Statute of Limitations in AskMe March 20, 2013 5:06 AM   Subscribe

I know that I am a bit of a misanthrope, this is not the first time I have been a whiner over AskMeFi, and that MeFi is not my private playground BUT is there anything that can be done to help/hinder people who ask again, and again, and again about their relationship on AskMeFi, chronically ignore what everyone says, and then are back a month later to ask about their relationship?

Note: I am not going to single anyone out.

Maybe it is just me, but this seems to be happening a lot more often lately. Someone will post a long question about their relationship trouble - usually romantic/sexual but sometimes with co-workers, family or society in general. There will be a ton of answers. Then they will come back again, usually with the same problem in a different guise, or the same problem just with a new partner, to the point that people will answer 'reading through your posting history about this relationship...' Could we not try to implement a (not official of course) policy of either a) politely just pointing out to people that perhaps they should read the answers to their past questions about this rather than posting about it yet again and then leave it at that or b) is there a possibility of flagging as a 'they have asked this kind of thing before, why is it here again' thing.

I ask here in MeTa because I am not about to do it myself if I am actually just being a jerk. I am not just leaving it alone because to me it feels like a few people are starting to develop a pattern that is both harmful to themselves (not realising that if you ask for answers there is a good chance there is a good answer so take it, not keep making the same mistakes) and harmful to MeFi if it gets 'clogged up' with the same questions all.the.time.
posted by Megami to Etiquette/Policy at 5:06 AM (104 comments total)

OP: "Help! HELP! I'm stuck in a well!!!"
Goons1-4: "Climb! Climb up and take our hands!"
OP: "I'm thinking I should dig... should I dig?"
Goon5: "NO! I was trapped in a well, and digging is a bad idea! Climb out!"
Goons6-8: "Were lowering ropes! Take hold of a rope!"
Goon9: "I've even tied a harness to the end of this one!"
OP: "I can feel the ropes, but I don't want to hold onto them... should I dig?"
Goon10: "No! If you dig, you'll hit water, and then you'll be proper fucked. I should know, I almost drowned."
OP: "I dug a little bit just now, and I haven't hit water. I'm gonna keep digging..."
Goons11-18: "No! Climb! Climb out!"
OP: "Guys, I'm seriously stuck in this well! Help! HELP!!!"
Goon19: "I was trapped in a well once. It took me two years, but I managed to build a climbing machine that pulled me to safety out of a well bucket and a pocket watch. I'm dropping the blueprints, extra buckets, and an assortment of pocket watches."
Goon20: "I've engineered a jet-pack that will rocket you to safety. Stay where you are and we'll lower it down!""
"OP: "Thanks for your help, guys. I'm gonna keep digging. I'll find the Mines of Moria and I'll just walk to the surface."
**Goons1-20 piss in the well**
Goon21: "Guys, seriously... stop peeing in the well."

posted by Drinky Die at 5:11 AM on March 20, 2013 [159 favorites]


I think some people just like to do this. They're not so much looking for solutions to their situation as wanting to talk about it. I generally just say "gah" and read the next one.
posted by Decani at 5:12 AM on March 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


For the most part it's probably generally just better to contact us if you think someone is serial posting about exactly the same problem. In any case, we definitely don't want to encourage "you shouldn't ask this for X reason" sorts of answers, because Rule 1 in Ask Metafilter is still "answer the question."
posted by taz (staff) at 5:13 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


People tend to think they make all their decisions more or less rationally and thus have no empathy for those who seem blind to their actual situation, even when it is clearly explained to them.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:13 AM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


There are certain people who seem to use AskMetafilter as an informal support group, from both the questioning and the answering sides. One can virtually predict the set of users who will answer in one of those threads, and the particular version of "you're a wonderful person, always remember that" they will bring to the discussion.

I'm not convinced that this is a bad thing, although I sometimes react poorly to it personally. Even if the person posting doesn't always seem to get much out of it*, other folks clearly do, and there is a lot of good advice about how to approach the vicissitudes of life that gets written on AskMe. You can see those gem-like comments quoted again and again, and I figure they help a lot of people who are not the perpetual askers of questions.

*Really, we have no idea what helps and what does not, even when we see the same questions asked again and again. One cannot be helped by the 10th time one hears a piece of advice unless one has already heard it nine times before. Although I will say that the dynamic of rejecting advice is well enough entrenched in how people operate that it's the reason most psychotherapists are pretty sparing with offering definitive advice.
posted by OmieWise at 5:15 AM on March 20, 2013 [31 favorites]


It's best to ignore them. Someone else may come along who is inclined to help, and you don't have to worry about them, either.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:26 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The irony here is that the best way to deal with this is the same as for your previous question: ignore it and move on.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:28 AM on March 20, 2013 [25 favorites]


is there anything that can be done to help/hinder people who ask again, and again, and again about their relationship on AskMeFi, chronically ignore what everyone says, and then are back a month later to ask about their relationship?

The best way to limit your frustration is to close the question and read something else.

If it really, really bothers you that someone on the internet is seeking attention or ignoring good advice, you need to examine why that's such a problem for you. It is much easier to try and become a person who is less easily frustrated than it is to remove all sources of frustration.
posted by dubold at 5:30 AM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I am increasingly convinced that the Back button was the greatest invention of the 20th Century.
posted by Etrigan at 5:37 AM on March 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


It bothers me too, but really the only thing to do about it is to just stay out of such question threads.
posted by orange swan at 5:41 AM on March 20, 2013


I totally empathize with the venting about this issue. I have seen it, but I couldn't tell you whether it is more frequent, because I have set a (loose) guideline for myself about relationship questions: If the "more inside" opens up into a full-screen screed, I skip it.

