled and missed.
I’m sure I missed the memo that said forums are actually writing prompt sources for fiction writers. The poster writes their post, other forum members pick out a few words from it and then make up their own post with those few words which they then attribute to the OP and then argue over it. If someone has a copy of that memo, I’d like it.
I made a comment on editing the other day on a forum in which that very thing happened. People will find anything to argue about. This time it was actually about how there are hard and fast rules that absolutely should be taken as gospel, and if you don’t have strict adherence, you shall burn in Hell in eternal agony (I paraphrase, of course). Probably the same people that would say there are no rules had I been talking about something else, like say adverbs. Snarky comments ensued in reply to my comment – which of course was taken too literally as key words were glossed over. The same thing people all over the interwebs have seen since the dawn of chats and forums. If you’ve been on any forums, I’m sure it’s happened to you. Even on the build-your-own-amazing-badass-speakers-to-the-phi-ratio-audiophile forum, there are flame wars.
Having better things to do than argue with people that have missed the point, I (mostly) learned to ignore them and simply not engage, but others actually like to engage. As a forum member, it’s no fun reading them any more than it is being involved in them, so I stop reading when a thread falls apart. Flame wars suck. And sometimes they suck you down with it.
I find myself not reading more than reading now, though, which is sad. If I feel that way, I’m fairly certain others do too. It doesn’t leave much room for any kind of real conversation. I think I’m down to one forum where I actually enjoy going. The others feel like a chore that I’m somehow obligated to deal with because of what I do. I want to engage, but it seems hopeless, so I’m left with simply making an appearance to say congratulations! or +1, or some other such non-engaging-see-I-showed-up statements. I really hate that. I would prefer to enjoy being there.
We believe that as unknown/unpublished writers, we need to have an online presence so we try. Established authors are lucky enough to only need their blog, Twitter, and Facebook as their online presence. I hope to get there someday.
On the plus side, the fewer forums I stick around on, the fewer distractions I have. And look, I’ve been getting better at blogging!