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I am not shy about being on a lot of different Pagan Yahoo groups, discussing things from integration of sexuality with Paganism to how to bake cookies for Litha’s Cakes and Ale. Most times the discussions are fantastic and full of information.

But there is the occasional set of posts that devolve into a screaming match between four or five people, each of them stridently trying to make their particular voices heard above all others.

What is ironic is when all sides are saying the same thing.

It’s something that happens more and more often, and one that needs to stop. Communication breakdowns happen, and when they do there are things that can be done, but rarely are.

  • DO NOT WRITE FROM ANGER. Writing from anger only means that you will be slinging aspersions and insults, most likely, without cause. If you are mad, write your response by all means. But then put it into your “Drafts” folder and let it sit there for 24 hours. It will still be there when you want to respond, but you won’t have to go back and say you are sorry.
  • If you are being ironic, say so. People who are reading your words are not psychic. They cannot see that you are bring ironic or hear the tone of your voice. The ONLY thing they have to go by is what you say. It’s like talking to people who have Asperger’s Syndrome where they are incapable of reading nuances like body language and tone of voice. The accepted convention now is to put fake HTML around statements where you are being over the top. Doing <>I am SOOOO over him< /irony > will save you a lot of grief. Please note the space between the bracket and the word to keep the readers from recognizing it as a HTML command.
  • Smilies Work. Sometimes the emoticons are overlooked during the rush to read the post, but very few times are smilies missed. If you have the capability of using them, please do so. Some email programs even change the text emoticon to a smilie in the process of reading it.
  • Give others a break. If you read something that is inflammatory, ask for clarification. It could be that they are unclear in what they are saying. Asking for clarification will allow them to explain or to be clear. And you won’t look like a hot-headed reactionary.
  • Understand that the Internet is worldwide. I am amazed how many people seem to forget this and only speak to those who speak English or assume everyone is from America, Australia or England, ignoring the fact that there are French people who speak and write English fluently, as well as Russians and so on. Just because your BBS is local to the Toronto area does not mean that someone from South Africa can’t sign up for that list and participate.
  • Because the Internet is worldwide, don’t assume. I have had this come up over and over and over on some lists where person A posts about this event that happened and was on the News, and somoene from Angola had no clue what was happening or what was going on. Or a long explanation about American Politics was posted and half the list who were from England or Europe or Asia couldn’t follow it because they didn’t know squat about American Politics. Just because you understand something does not mean that everyone who is reading will understand. Don’t assume they will.
  • Cartoon. I saw a cartoon once that had one of the most accurate descriptions of how a jerk is made. Take a normal person, add Anonymity, add an audience, and you get a troll who causes problems simply because they can. Keep this fact ever in mind.
  • Be clear. If it takes going down to the local college and taking a course in writing, DO IT. Learn to write and learn to be clear in what you are saying. Don’t use five words when one will do and don’t assume that everyone can pick up on your nuances. Write clearly and succinctly and for an audience of 5th graders. If you do that, you will be understandable to 99% of those who are reading your words. Remember, as Mark Twain once said “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between the lightening and the lightening bug.”

Using these simple steps can prevent better than 90% of the drama that is online currently.

One of the fastest ways to drive me off a community, even one that I am enjoying and love posting to, is to have it become mired in drama and “he said/she said” accusations.

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