Having been divorced, and now remarried, I learned a lot about boundaries in relationships, enabling, co-dependency, and, finally, how to have a healthy relationship. I do love to encourage others and share the lessons I've learned. But I guess one of those lessons is that if it takes a screen full of text to ask the question, then the asker very likely just needs to vent, and I'm not convinced that they will heed any advice they are given.

This is not to sound hard hearted, but is rather from my own experience. I vented to my friends so much during my final relationship drama, and then ignored their advice ("get out of it!)". In retrospect, it's amazing they wanted to be around me at all during that time. I also ignored the advice of the marriage counselor ("get out of it!") and a psychiatrist ("take these pills and get out of it!")

I'm very happy that we have Mefites who are wonderful at relationship advice and have the patience to try and dissect the wall-of-text questions, just as I am glad I have friends who had patience with me.

All the rest of us can do is ignore the questions we don't want to answer.
posted by The Deej at 5:44 AM on March 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


You can answer the question, but you can't make people listen. You can't live people's lives for them. And sometimes people really do need to hear a chorus of advice multiple times before taking action in a relationship. Even if they truly want to change. It's often easier to maintain the status quo than take action.

So, answer the question if you can. Walk away if you can't. If a person is asking a question again, then they probably feel previous answers were inadequate. Perhaps they're rejecting them for good reason or because they aren't ready to hear the advice. You can always ask.

People are flawed. Relationships are hard. Be patient and kind.
posted by zarq at 5:45 AM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


I have set a (loose) guideline for myself about relationship questions: If the "more inside" opens up into a full-screen screed, I skip it.

Ha! I have this "rule" too--If the "more inside" is a wall of text, I know I'll have no patience for it and I hit the greatest invention of the 20th century and move on.

Relationship questions are often irritating to me. Some Ask.Me repeat askers are irritating to me. Some Ask.Me Answerers are irritating to me. But endless fumbling in human relations is, to me, of greater utility than endless "Pick a name for my cat/child/brilliant internet business" or "try to explain this random personality quirk I see all the time". We see both at Ask.Me and as much as I hate to admit it, neither really ruins anything.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:55 AM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


When you're in a dysfunctional relationship (or other life pattern) it's rare to have someone say the perfect thing at exactly the right moment to make the scales fall from your eyes and stir you into action. Self-awareness is an evolving process. People go to therapy and twelve-step meetings week after week hoping to make one step forward by hearing largely they same material over and over again, hoping to internalize it and have something click.

Sometimes people don't move forward. That's why it's a truism that you shouldn't chime in when your friends complain about their SO, because they'll make up and then you'll be the enemy.
posted by BibiRose at 5:57 AM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I just filter it out as one of those things about AskMe.

The same with people who continually ask questions but never flag if they've got the answer to their question or respond with a follow up. It annoys intensely me when I see it, but I don't bother going back and looking for it to avoid the annoyance. Nobody is forcing me to take the time to answer them.

AskMe has always had a minority of people who either invite drama into their lives on a repeated basis or plough on with the same question again. My take is that the average reader on the Green doesn't tend to notice the pattern because they don't look for it or use it enough to see the same people return with the same issues. On that basis, the average relationship drama looks like a fresh question to most people.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:58 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


cats AskMe posters are weird.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:29 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I see it quite a bit with people who seem to have absolutely no tools for dealing with other people. I suspect, based on what I know about some of my friends who serially get into to those sorts of situations, that a lot of them were abused or were raised by alcoholic or absent parents. They just have no idea what appropriate boundaries are, and the way people should behave towards each other. It seems like we shouldn't have to say that "no, it is not normal to be yelled at, to be hit by, or to be insulted or manipulated by their boyfriends, and you deserve better", but we do, because a lot of these people have never actually seen a functional relationship, and feel like they have no hope of ever finding one, so they search for ways to make their abusive relationship the best abusive relationship it can be, instead.
posted by empath at 6:35 AM on March 20, 2013 [34 favorites]


Isn't this a variation on a previous MeTa post of yours?

If reading AskMe is causing you grief, cut down on reading it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:42 AM on March 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Most advice is helpful in retrospect. All you can do, if you're so inclined, is to give the best answer possible and leave it at that. If someone ignores or is incapable of taking your advice at the time you give it, it doesn't mean that it won't be thought of later. Think of it as a long game and don't take it personally. Some things take time.
posted by h00py at 6:42 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


is there anything that can be done to help/hinder people who ask again, and again, and again about their relationship on AskMeFi, chronically ignore what everyone says, and then are back a month later to ask about their relationship?

What did you have in mind that isn't, essentially, a punitive ban for having relationship troubles that seem overwhelming?
posted by DWRoelands at 6:46 AM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Could we not try to implement a (not official of course) policy of either a) politely just pointing out to people that perhaps they should read the answers to their past questions about this rather than posting about it yet again and then leave it at that or b) is there a possibility of flagging as a 'they have asked this kind of thing before, why is it here again' thing.

We have in the past had a few posters who asked basically identical questions over a period of time with no indication that they'd read much less taken to heart any of the advice that they'd received. The asking of the question seemed to be a type of reassurance seeking and the answers were incidental. If we see this (and I'm talking fairly chronic situations not "Oh someone is having a rough spot in their relationship and has asked a few questions about it") we'll usually tak to the poster and in very rare cases we've shut down access to the anon feature and/or given the poster some time off. It's rare.

Most of the time if it bothers you that people ask a bunch of related questions and don't seem to be taking people's advice it's fine to just move on. If you think the person is in some way abusing the system (sometimes we don't notice, for example if a poster claims to be a range of improbable ages in a bunch of closely spaced questions) feel free to drop us a note via the contact form. We never mind the extra email and it might be one of those things where we wouldn't understand why you're flagging something.

