As I have also written about before, while I am a big proponent of the power of sports message boards and the idea behind it, I am critical of the users who freely give out their “wisdom” on issues that they know very little about. I must admit that I have one more problem with message boards and similar outlets that I have not addressed before: the constant back-and-forth insult warfare between users that always seems to pop up.
Like I said, I support message boards. They provide an outlet for fans to engage in conversation and debate about their favorite teams. It is also a good way to connect with other people of similar interests and to belong to a non-conventional type of community. Additionally, for someone like me, I have an extra stake in such a service as the place that I work for is the main topic for one of these message boards. In the state of Montana, eGriz.com is the premiere and most popular online discussion forum. Although often critical of Grizzly Athletics and sometimes directly critical of the job I personally do, it helps to keep the Griz relevant and the passion flowing. It also keeps us in check. I appreciate that.
But it doesn’t matter if you visit eGriz, overthemonster.com, or TideFans.com, if you click on just about any thread, you are bound to see bickering and fighting between faceless users. Many of the people who visit and post on these sites are grown men yet a certain percentage of them will act like thirteen year old entitled brats. Profanity, name calling, and sarcasm are all “weapons” that some users will use against others. Many times, a thread that once started as a quality discussion on a certain prominent subject will turn into a pissing match between two overly opinionated dudes who are hiding behind their computers.
I mean it is easy to understand why something like this happens. Sports are a very controversial subject, one of the reasons that make them so awesome. But when something is controversial, strong opinions are going to be held. While it is fine to have a strong opinion, it is also crucial to remember not to become overly defensive about that opinion. When this happens, the common sense filter dissipates and uncensored blasts start to make it through the waves of cyberspace.
When I start to see a thread go from civil conversation to a head-to-head challenge of one’s manhood, I usually do one thing before I click out of it: I try to visualize the people participating in the feud. For instance, on one side I picture some fifty year old overweight, unemployed guy down in his basement surrounded by empty beer cans fuming mad pounding away on his computer, ready to snap back at the latest comment directed at him. Once he submits his scathing response, the blow hard accountant a hundred miles away who is sitting in his home office angrily shrugs off his wife who needs help with the crying baby because he needs to come back with a rebuttal…pathetic, I know.
I don’t understand how guys allow themselves to participate in these public arguments. I would be completely embarrassed if I got as out of hand as some message board users do. Is the allure of anonymity that powerful? In some cases it is not even that. For sites such as eGriz and other message boards that have been around for a long time and have a more centralized fan base, people actually know one another. So while you can hide behind a computer, you can’t hide behind some username because everyone knows who you already are. Yes, what you say and how you conduct yourself will be attributed to you. How some people realize this but still continue to rattle off personal attacks and cuss words amazes me.
I know I am not offering groundbreaking advice and I know this problem is never going to go away but here are my three pieces of advice when posting on any online forum (message board, Facebook, Twitter, etc.):
1. Never personally attack someone.
2. If someone personally attacks you, offer a civil response.
3. If the person continues to attack you, just ignore them. It is not worth engaging in an argument with a moron and the chances are that the online community will police the situation for you.
As I am fond of saying, actions done and opinions expressed over social media don’t go away. While you can delete what you post, you can’t undo someone’s ability to print out your words, screen capture it, or re-print them elsewhere. Have some personal pride. As is cliché in the message board world, don’t say something behind a computer that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. And yes, I realize that many people with way too strong opinions who post on these boards would say whatever they wrote to the other person’s face but you get my point…keep it decent.
If you don’t have self respect for your character and reputation though, please just refrain from insult wars out of respect for everyone else on the board. Again, these message boards are great for fan discussion and for the building of community. However, it only takes one person to tell someone off and for the other person to take the bait before an engaging discussion about a new recruit turns into a totally off topic mud-slinging fest.
Keep the discussion going! Just remember to respect others and respect yourself. These forums are about something bigger (such as a team, a program, a league, etc.) than Fan4Life3456’s beef with DieHardSupporter9111. Let’s not degrade a great thing. Don’t Blink.