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Oh Internets. Why?

People get so confused on the Internet. We grow up hearing that we have free speech in the US. What people don’t understand is that the Constitution does not allow the GOVERNMENT to restrict the right of people to speak freely in public. But just as you can’t expect to go into a library and speak loudly, and you can’t expect to go into a cafe and start shouting at people, you can’t expect to go into a topic-specific forum or group on the internet and start posting off topic and have people be happy about it, I don’t care how precious your cause is or how important. There are places to say these things. Facebook walls. Personal journals. Political discussion groups. Comment threads on RELEVANT news articles. But people go to moderated environments BECAUSE they are moderated. Because when you want to talk about diapers, or baby slings, or getting pregnant, or cooking, it’s really disconcerting and not fun if someone treats it like their own street corner and stands up on a soap box and starts yelling about dying children or a presidential election or the tragedy du jour.

And the response when someone gets moderated… I’ve been moderated myself, asked to remove something or post it elsewhere. The appropriate response? Apologize and do as asked. Sometimes a request will seem unreasonable. One board I have been on periodically gets hot under the collar when people post about any other forum, Facebook, or the rest of the internet. Post a link and you may have your account suspended. Enough of us didn’t like the rule that we…left. Went to another forum where we found the rules more to our liking. I still don’t understand why that forum wants to pretend the rest of the internet does not exist (the sharing of relevant links to the topics being discussed could get people banned, and it was a forum one had to pay to be part of) but hey, it’s their playground, their business, and as long as they’re not discriminating vs. specific individuals in their policies, they get to make their policies.

But many, many people get defensive when they get called out. They insist on their right to post whatever seems important to them, no matter how irrelevant to the situation. Yes, it is possible to be a patriotic, baby-loving, decent human being and NOT want to hear how someone had a house fire or someone else is being unjustly whatevered when one is in a group specifically devoted to the discussion of widgets. I like to compartmentalize things a bit. I get to know people in the context of babywearing, for example, I do NOT want to know that these people I adore are political idiots voting for the candidate I hate. If I’m on a group dedicated to getting good prices on household goods, it’s NOT the place I want to talk about homeless veterans. Politics and the public interest are important topics… but NOT THERE.

And the poor moderators. People are insane, you know. They get told “No, don’t do that here,” and suddenly it’s Nazi this and Communist that and friggin’ death threats.” To which I have this to say.

GET A GODDAMNED GRIP, PEOPLE. SHUT UP.  THOSE WORDS DO NOT MEAN WHAT YOU THINK THEY MEAN.

And the person you’re attacking? Is probably not getting paid for what they do. They’re human beings. With feelings. And families. And lives. And life is too short for that shit.

Before you open your mouth or wiggle your fingers to yell at a moderator… STOP. THINK. And when all else fails, follow Wheaton’s Law. Don’t know what that is? Here. I’ll help you. http://ruleoftheinternet.com

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