But yeah, to your first statement, if AskMe is generally bothering you and you find yourself annoyed by other posters you are under no obligation whatsoever to care about them or answer their questions. All we ask is that you not show up in the thread loudly decrying how much you don't care about the OP or how much their problems bother YOU.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:50 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I read questions like that and send thoughts of gratitude to my past therapists for refraining from rolling their eyes as I struggled with the same damn problem every week. Saints. Paid saints but still.
posted by rtha at 6:54 AM on March 20, 2013 [24 favorites]


I've seen an AskMe or two closed because the person had asked the same question again and again, so pointing it out to the mods can be effective (if your goal is to have the AskMe closed).
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:19 AM on March 20, 2013


I think sometimes the person just doesn't realize it's the same question, particularly if it's a new person.

I don't hate, just answer the question, but I think pointing out "I think this is similar to [former question of yours]" is in fact helpful.
posted by corb at 7:30 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it can be helpful, if done tactfully and with compassion, to include in one's response the past questions a user has posted that are relevant. It's something I've done before - I'm big on trying to get as complete a picture as possible of an issue before attacking it.

It can be discouraging when askers keep asking variations on the same question and then either don't seem to listen or just shoot down the answers they're getting, but sooner or later you just have to leave them to it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:43 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's definitely true that anonymous seems to have a lot of relationship problems.
posted by chavenet at 7:47 AM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yes, there is something we can do.

We can not date these people.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:48 AM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Someone will post a long question about their relationship trouble - usually romantic/sexual but sometimes with co-workers, family or society in general. There will be a ton of answers. Then they will come back again...

There have been a couple times where I've seen an AskMe post that drives me up the wall, and as I'm in the middle of composing a detailed "try to feel me shaking you" response I notice that the question is from a username I've already put in my mental Do Not Engage file... and I just close the tab without responding. My sincere hope is that other people do something similar and that the serial AskMe poster eventually twigs to the fact that they're getting fewer and fewer answers and goes back to review the answers to their older questions. I am a foolish optimist, I admit.
posted by psoas at 7:50 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Then they will come back again, usually with the same problem in a different guise, or the same problem just with a new partner, to the point that people will answer 'reading through your posting history about this relationship...'

People often do that 'looking back through your posting history...' thing to point out that what looks like an isolated incident is actually part of a wider pattern. Which is useful in itself, because people can't often see the forest for the trees when they're in the middle of something bad, especially when the forest/relationship is more dark and miserable than they want to admit. So, rather than one question asking "Help, I appear to be in a forest, how do I get out of here?" we get six or seven questions along the lines of "I am in a beautiful meadow full of flowers and bunny-rabbits, but I just bumped into this one tree totally unexpectedly, it's about eight feet tall and I think it's an oak, how do I get it out of my meadow?", and it might take someone pointing out "this is the eighth tree you've bumped into now, dude - your 'meadow' is a forest" before they start looking for a way out. Especially for someone who doesn't have any concept of what a happy relationship/meadow looks like in the first place.

Plus, often these are people who really don't want "get out" to be an option, and so they just keep asking and asking and asking trying to find the perfect way to rephrase things so that AskMe will come up with a result other than DTMFA. Almost every RelationshipFilter question has somebody suggest a non-DTMFA option, after all. "If your meadow only has one tree, why are you complaining? Sounds like you're good!" "That seems more like a shrub than a tree to me, lots of meadows have shrubs." "Have you and the tree ever sat down and worked out what your Love Languages are?"

It is frustrating, though. I try to tell myself that the asker isn't doing it deliberately, and that it's kind of an arrogance in itself to take it as some kind of insult when they don't do what I advised in their earlier questions. Also, I have a general policy that if I ever want to begin an AskMe answer with "Oh, for fuck's sake", it is time to go and read something else instead and let that poster get on with their lives without my input.
posted by Catseye at 8:06 AM on March 20, 2013 [46 favorites]


"No one wants advice, only corroboration." -John Steinbeck
posted by softlord at 8:42 AM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Etrigan: "I am increasingly convinced that the Back button was the greatest invention of the 20th Century."

The best 20th century invention was clearly ice cream with stuff in it.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:42 AM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks everyone for your answers, especially Jessamyn. I have not and would not post an answer just to say 'I don't like your question' or 'you annoy me'. I genuinely wanted to suggest that perhaps it could be helpful to point out to people that they keep asking the same thing.
From my personal experience - I was in a very abusive relationship for some years and I never listened to people who pointed it out. However, my family & friends went from offering suggestions and help every time there was a drama to saying 'you know what, you've been through this before & ignored us then, so get back to us when you are actually willing to listen' and that is when I started to realise just how wrong what I was doing was. I guess I thought that approach might help some of the serial same-problem people on AskMeFi.
posted by Megami at 8:46 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


maybe first you can let us know what advice from your last metatalk post didn't work as it seems similar. it seems like you didn't even respond in thread to all the advice you got. i'd hate for metatalk to be clogged up with your repeated question, especially if you aren't going to engage with the community who tried to help you.

....or, you know, sometimes something sticks in someone's craw and they have to bring it up a few times before it shakes loose. for some it's relationship problems, for you it seems to be other people's relationship problems. not a big deal in the scheme of things.
posted by nadawi at 8:47 AM on March 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


after reading your response - i totally get that impulse. i've been in similar situations on both sides (the person not getting it, and the family/friends turned to tough love). the difference is, that while this is a great community, we're not loved ones. our tough love towards a commenter doesn't work like it would if they were our sister or cousin.

the best thing you can do for you, for them, and for the community, is to answer things you think you can be helpful on and skip things that annoy you. if those two things converge, listen to your annoyed half and move on to something else. also, don't think i'm giving this advice from on high or anything - one of my most favorited comments is me giving some tough love to a repeated poster and i'd take it back in an instant. now it's a reminder to myself try to be better.
posted by nadawi at 9:04 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know that I am a bit of a misanthrope

You're a wonderful person. Always remember that.

Note: Everyone needs a hug.
posted by flabdablet at 9:06 AM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


free hugs / $2 hugs
posted by Meatbomb at 9:10 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think we've all been there, Megami; I suggest you get therapy, read The Ethical Slut, and DTMFA.
posted by threeants at 9:11 AM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


(Consider circumcising your Israeli cat if necessary.)
posted by threeants at 9:13 AM on March 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Megami: "I was in a very abusive relationship for some years and I never listened to people who pointed it out. However, my family & friends went from offering suggestions and help every time there was a drama to saying 'you know what, you've been through this before & ignored us then, so get back to us when you are actually willing to listen' and that is when I started to realise just how wrong what I was doing was. "

We're not friends and family, though. We're strangers on the internet offering advice voluntarily, who are most likely not personally invested in the outcome of the OP's problem. Friends and family get a certain amount of 'tough love' leeway in such situations because they aren't really expected to be objective, genuinely care about the person asking, and they are probably closer to and have a better grasp of the situation than the one-sided picture we get from a question. When we know people are criticizing us from a place of caring and love, it often helps the medicine go down.

If I were conflicted, asking for (and struggling with the advice I'd been given) and people here said "get back to us when you are actually willing to listen" I would probably think that was awfully harsh and unhelpful. YMMV, of course.

Perhaps I'm wrong about this, but I feel our role as Answerers is to Answer the Questions. Not lecture people that they're not listening to the answers we've given.
posted by zarq at 9:15 AM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


(Consider circumcising your Israeli cat if necessary.)

Declawed Israeli cat who is a fan of Scott Adams.
posted by supercres at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I'm wrong about this, but I feel our role as Answerers is to Answer the Questions. Not lecture people that they're not listening to the answers we've given.

Sure, but if the questions are just the same goddamn thing over and over and over for years at a time and they all basically say the same thing, which is "I am utterly filled with self-loathing and misery, anyway should I get a haircut to fix it?" Then an answer of 'stop asking these questions and seek help for your obviously crippling low self esteem' is the ACTUAL right answer to the question.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:42 AM on March 20, 2013


still, the right answer isn't "stop asking us about this."
posted by nadawi at 9:51 AM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, talk of actual right answers as opposed to letter-not-spirit answers gets tricky. Ultimately, people should just try to answer questions that they think they can usefully answer, as usefully as they're able. If your reactions to a particular question or asker, or a general category of questions' patterns are such that they interfere with usefully answering, then just go elsewhere.

I also have a robustly hale and hearty inner misanthrope, so very much sympathize with seeing many relationshipfilter questions and wanting to reach through the screen, grab lapels, and commence to shaking while screaming "The solution is to talk to each other like adults, YOU IDIOT." (The "YOU IDIOT" occurs in Ren's voice.) That'd rightly be immediately deleted and perhaps a cross modly type note directed at me, so I keep a wide berth from such things.
posted by Drastic at 9:54 AM on March 20, 2013


showbiz_liz: "Then an answer of 'stop asking these questions and seek help for your obviously crippling low self esteem' is the ACTUAL right answer to the question."

I agree, of course. But that's not the same thing as "stop asking questions until you're willing to listen to the answers" but rather, "I think you're asking the wrong question(s) and perhaps focusing on the deeper problem they reveal instead would be more helpful."
posted by zarq at 9:57 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tongue removed from cheek, think of the value of these questions apart from directly to the asker. Good answers benefit passersthrough as well, and what's a repeat for some is likely not to be for others.
posted by threeants at 10:08 AM on March 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


Declawed Israeli cat who is a fan of Scott Adams.

And who hates the War on Drugs.
posted by Melismata at 10:31 AM on March 20, 2013


They just like talking to salesmen.
posted by dobbs at 10:34 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Declawed Israeli cat who is a fan of Scott Adams.

And who hates the War on Drugs


And who just published a piece on feminism in The Atlantic.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:59 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Megami: You know that scene in Dune where the mentat guy has to milk a cat to get the antidote to the poison in his system? You have not been poisoned! You do not need to keep reading the relationship posts to live! Stop reading them, don't even bother to flag them, just move on.
posted by biffa at 11:12 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Could we not try to implement a (not official of course) policy of either a) politely just pointing out to people that perhaps they should read the answers to their past questions about this rather than posting about it yet again and then leave it at that or b) is there a possibility of flagging as a 'they have asked this kind of thing before, why is it here again' thing.

Agreed, we should not try this.
posted by mkultra at 11:22 AM on March 20, 2013


When there are no answers given to chronic AskMe posts, will the chronic AskMe posts disappear? OTOH, some people are very lonely and long for human communication. Each of us has the decision to make: answer or ignore.
posted by Cranberry at 11:23 AM on March 20, 2013


. I have not and would not post an answer just to say 'I don't like your question' or 'you annoy me'.

I have taken to simply flagging particularly ill-posed questions. Then I can ignore it, and it makes me feel better that I no longer have to worry about the issue.

Lots of times, and this applies to relationship questions as well as many other types, people aren't asking, "what should I do?", they are asking, "Have a conversation with me about this topic." It bugs me when they do that especially when they don't follow up: they're just expecting people to chime in and start a conversation about what they want to hear about.
posted by deanc at 11:29 AM on March 20, 2013


I understand the frustration of the people who write out a carefully-considered answer to a questions, only to see it ignored, but I'm afraid that's just the way people are. Oftentimes, as we all know, excellent advice isn't heard until the person is ready to hear it. And you can't make people be ready to hear and take that advice. You just have to offer it up and let them do what they will with it. It's sort of like a post on the blue: once you post it, it's no longer yours, but belongs to others to do what they want to with it. If you don't feel comfortable writing your response, then letting go of it, as it were, maybe you shouldn't answer that question.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 12:17 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like to think it helps people to formulate their posts and to read answers, even if their behavior is slow to change. I would hate people to feel ashamed to post questions on Ask if they derive benefit from them, even if we readers do not directly see the benefit.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:19 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, given how people look at someone's posting history and then proceed to call him or her out on "this is the same bad relationship, AGAIN,".... I dunno, the public shaming of that seems to cover it for me.

Or, well, just don't read.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:16 PM on March 20, 2013


"Declawed Israeli cat who is a fan of Scott Adams."

Is there a torrent of that out there? Because I don't want to pay money for the cat unless I know it's good. If not, can we get a Kickstarter for cat torrents?
posted by klangklangston at 1:20 PM on March 20, 2013


Do the cats travel through the pipes that make up the internet?
posted by Area Man at 1:37 PM on March 20, 2013


No, the cats cycle. Without helmets.
posted by Catseye at 1:40 PM on March 20, 2013


Everyone knows that declawed Israeli cats wear Fedoras when they ride their fixies.
posted by rtha at 1:44 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


If Ze Frank owns that cat, your answer is just going to be deleted.
posted by HuronBob at 1:52 PM on March 20, 2013


Has it ever, ever occurred to anyone that the reason people ask the same sort of questions over and over is that the standard answers given on this board don't work for them? I mean, I know better than to ask any sort of relationship question because I know the answers given here would be unhelpful. Here's the hard truth, though: Therapy does not always work. Statistically, therapy works for about 80% of people, which is a great statistic unless you're in the 20% it does not help. Drugs do not always work. Time (decades of it, even!) does not always work. I know people are trying to be helpful when they suggest these things, but the fact is they don't work for everyone, and it's incredibly hurtful to hear it over and over again when it's unhelpful for you, with the even nastier assumption that it's your fault. I can't be the only one here with this issue, but I'm sure others are afraid to say anything.
posted by Violet Hour at 2:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you ask the same question in the same place over and over and you expect different answers each time, the fault does not lie with the audience.

If therapy doesn't work for you but you've nixed meds and exercise for whatever reason, but you keep asking how else to fix your depression, there's really only so much people can suggest. Likewise, if you've asked the same questions about your brokenish relationship but refuse at the outset to consider counseling or breaking up, what are we supposed to tell you that hasn't already been said?
posted by rtha at 2:29 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yes, there is something we can do.

We can not date these people.


And refuse to discuss their dates with them ... and the problematic relationships that may spring from these dates. I remember back in the old days of the mid-90s before everybody was online, that this same sort of thing tended to just happen over coffee. You'd run into so and so, you'd ask how things were going, and after forty-five minutes or an hour, you'd grow suicidally bored of hearing him tell his side of how his girlfriend of five years was a bitch (a rant you'd been listening to on and off for at least four years).

At some point, as I was edging into my mid-30s, I began to peg this as an age-related thing. Mid-20s through early 30s. I discussed it with a friend of about the same age and he just smiled and said, "Ah, yes, the bullshit years."

Here on Me-Fi, I generally only tune into bullshit years discussions for entertainment purposes. Please excuse my sado-masochism.
posted by philip-random at 2:39 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Has it ever, ever occurred to anyone that the reason people ask the same sort of questions over and over is that the standard answers given on this board don't work for them?

Absolutely. It's totally okay to say "I know you all suggested therapy but that didn't work because ______________" Most of the time, if I'm thinking of the same types of questions Megami is referring to, there is barely any acknowledgement that they have even asked another question on the same topic, much less received many well thought out answers.

I think for some people, particularly in the anon queue, asking the question is part of their processing an event or feeling or situation. Which is fine as far as that goes, but if by the end of it you aren't really open to any other feedback, we'd prefer you didn't just use AskMe as a place to free associate. I am also aware that people may not be aware they are doing this and that for some people immediate emotional response to a thing is the only one they have. Which, again, that's fine, you feel what you feel, but maybe you don't need to do it as a performance in AskMe.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:40 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of the time with these sorts of questions, the asker perceives it as a different question, even if the questions in their profile are all about the same relationship or job or pattern of thinking. Some people even get defensive when answers start pointing out that they're basically asking variations on the same thing ("Yes, but this time the friend/ex/parent/boss who is at the center of every post I make did this, and it's different.") Sometimes it takes a while to realize there's a pattern, even if it seems painfully obvious to everyone else.

It's a problem, but I don't think it's one that can be solved by other posters or mods. (I think it's also pretty common, to varying extents. There are a few people whose profiles illustrate it pretty clearly, but I suspect there are more who have asked two anon questions, or an anon and a "named" question, that are variations on the same problem. Or, well, I know I've been guilty of that.)
posted by kagredon at 3:03 PM on March 20, 2013


Instead of getting irritated, I usually just feel bad for the person. They don't even see the pattern yet. They are miles from a solution.
posted by 26.2 at 4:44 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Come on, people! We can have the mods deal with the very rare edge case as they come up, or we could implement some policies up in this place!

You know which is the better solution.
posted by absalom at 4:50 PM on March 20, 2013


I should try that, 26.2. Usually I get irritated and I feel bad for them.
posted by rtha at 5:00 PM on March 20, 2013


The part that makes it so frustrating and sad is that for at least two thirds of the people whose only interaction with the site is to post the same Human Relations question over and over again, and to comment too many times on their own questions, the only real answer is "You are suffering from a serious mood/anxiety/personality disorder. Until you find an effective way to treat it, this will keep happening to you over and over."

That's a pretty cruel thing to say to somebody who's in a lot of suffering though, which is how it tends to get softened to "Get therapy." If they're getting anything helpful from the dynamic at all, it seems needlessly cruel to go deleting their questions, though I wonder whether the standard "you're a wonderful person, always remember that" pep talk (well put, OmieWise) does any real good in such situations.

Honestly, I suspect that there's a certain number of these cases that are coming to a really bad outcome that we never find out about, and a larger number where Ask is doing no significant good at all. Fuck it though, God knows it's not like they don't have plenty of people telling them to get professional help, and they aren't actually hurting anybody.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 5:59 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


> I am not just leaving it alone because to me it feels like a few people are starting to develop a pattern that is both harmful to themselves (not realising that if you ask for answers there is a good chance there is a good answer so take it, not keep making the same mistakes) and harmful to MeFi if it gets 'clogged up' with the same questions all.the.time.

If you are overwhelmed with concern for the question-asker and the emotional harm they're doing to themselves, then replying to their question would be the way to directly address that. If Ask Metafilter seems clogged, just refresh your browser, as new questions are posted awfully frequently and older ones pushed off the first page. If you're worried that the volume of questions is putting a strain on Metafilter's resources, you can make a donation.
posted by desuetude at 6:15 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


OP: "Help! HELP! I'm stuck in a well!!!"

A friend doesn't pretend that it isn't a hole, just because the walls aren't as steep as the one they fell into.
The friend jumps down in the hole...
posted by infinite intimation at 6:20 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


You do realize, of course, that this means there's no way in hell you can ever post a 3rd MeTa about annoying AskMe patterns?
posted by space_cookie at 6:47 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


(Personally, I would argue that an individual Ask is about as much for the poster as a magic show is for the audience volunteer picking the card from the deck-- there's a reason it's posted to a website and archived, rather than conducted through private instant messaging.)
posted by threeants at 8:17 PM on March 20, 2013


it feels like a few people are starting to develop a pattern that is both harmful to themselves

This is a boundary issue -- yours, not the Asker's.
posted by nacho fries at 8:39 PM on March 20, 2013


(Personally, I would argue that an individual Ask is about as much for the poster as a magic show is for the audience volunteer picking the card from the deck-- there's a reason it's posted to a website and archived, rather than conducted through private instant messaging.)

There's a tension between this - which is totally true, in some important ways - and the overriding goal of posting a comment, which is to answer the specific question asked in a hopefully helpful way. Sometimes I find it's useful to think "this is a question many people will have; I will try to make my answer broad and comprehensive in the hopes that it is as useful as possible" and sometimes considering that larger audience tempts me to post "tough love" or over-the-top responses, because I know the peanut gallery looooves those and they really can make a thread sound more authoritative to a third party. But they're usually not helpful answers to the OP, and so they're not really good answers.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:30 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


AskMe, every time someone links to that damn "falling down a hole" speech, I click through and then tear up when I'm watching it. If you read my previous questions, you'll know I have a similar problem with that scene where Bartlet advises the secretary of agriculture how to pick his Chief of Staff, and the one where Josh convinces Sam to leave his law firm job. I guess what I'm asking is, how do I stop people from linking to emotionally affecting West Wing clips on the Internet?
posted by kagredon at 9:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Whine

One part 'complaint'

Several parts 'snarky reply'

Then recall that recipes are 'not allowed'

Delete carefully so as not to break the
posted by Splunge at 9:44 PM on March 20, 2013


how do I stop people from linking to emotionally affecting West Wing clips on the Internet?

You could always ask for something funny instead. :)
posted by zarq at 10:28 PM on March 20, 2013


I say this every time, but why not once more:

No one gets yelled at for struggling with their computer. No one gets, "OMG you just had a problem with your motherboard last week and now you're asking about the RAM on the same computer- maybe these people just shouldn't own computers."

It's ok (as it should be) to post a million questions on the tiniest minutiae of any subject in the world, but somehow when it's human relations we get this weird aggro-geek mentality of "how dare they be puzzled by the things about being human that have puzzled all people literally since the beginning of time?"

I just don't get this bizarre and cruel (even if it's not intentionally malicious) urge to go "HOW DARE THEY?" at people for having the problems almost all human beings have when trying to relate to other human beings.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:39 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you asked about the same problems with the same cheap shitty computer every week, weeping and moaning about how your life is in ruins because your cheap shitty computer won't do what you need it to do when you need it, people would tell you to dump the motherfucker already, buy a new computer, and stop wasting everyone's time trying to make a cheap shitty computer slightly less shitty. It's a VIC-20, for fuck's sake. Don't try to use it to run a spreadsheet or do your taxes or write a novel or browse the internet. Put it in a museum or put it in the trash. People would even offer to give you a replacement that is much better than that cheap shitty computer you waste so much time and patience on.
posted by pracowity at 2:07 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


drjimmy11: " No one gets yelled at for struggling with their computer. No one gets, "OMG you just had a problem with your motherboard last week and now you're asking about the RAM on the same computer- maybe these people just shouldn't own computers." "

I used to do network support, business and residential, and in fact there are some people who come back again and again with the same problem, and who absolutely refuse to follow your advice, though they are asking you for advice as a professional. On rare occasion we had to explicitly inform some people that we would only be willing to help them if they would allow us to do so.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:27 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


there are some people who come back again and again with the same problem, and who absolutely refuse to follow your advice, though they are asking you for advice as a professional.

Case in point.
posted by flabdablet at 4:05 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I clearly remember having ice cream with stuff in it during the nineteenth century.
posted by Segundus at 5:49 AM on March 21, 2013


I've asked anon questions that stated that I was not interested in therapy for x reason and in one case, people answered my question without pushing therapy and in the other, they (rightly) pointed out that my reason for not getting therapy was not accurately perceived by me, which was enormously helpful and, in that context, caring. Both times I was thrilled with the quality of help that I received.

I see what violet hour is saying, but at the same time think that challenging hopelessness is kind and appropriate. It's hard to know what approach will be right. Hopefully we all muddle through without too much harm.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:31 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


What empath said. A friendless child grows into an adult who doesn't know how friendship works. If they repeat a question too much, AskMe users can either ignore them or point out the similarities among their questions. Sometimes it takes repetition for advice to reach its object. On the other hand, those who use AskMe to vent may not hear the advice they don't want. That's fine: Good advice may still appear in their threads, and passersby may still use it. I don't think the site should institute a policy to quash a pet peeve.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:19 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


No one gets yelled at for struggling with their computer

BOFH. PEBKAC. Ad infinitum.

Aramaics Law: if it is possible for one human to yell at another over a topic, then there will be yelling over that topic.
1st Corollary: there will also be yelling on the subject of the yelling over that topic.
posted by aramaic at 1:57 PM on March 21, 2013


I think the site and users deal with this pretty effectively as it stands. What I do think is a large component of the complaint here is that AskMeFi has a bit of Baader-Meinhof tendency on a few subjects. Someone will post about their relationship, career needs, laptop purchasing options, etc. and other people seem to think to themselves, "Yeah! I've been shopping for a laptop too (or my boyfriend sucks, or...), but not exactly like this one," so they post about that and the community continues on.
posted by rhizome at 2:19 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am an extremely special snowflake. My sons are super special snowflakes. Because of that, I have a fair amount of patience for certain kinds of issues taking a long time and a lot of repetition in order for someone to make headway. I sometimes memail people who are getting dumped on for asking "the same question." Sometimes my extra specialness means I have something useful to say about their extra specialness. If it helps them get unstuck, yay!

In 11th grade, I tutored a mildly retarded girl in math who had gotten into Algebra. I knew her math teacher was a lousy teacher. This girl worked harder for her Cs and Ds than I ever did for As and Bs. She never got mad. She would just say for the umpteenth time "I don't understand." I learned to take a deep breathe and just keep trying different approaches. I was not willing to throw my hands up in frustration and give up on her. Like a lot of bright students, patience was not one of my strong points. My experience with her taught me something of value and stood me in good stead when one of my son's inherited his father's math difficulties.

I have since read an anecdote that a school had a mix-up where the teachers were told the special ed class was the gifted class. When the principal discovered it, he decided to stay mum. By the end of the year, their performances had drastically improved. He asked the teachers what happened. They said that when the kids did not understand, they just kept trying until something worked because they had been told these were smart kids, so it must be their teaching method that was wrong.

When someone seems really stuck, I try to be the person who explains it differently instead of saying "you keep asking the same thing and not doing as you were told!" I know it to be a good rubric that works well in the face of potentially intractable problems.

But, with reading this discussion, boy am I glad now that I recently opted to not do a "what's my problem? 2.0" in MeTa, even though I really wanted to know. :-/
posted by Michele in California at 10:45 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


At some point, as I was edging into my mid-30s, I began to peg this as an age-related thing. Mid-20s through early 30s. I discussed it with a friend of about the same age and he just smiled and said, "Ah, yes, the bullshit years."

Indeed. I make that assumption about most "wall of text" posts.
posted by bongo_x at 2:53 AM on March 22, 2013


They said that when the kids did not understand, they just kept trying until something worked because they had been told these were smart kids, so it must be their teaching method that was wrong.

That's a cute story, but I severely doubt its veracity.
posted by empath at 3:15 AM on March 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Although I cannot prove it, my recollection is that it's true. Whether it is true or not, my firsthand experience is that it works. There are books and websites out there about different learning styles. The Gifted Development Center offers info about visual learners. Temple Grandin wrote about "Thinking in Pictures." Both are considered esteemed sources on gifted lists, which tend to be filled with parents who went to places like Harvard. A quick search brings up lots of info on different learning styles and how to effectively address them.

So, if you don't mind, I would appreciate it if you either admit I have a good point about how to help folks who appear stuck or offer a superior methodology. I don't really care which one.

Thanks.
posted by Michele in California at 7:21 AM on March 22, 2013


That's a cute story, but I severely doubt its veracity.

Yeah, me too. I cannot imagine anyone who assesses (even informally) the relative intelligence of people as part of their living mistaking a special ed class for a "gifted" class over the course of a year. Not to mention the illegality of not actually supplying the supports required by IEP for each special ed kid.
posted by OmieWise at 7:32 AM on March 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


So, if you don't mind, I would appreciate it if you either admit I have a good point about how to help folks who appear stuck or offer a superior methodology. I don't really care which one.

If you want to know why you keep on having so many difficult interactions here, this is a really good example. First you post this incredibly implausible anecdote to support a point which is actually fairly unexceptionable in its own right. When challenged on the anecdote, you respond with an appeal to your own experience, which of course none of us have access to, and an appeal to authority which, first, supports the point that nobody disagreed with rather than your anecdote, and, second, is sort of ridiculous even in its own right (many parents on gifted lists went to places like Harvard? so?).

Then you follow up with a demand that the person you're disagreeing with either concede, or offer "a superior methodology", which really has nothing to do with whether your story about mistaking a special education class for a gifted class is true or not.

So, in two comments, you have managed to take a point that nobody has disagreed with or even would be likely to, that people have different learning styles and persistence is important, and turn it into an argument about your own experiences.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:15 AM on March 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Most likely, the point was to dismiss me anyway. Not counting my own comment, the last three comments in this discussion are responses to me, all three of them dismissive. I get that kind of response a lot, where people just want to talk about me for some reason and then I get accused of something or other because of their behavior.

I am not trying to make it about me. I am trying to offer ideas for what works, which presumably was the point of this discussion. Now that I am talking, no one wants to discuss that anymore. Everyone just wants to talk either about me or about why my remarks are not plausible in their eyes. If I then try to respond to each such remark, in the past, the mods have told me I am in the wrong for replying, even on MetaTalk, not AskMe, though apparently others are not wrong for ganging up on me and nothing gets said to them (meanwhile, at least one mod has stated publically that they don't know how to put a stop to lynch mobs on MeFi, so perhaps that bad practice is not peculiar to my reception here). And that boils down to it is okay for multiple people to gang up on me, but it is not okay for me to defend myself. That doesn't work. It isn't good for me (or any individual) and it isn't good for the group.
posted by Michele in California at 10:28 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I then try to respond to each such remark, in the past, the mods have told me I am in the wrong for replying, even on MetaTalk, not AskMe, though apparently others are not wrong for ganging up on me and nothing gets said to them (meanwhile, at least one mod has stated publically that they don't know how to put a stop to lynch mobs on MeFi, so perhaps that bad practice is not peculiar to my reception here).

This is a weird reading of our actual take on this stuff, which is that (a) pile-on responses to a given user do in fact suck and people piling on need to make an effort not to do that sort of thing, but (b) pile-ons being not so great doesn't magically exculpate someone from repeatedly engaging in look-at-me, take-on-all-comers type behavior in their own right.

This has been sort of a weird self-fulfilling prophecy thing with you, specifically and especially, on a few occasions already: you end up repeatedly speaking up in a thread to talk about how weird it is that people think you're making a thread about you, in the process reinforcing the thread-being-about-you dynamic yourself. We have suggested that what you do instead is walk away from those discussions rather than re-engaging on the stuff about you or responding repeatedly to people responding to you. We have also told other people to cool it with the responding, whether or not you are aware of that fact.

So, here we are again: please just step away from this thread, so it can actually stop being a thing. Everybody else, please drop this so it can stop being a thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:35 AM on March 22, 2013


If I then try to respond to each such remark, in the past, the mods have told me I am in the wrong for replying, even on MetaTalk, not AskMe, though apparently others are not wrong for ganging up on me and nothing gets said to them (meanwhile, at least one mod has stated publically that they don't know how to put a stop to lynch mobs on MeFi, so perhaps that bad practice is not peculiar to my reception here).

You have misunderstood what we have said to you in the past. If you'd like to have more conversation about it, we are reachable via the Contact Form. This is not a lynch mob, this is people disagreeing with you and then the thread turning into a referendum on your opinions and not about the topic of the thread. That's an ungood dynamic. Please just walk away from this thread and feel free to engage people directly via MeMail if you need to have a conversation that is not about the topic of this thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:39 AM on March 22, 2013


This is not a lynch mob, this is Da Lench Mob.
posted by klangklangston at 10:48 AM on March 22, 2013


If therapy doesn't work for you but you've nixed meds and exercise for whatever reason, but you keep asking how else to fix your depression, there's really only so much people can suggest. Likewise, if you've asked the same questions about your brokenish relationship but refuse at the outset to consider counseling or breaking up, what are we supposed to tell you that hasn't already been said?

Some folks--and I count myself among them IRL, even though I know better than to ask personal drama shit with my name attached on AskMefi--are just hoping that someone knows of a magical exception idea that isn't just "break up or get therapy or quit." They know those answers, they hear them from everyone. Objectively, they know those are the only options realistically. They just (a) hate every one of them and consider those options worse than dealing with the problem, and (b) go around asking everyone they can hoping that an option D exists.

Unfortunately, it's rare, if ever, that option D exists. And that's why the rest of the world gets fed up with folks like me, and why I'm a damn whiner who hates all of my limited, harsh options for a problem. And why you have repeated similar questions from the same people about the same relationship. They're just hoping that some option besides therapy or whatever exists, and that's why they ask. But deep down, we all know we're stuck until we cave in and get therapy/break up/quit. Until we accept that or have it dropped on our heads like anvils, we keep whining and asking and hoping.

Luckily for AskMeFi, I no longer date, or I'd probably be one of those people.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:31 AM on March 22, 2013


This is a separate, but somewhat related AskMe peeve: When someone posts a litany of relationship questions, all of which make their relationship sound horrible, and then post answers to other questions referencing their a-MAH-zing boyfriend. WTF?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:12 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I see the repeated questions as cautionary tales. Either I'm thankful I'm not doing what they're doing relationship-wise or I can remind myself not to go down that path. (but I don't post those thoughts in the thread.) So, they can be helpful!
posted by vespabelle at 1:15 PM on March 22, 2013


So true, vespabelle. And if I think that someone's questions are really eye-roll inducing, I don't read them. Easy enough.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:30 PM on March 22, 2013


Yeah, me too. I cannot imagine anyone who assesses (even informally) the relative intelligence of people as part of their living mistaking a special ed class for a "gifted" class over the course of a year. Not to mention the illegality of not actually supplying the supports required by IEP for each special ed kid.


Sorry for the derail, but not all special ed classes are the same. The overlap between "special needs" and "intellectual disability" is not 1:1. My kid's been in a special ed class for kids with challenging behaviors for the past 3 years - mixed age K-5th. Last year several of the kids were like mine - hyper-focused Aspies who were indeed also gifted. I doubt the anecdote as well because of the IEP issues it would have created - but there are plenty of twice exceptional kids out there. Maybe the anecdote was inflated to a group of teachers for the whole year, but was really about one substitute teacher in for a day or a week. I could totally see that happening.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:09 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


At some point, as I was edging into my mid-30s, I began to peg this as an age-related thing. Mid-20s through early 30s. I discussed it with a friend of about the same age and he just smiled and said, "Ah, yes, the bullshit years."

I expect my bullshit years to last longer than that. Even at 24, I don't know how real friendships work, and I've never been in a romantic relationship. I have a lot of bullshit to catch up on. Allow me to apologize here for the walls of text I'm likely to write in the next few years.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:25 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


not all special ed classes are the same. The overlap between "special needs" and "intellectual disability" is not 1:1.

Absolutely. I actually work more than a little bit with kids who have varying types of IEPs, so I know more about this than was in my response. I meant it to kind of be shorthand for "very unlikely."
posted by OmieWise at 6:50 PM on March 22, 2013


« Older Arrogance as jealousy   |   If only you'd read the title Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments