They can drive you crazy, if you let them October 24, 2011 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Feel-good stories sure make people mad.

I was surprised that a story about a non-profit exec with mental illness brought out such ugly comments, but even more so when so few seemed to have read the story.
posted by Ideefixe to MetaFilter-Related at 10:01 AM (104 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I was not surprised at all. Axes..people have them to grind.
posted by spicynuts at 10:09 AM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Haters gonna hate. *sigh*
posted by Specklet at 10:12 AM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Those of us who consider ourselves unlucky enough to have worked in a corporate environment (or still do) often tend to reserve a more-than-adequate level of frustration for, what they tend to see as, executive incompetence.

It's sad that there appears to be a pileon and most are using it as an outlet to vent their anti-executive/boss sentiments, but for some people who spend the majority of their adult lives in toxic work environments, yea, like spicynuts said, you can hear the axes grinding.

I'm glad I finally got out of that mess, but yet I still felt a twinge of Snark as I read the FPP (though as you said, the article had a different focus)
posted by Queen Sabium at 10:13 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think there was a pretty unfortunate confluence of a few things at work there. One of which is that the sort-of glut of Occupy Wall Street-related posts recently has people primed to see posts which begin with the words 'high-profile executive' a certain way; this coupled with a general cultural ignorance/fear/marginalization of mental health issues (and all of the lol-batshit-insane, lol-psychopaths, lol-psychotics bullshit that goes with it) that Metafilter is not immune to AS WELL AS the history of memes about corporate culture and psychopathy (see e.g. The Corporation) means that it's pretty easy to go into that post expecting it to be about how rich CEOs are evil crazy fuckwads and lolhorriblepeople.

And then you combine that with the tendency not to read linked articles before popping into the thread for snark, and that's what you get.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:16 AM on October 24, 2011 [17 favorites]


Yeah I saw this as oddly timed with the OWS stuff that's been sort of everywhere. This sort of "people you would normally dislike for kneejerk reasons painted into sympathetic profile" [see also Steve Jobs, elderly couple who died holding hands] sort of posts do tend to bring out the "Aha!" in people. But I find newsy posts sort of annoying anyhow so I don't read them and rarely post in them.

NAMI is a really interesting group that does some very complicated and difficult work, so I'm happy to see their work reflected, but this may not have been the best way to talk about them here on MetaFilter.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:20 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


And then you combine that with the tendency not to read linked articles before popping into the thread for snark, and that's what you get.

Not entirely certain you need to combine anything with the above.
posted by Mooski at 10:21 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think we all come to the table here with a certain amount of baggage, so to speak. It would be nice if people would think carefully whether what they want to say is actually relevant to the content of a given post.
posted by zarq at 10:22 AM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


shakespeherian: " And then you combine that with the tendency not to read linked articles before popping into the thread for snark, and that's what you get."

Thank heaven it wasn't written in the second person, or the site might have imploded. :D
posted by zarq at 10:23 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm the OP and I actually think the thread is getting a lot better at this point.
posted by sweetkid at 10:23 AM on October 24, 2011


Sweetkid, I like the post, and I didn't know anything about the peer recovery model before I read the thread, so thanks for posting it.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 10:25 AM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


This was also a case where there was some early threadshitting-like commenting that we axed which may have halped the thread right itself. And yeah sweetkid, I didn't mean to say there was anything wrong with the post, just that stuff like that can sometimes go wrong here depsite people's best intentions, btu I agree the thread looks like it is improving.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:32 AM on October 24, 2011


sweetkid: "I'm the OP and I actually think the thread is getting a lot better at this point."

It is. I thought it was an interesting article. Thanks for posting it.

By the way.... and other folks may disagree with me here, but the reason I noted that this is the third profile in the series and added links to those two other articles was that I was hoping the additional content / context might shift the discussion a bit. Of course, that had no effect whatsoever.

But perhaps if this had been presented in the FPP as one of a series, people wouldn't have focused to tightly and critically on her speciifc situation?
posted by zarq at 10:32 AM on October 24, 2011


ennui.bz is so far off base in that thread, i'm embarrassed for him just reading it.
posted by empath at 10:39 AM on October 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


you're all out to get me.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:41 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking of needing a time-out ...
posted by joe lisboa at 10:42 AM on October 24, 2011


As someone somewhat immersed in the peer recovery model movement, I'm grateful to that thread for providing me a reality check on how freaking far we still have to go with destigmatization. I am being sincere when I say that some of those comments provided good fodder for me to rethink how to explain, describe and advocate for mental illness/people with mental illness. So, thanks sweetkid!
posted by Polyhymnia at 10:44 AM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


ennui.bz, I take mental health issues pretty personally, so I apologize if I'm misinterpreting you here. I don't want to. But it seems like maybe you made some early snark in the thread based on, perhaps, misreading the FPP or the article, and a desire to participate in another OWS-sort-of thread, and then when I and a few other people pushed back at you you doubled down in an attempt to legitimize your early snark. And now there's a Meta thread, and it seems like you're trying to handwave it away by making an ill-considered joke about paranoia. I think that's offensive, personally, and I wish you'd cut it out.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:46 AM on October 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


There's something oddly conformist about a lot of the kneejerk contrarian point-of-view some folks round here adopt.
posted by Artw at 10:47 AM on October 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


I think you seem to be making the argument that what she had is "special", and that it isn't fair to all the "rank and file", who you see as being done wrong, by the act of highlighting her... but seriously, instead of anger directed at her, for finding a space that works with and for her... why not point out our collective failure in that first part, where we have systemic failure, and frequently terrible mistreatment of people suffering the same situation as this woman.
Millions of people are in her shoes... and you getting are mad that she put those curly laces in her shoes, and is trying to show other people with the same shoes how they can find those same great laces.
posted by infinite intimation at 10:47 AM on October 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


This was also a case where there was some early threadshitting-like commenting that we axed which may have halped the thread right itself.

I'm glad you clarified that, because I read the thread on the heels of this MeTa, and saw one or two people taking the stance described in the OP, and a whooooole lot of people quick to correct them.
posted by mreleganza at 10:51 AM on October 24, 2011


ennui.bz: "you're all out to get me."

You're trying to turn the article into something its not. You're also apparently unfamiliar with the very strong peer support and recovery movement that has sprung up out of necessity by people suffering from bipolar, manic and schizophrenic disorders, because historically they have been horrifically misdiagnosed and mistreated. Which is fine. I mean, hey you shouldn't *have* to know everything about everything. But people are now pointing out these things in the thread, and you're not listening to them.

So yes, it's getting a little frustrating hearing you grind your axe in the presence of clear evidence that some of the things you're asserting aren't appropriate to this woman in her specific situation, in her particular job. And that one of the reason her organization exists in the first place is to address the very thing that you're complaining about.
posted by zarq at 11:07 AM on October 24, 2011 [17 favorites]


I like to describe Metafilter's core commenters as very smart people who go out of their way to find smart ways to say dumb things - so if someone posts about something positive there will always be a bunch of people ready to leap in and find a clever way of tearing it to pieces, even if means going down to the level of nitpicking minutia to drum up negativity or link the subject of the link to some favoured bête noire to then rage against.

It's Metafilter's least likable quality.
posted by Artw at 11:17 AM on October 24, 2011 [21 favorites]


I think that's a diplomatic way of saying that people on Metafilter can't ever admit they are wrong. Everyone's been guilty of it at one time or another.
posted by spicynuts at 11:20 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Artw hates humans, and civilization, and rumor has it that once said xenomorphs shall inherit the world, well, he didn't say that, but probably meant it, I'v never actually heard of an Artw, and cannot conceive of a use for one in my living room, but these are the reasons people who have, and love their Artw should feel ashamed; he even probably said that he wouldn't have 'nuked them from orbit', stating "there were other ways to be sure!".
posted by infinite intimation at 11:29 AM on October 24, 2011


if someone posts about something positive there will always be a bunch of people ready to leap in and find a clever way of tearing it to pieces

Kind of how the surest way to get someone torn to pieces is to make a MeTa thread praising them. I find it funny because of my posts the one that went most poorly - and that had pretty much half the comments deleted at one point - was one where I was giving people a free book. A completely legal and no-string-attached pdf of novel that was due to be published and in bookstores within the month. People were enraged.

Didn't really bother me though, I didn't know true metafilter pain until my Feminist Ryan Gosling post was deleted.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 11:35 AM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


villanelles at dawn: " I find it funny because of my posts the one that went most poorly - and that had pretty much half the comments deleted at one point - was one where I was giving people a free book. A completely legal and no-string-attached pdf of novel that was due to be published and in bookstores within the month. People were enraged. "

Socialism?! In MY Metafilter? Oh, HELL NO!
posted by zarq at 11:38 AM on October 24, 2011


Didn't really bother me though, I didn't know true metafilter pain until my Feminist Ryan Gosling post was deleted.

That was because we really wanted Typographer Ryan Gosling.
posted by grapesaresour at 11:42 AM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think that's a diplomatic way of saying that people on Metafilter can't ever admit they are wrong. Everyone's been guilty of it at one time or another.

Well, it's not just that MeFites can never admit to being wrong, It's also almost like they also can't stand the idea that anyone might be trying to be *cleverer* than them, so they have to tear stuff to pieces to prove how fucking smart they are.
posted by Artw at 11:43 AM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


posted by Ideefixe

What? You couldn't wait until Folie à deux brought this to our attention?
posted by octobersurprise at 11:44 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Urgh. It's really the title of this article that lead people to misinterpret it.

We're not talking about some mentally ill person becoming the CEO of a giant megacorporation, flying everywhere in corporate jets, and staying in luxury hotels. Telling mentally ill people to just get senior executive jobs where they are coddled would of course be a "let them eat cake" kind of situation.

But the actual article is about a woman who discovered the hard way that it's best for her particular illness for her to be busy all the time in a supportive work environment, so she ended up directing a charity that helps other people like herself. It's not really a "high-profile executive" position at all. Probably many other people could follow that path, and be happier and healthier as a result.
posted by miyabo at 11:48 AM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like to describe Metafilter's core commenters as very smart people who go out of their way to find smart ways to say dumb things

Artw, as someone who is not what you call a "core commentater I think this sweeping and reckless comment is incorrect, as well as insulting to the community as a whole. I'm sure it sounds clever to you, but it shows me that you don't really see or want to see the bulk of what's goes on here on a daily basis, despite being constantly around.

they also can't stand the idea that anyone might be trying to be *cleverer* than them, so they have to tear stuff to pieces to prove how fucking smart they are.

on preview: there you f*cking go again.
posted by longsleeves at 11:51 AM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Artw hates humans, and civilization,

And as a xenomorph with aspirations of world conquest, let me just say that I find these to be his very best qualities.

Sadly, I'm not a very bright xenomorph, so I might have to limit my scope to something a bit more manageable. Like America. Or... maybe Wisconsin.

Or truth be told, maybe one of the local malls.

But I will rule the heck out of that place with a despotic alien fist-tentacle thing.
posted by quin at 11:56 AM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


People really should have read the article - one of the points seems to be that people with mental illnesses can actually do stuff, even shockaroonie 'high powered' stuff.

Not exactly rah rah capitalist chest beating.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:57 AM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I almost want there to be a little window that pops up for the first comment in a thread that says "Hi! I see you're the first commenter and your comment is under 30 words long. Are you trying to be witty, sarcastic, or somehow clever? We strongly urge you to consider whether or not you might in fact just be shitting in this thread."

I mean I don't really want that, but those thoughtless "clever" first posts are such a constant presence. I want them to go away.
posted by kavasa at 11:59 AM on October 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


I didn't know true metafilter pain until my Feminist Ryan Gosling post was deleted.

I AM OUTRAGED
posted by elizardbits at 12:00 PM on October 24, 2011


I never really knew true metafilter pain until...er...I still don't.

flyin' low
posted by davejay at 12:01 PM on October 24, 2011


Artw: " Well, it's not just that MeFites can never admit to being wrong, It's also almost like they also can't stand the idea that anyone might be trying to be *cleverer* than them, so they have to tear stuff to pieces to prove how fucking smart they are."

There are only a handful of people on Metafilter who do that. It's not a large number, and it's not widespread across a wide range of topics. If you're trying to say they drown out everyone else, then I don't think that's the case, no.
posted by zarq at 12:08 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm perfectly capable of admitting I'm wrong, it's just not something that's ever happened yet.
posted by Abiezer at 12:10 PM on October 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


"people you would normally dislike for kneejerk reasons painted into sympathetic profile" stories are usually bullshit, and MetaFilter's filtering devices aren't good enough to only let in the one-in-a-thousand that aren't. But seriously, when it's TBS/DR (Too BS, Didn't Read) for you (as it was for me), it should also be TBS/DC (Too BS, Didn't Comment).
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:13 PM on October 24, 2011


I think your idea that it's Too BS, Didn't Read is based on nothing, since you didn't read it of course. The article itself might not be for everyone, but I can't see why anyone would get such a hate on about this, unless it's purely because it was a NYTimes link.
posted by sweetkid at 12:20 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm perfectly capable of admitting I'm wrong, it's just not something that's ever happened yet.

Oh you shoud totally try admitting it. It's liberating.
posted by longsleeves at 12:21 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, I was definitely wrong in thinking you could get away with making a joke with a straight face.
posted by Abiezer at 12:41 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Urgh. It's really the title of this article that lead people to misinterpret it.

We're not talking about some mentally ill person becoming the CEO of a giant megacorporation, flying everywhere in corporate jets, and staying in luxury hotels. Telling mentally ill people to just get senior executive jobs where they are coddled would of course be a "let them eat cake" kind of situation.

But the actual article is about a woman who discovered the hard way that it's best for her particular illness for her to be busy all the time in a supportive work environment, so she ended up directing a charity that helps other people like herself. It's not really a "high-profile executive" position at all. Probably many other people could follow that path, and be happier and healthier as a result.


OK, sorry, as one of the people who messed up the thread early on with a "snappy" comment, I am going to apologize again -- it was a dumb thing to do.

However, as I read the article, I strongly felt that the story the reporter was telling was "look at this great safety net this woman has," and it really bugged me. Because the people with mental issues that I know, have known, and know about don't have it so good. If my reading is wrong (and, really, with that title?), the article would have changed gears later on and examined how other people with similar problems could maybe lead much better lives if we provided them with the tools to do that. Because, as a culture, we do a shitty job of dealing with the mentally ill.

Keris Myrick seems like an impressive person who has managed to do a great deal with a very bad situation. I applaud her ability to get control of her life and be a force for good. I have no reason to believe that she is not a good boss. I also think that an office where you could honestly ask "is that colleague out to get me, or am I misreading things?" would be awesome, since sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't.

So I would say that it is an inspiring story, but one which the NYT writer framed in a way that seemed to me insulting to people who haven't had that success or those resources. Which is why I responded badly to it. Maybe it's been the couple of weeks listening to a friend talk about how exhausted she is dealing with her schizophrenic brother, but my irritation with the article had nothing to do with not reading it.

That is the point I wanted to get across (well, after that first stupid comment) -- taking it out on the FFP was just a bad idea.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:44 PM on October 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I didn't know true metafilter pain until my Feminist Ryan Gosling post was deleted.

I AM OUTRAGED


Hey girl, I know Judith Butler says that patriarchal interpellation is supported by an iterative chain of performative utterances but I'm just glad to be supported by you.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 12:48 PM on October 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


"Oh you shoud totally try admitting it. It's liberating."

I think one of the most best qualities someone can have is being more than willing to admit they're wrong. It's admirable for several different reasons, it is socially useful, it makes everyone feel less antagonistic. It's just good. (Plus, I can count on one hand the number of times my father admitted he was wrong, in my presence, in my entire life.) People are often afraid to admit they're wrong because they fear that it will make them appear uncertain and weak-minded, as well as being prone to error. But, really, it implies the opposite of the first two and there's not much of a correlation to the third.

So, long ago I decided it was a virtue I very much wanted to have and made a strong, concerted effort to acquire it. And I pretty much always feel good about myself when I do admit I was wrong—it makes me more sure of myself, not less, because I can feel the emotional investment baggage being shed when I do it, making it easier for me to make better judgements.

All that said, a funny thing happened to me in my previous, nearly four-year incarnation on MetaFilter. Here, it didn't work at all like it's worked everywhere else in my life.

What happened here, with the confrontational, attack & ridicule, it's-about-scoring-points-and-possibly-attempting-to-entertain-onlookers culture that was more prevalent back then, was that almost every and any single admission of error was very vigorously used against me for as long as possible, in some cases effectively forever. It's hard to see how anyone back then wouldn't quickly realize that admitting they're wrong was like throwing chum into shark-infested waters.

It's like being a politician—admitting you're wrong doesn't have an upside because a) people think the truth is ambiguous anyway and accept everything as he said/she said unresolvable conflicts; b) most of the people involved care more about perception than about truth; and c) it's a contest of persuasion, being convincing, making yourself look as good as possible while making your enemy (because it's all about allies and enemies) look as bad as possible. People will remember you admitted you were wrong about something much longer, and believing it more fully, than they'll remember your opponent claiming you were wrong. Your opponent can instantly and always attack your credibility by bringing up your admission of being wrong, and there's no way you can refute it...especially if he/she has never admitted they were wrong.

I was astonished and deeply saddened when I realized that admitting I was wrong on MeFi was a mistake in any hotly contested argument (which are the ones in which we have the most incentive to refuse to admit error and therefore are the ones that I always feel it's most important that I make the effort to do so) and with someone with whom I frequently disagree. It was the opposite of what was best and what I wanted.

So far, I have the moderate impression that this antagonistic culture has been notably subdued here at MeFi during the four years of my absence. People are not as fighty, not as much carrying grudges. The few who are this way stand out (in a bad way) a lot more than they used to. I also get the feeling that they don't like the change. So it seems to me that these days, those perverse rules/incentives apply to almost nobody here. People argue more in good-faith and it's possible and productive to admit one is wrong. I hope I'm not wrong about this; and, if I'm right, that it stays this way. The other way was just bad.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:53 PM on October 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


Well, I was definitely wrong in thinking you could get away with making a joke with a straight face.

I knew you were joking, silly. So was I! Friends?
posted by longsleeves at 12:58 PM on October 24, 2011


Of course! But I'm not lending you a fiver.
posted by Abiezer at 1:01 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


This sort of "people you would normally dislike for kneejerk reasons painted into sympathetic profile" [see also Steve Jobs, elderly couple who died holding hands]

what
posted by Rhaomi at 1:04 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


G&P - that's all pretty reasonable and would have been fine in the thread, I don't think sentiments like that are ever going to be a problem. And you've already said sorry for the first comment, so I think you're in the clear.
posted by kavasa at 1:10 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


the story was framed as a feel good story about an elderly couple, but upon further reading, it's discovered that they died in an auto accident that nearly took the life of another motorist. The elderly husband was at fault and they both died as a result.
posted by FireballForever at 1:11 PM on October 24, 2011


But I find newsy posts sort of annoying anyhow so I don't read them and rarely post in them.

So you do occasionally post in them even though you haven't read them? AHA! Jessamyn is part of the problem!
posted by contraption at 1:12 PM on October 24, 2011


I think these sorts of group-criticism sessions are more entertaining gawking than participating in.

It's a problem with nytimes articles that it's hard to distinguish the shallow narcissism of the author from that of the subject. The idea that there is something worthwhile in sharing with the world that when she has a break-down she checks into a luxury hotel with her dog and phones her psychiatrist is patently offensive to me. I think it's telling that they weren't able to get a quote from any of the employees she was responsible for. Now, that article may be an unfair portrayal based on lousy journalism.... but it didn't portray someone who seemed particularly admirable to me.

Commenters in that thread seem to alternate between

a) isn't it special that a psychotic woman can hold down a job with a position of authority
b) isn't it therapeutic that NAMI allows people with problems to have meaningful jobs.

Basic victimology which doesn't do anyone any favors. b) is condescending when the purpose of the article was to celebrate this woman and a) is a situation ripe for abuse of authority and shit-dumping on employees who don't warrant a nytimes article. again, if it's such a great workplace why can't they get any quotes from her employees?

No apologies.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:16 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've noticed that reaction to feel good stories too. I mean this one in particular does come at a time where the OWS stuff adds more reasons for the raging... but it sort of feels like there's always some reason, for any post. I'm not saying that literally every feel good post goes that way, because they don't, but what I mean is that they're going that way often enough that it feels like it "always" happens and that sort of sucks, to feel dread before clicking the comments on those.

And the not reading the article stuff really doesn't help. It used to be that if I was on the fence about clicking a link (seemed only mildly interesting), I would skim the comments really quick without even thinking about it just to get a gauge for things other people had found interesting. If there was anything intriguing, then I'd read the link and then read the comments more fully. The past handful of months, though, something changed and now a whole lot of the comments aren't about the link at all, because it turns out that no one read it. So in the past month or so, before I consciously realized it, people raging about something doesn't trigger my "oh, I should read this to see what they're mad about" reaction, but instead triggers a "this is probably inaccurate" reaction -- no matter what it is, no matter if I agree with the raging in general as removed from the link, somewhere my brain quit assuming that negative comments reflect the link whatsoever.

When I realized that, it struck me as very weird, and I wondered why my assumptions changed so much. I don't get invested in most threads on the blue or anything, and I haven't been more than mildly frustrated by people not reading the links, so it doesn't seem to be a had-intense-feelings-that-rewired-things situation; I'd have to go back and reread the front page to point out specific examples of threads, because no one particular thread has stuck with me -- I just realize no one read the link, usually some people point that out, and I forget what it's about and move on. So then I'm left thinking, what, is it just sheer volume of times this has happened recently, that it's coded that way in my head now? The more intense the outrage, the less likely the link has been read? And as far as I can guess, that seems to be why, and that's how I process it now. And in fact, the notable threads that I remember are ones where the reaction actually was justified after I clicked the link; this one, for example, I thought was actually as bizarre as the comments made it out to be. But there's some vast, vague sea of impression that there's a lot of threads where people are almost comically angry, and when I clicked the link, it didn't have anything to do with the anger expressed, and so I quit thinking those kinds of comments are any reason to click a link.

And THEN I realized that I actively dread clicking on the comments for a thread that seems to be about a good thing, and now here I am. After a moment I can think of threads that actually went well, but for some reason my anticipation of the comments on feel good threads is overwhelmingly pessimistic. I guess a lot of people are having a bad time right now and that could spill over into increased negativity and harriedness and frustration and wanting to be heard in any capacity and and and. I don't really buy into "good ole days" kinds of thinking regarding Metafilter, because there have always been negative people and people that don't read the article, it just seems like within the past few months both things have spiked and I have reservations about clicking the comments for really innocuous things when I didn't use to -- and it feels like usually those reservations are reinforced when I do click the comments. We could play a game where we come up with the least provocative FPP ever, and if I saw it on the front page I would probably feel oddly *more* dread about the comments. "Dog saves school children from burning building" would trigger, "Geez, do I really want to read people tearing this apart?" Before just recently I'd probably figure there'd be some random negativity but whatever; now I'd assume that FPP is just a frenzy of negativity. I think it would bother me even more if it didn't sometimes devolve into something so baffling that I find it sort of funny. There was a thread -- like I said, I can't remember the thread itself -- the other day that triggered an image of those high-schoolers-as-wild-animals-fighting clips from Mean Girls; there was just that feeling of everything be so weirdly out of control, and of having walked in on it, and feeling like I was the camera and should just turn around and flee. People weren't really attacking each other or anything, so it didn't feel like it was poorly moderated. It was just way weird how mad people were about whatever it was that the link didn't say but everyone was acting like it did say.

Anyway, that all rather sucks but I don't know that there's anything to be done for it. People know they're supposed to read articles, people know they should reserve judgment, and the ones that don't just come with the territory. I can hardly blame people who are having a crappy time, either. I hope life quits being so stressful for so many people soon; I could be wrong, but I really do suspect it'd be a good bit less negative if so many hardships weren't hitting such large populations of people right now. I know my own perspective goes all over the place when stuff is bad, I have less restraint, I'm more sensitive to stuff that wouldn't bother me normally, etc. On any given day someone on the internet can be having a bad day for individual reasons, but when there are widespread institutional problems coming to a head, there are far more people in that position.
posted by Nattie at 1:20 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, GenjiandProust, you've definitely acquitted yourself nicely for the earlier comment and have also contributed well in this thread and the original tread in the blue. I can't say I entirely agree that the lack of mentioning that other people don't have the same resources or safety net is insulting exactly, but it's an entirely fair and reasonable point.

I don't have anywhere NEAR the incredibly difficult illness issues that Ms. Myrick is facing, but I did have my own experiences with severe anxiety and depression, and I just can't be more grateful that I did have an amazing safety net. It's hard to think about what everyone else is going through at the time, because these illnesses do cause so much self absorption. But when you're out of it, it is important to think of what others without such safety nets do have to deal with. To that end, I've volunteered on crisis hotlines, and Ms. Myrick is involved in NAMI, runs a non profit, and has been involved in advocacy for a long while.

Personally, my heart just broke at the part in which her doctor recalled Ms. Myrick talking about the holes in her brain, and he pulled out the brain scan and said, "Come on, show me the holes." Not everyone does have that level of care, no, but what an amazing effort by the doctor.
posted by sweetkid at 1:20 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd just like to gently point out that mental health and better attitudes towards mental health is not a zero-sum game. That is, just because a woman who is well-off and has advantages is able to get help, that doesn't stop less-advantaged people from also getting help, or somehow take attention away from their issues.

If anything, it has to be the opposite: a better attitude towards mental health at any strata of society can only help everyone. As for the article not also mentioning the plight of the less fortunate, I see the point, sort of, but THAT"S NOT WHAT THIS ARTICLE WAS ABOUT. "But it didn't cover X which is also important" isn't usually a very good criticism of a story or other work of art.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:22 PM on October 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


"a) isn't it special that a psychotic woman can hold down a job with a position of authority
b) isn't it therapeutic that NAMI allows people with problems to have meaningful jobs."


I get the strong impression that you equate "someone with a mental illness" and "bad person". I also get the impression that you have a big, huge axe to grind and that might be affecting your judgment.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:24 PM on October 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


the story was framed as a feel good story about an elderly couple, but upon further reading, it's discovered that they died in an auto accident that nearly took the life of another motorist. The elderly husband was at fault and they both died as a result.

It's almost like that old joke brought horribly to life: "I want to die in my sleep, like my grandpa... not screaming in terror like the other people in the car he was driving."
posted by kmz at 1:25 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


In re: to "feel good stories," though, there is a line. There's something like this: A real article about a real person and real events. But sometimes people do post what Snopes calls "glurge" - one that comes to mind is the story about the cabdriver taking an old lady to a nursing home and for some reason she was checking in at 3am instead of during business hours? It was an obvious urban myth/"Grandma forward", posted as if it had actually happened.

It's tough to say mockery is ever "deserved," and there's a thin line between pointing out flaws in the story and just having fun. But it sure is hard to resist in cases like the second one I mentioned.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:27 PM on October 24, 2011


Also in the second case, the mockery is sometimes a reaction against the tyranny of "well you can't say anything bad about a story about a poor old Grandma" - which is a common attitude, even when the grandma in question clearly never existed.

I think a lot of people here have a pretty strong adverse reaction to that kind of "won't someone think of the children??" bullying, and rightfully so.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:29 PM on October 24, 2011


I didn't see "feel good" in this story, personally. I see a woman who's barely holding on and is lucky to have a great support system and to be in a good spot right now. Things could still go in any direction for her. To me the overarching takeaway is that we should look at people with schizoaffective and other mental disorders as people like us and support therapies and programs to help them achieve all they can.
posted by sweetkid at 1:30 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


No apologies.

I don't think anyone has asked you to apologize. empath and zarq said that you're very off-base; I asked you not to respond to questions about your response in that thread with jokes about mental illness. I don't see anything else that anyone said to you.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:30 PM on October 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


"I want to die in my sleep, like my grandpa... not screaming in terror like the other people in the car he was driving."

In a strange twist on drive-by snark, an early comment in that thread by somebody who presumably didn't RTFA was hotly endorsed (or saved as a bookmark) by 45 other people who didn't read the article either.

The rest of the thread was a whole bunch of furious backpedalling on top of cognitive dissonance rationalisation: "Oh, but they had a wonderful life, as long as you ignore the horrific, traumatic & completely avoidable tragedy which is the subject of the post..."
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:48 PM on October 24, 2011


The world is full of assholes of various assholery and regular people having a bad day and deciding to be assholes.

Sometimes, it's just best to ignore the stupid stuff.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:49 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Part of the other problem, as I've been sort of ruminating over this for more of the day, is that this group seems to have a very aggressive "don't tell me what to think" reflex. So, any post that is perceived to have a message tends to have problems with it unless every single person is on board with the message which almost never happens. This is further complicated by the fact that the reason one person found something interesting [as sweetkid has explained her motivations above] may be something that someone else perceives as "a message" and rails against it even though that wasn't supposed to be part of the post. You see this a lot in political type posts where the implicit message is "love this guy" or "hate this lady" or "these peoeple are idiots or assholes" and then you get a bunch of people who might even have enjoyed the article/links otherwise showing up with their "don't tell me what to think!" responses. It's weird, seen from sort of a "I've seen ten thousand of these" level of remove because while the effect is predictable, what's going to set people off is not. And the more people have invested in the thing, whatever the thing is, the more it's problematic if people come in just to complain about it.

For a more value neutral example, think about music posts. Generally speaking the main reason people make music posts is because they like [with the rare "let's all hate on this musician together" threads] and so there's an implicit "Hey you might like this band" and for whatever reason people latch on to this and their only contribution, which they feel is on topic because they read the implicit message, is "This music sucks" or whatever. So we've seen two people in this thread explain in detail their problems with the linked article in the main post which, if theyd been explained that way in the first place, might have helped the thread go a little bit better. No big deal, happens sometimes, but I think it's a decent object lesson for

1. people who are objecting to something may have valid objections that they're not explaining well so it's worth giving them a chance [maybe not so much after 2-3 comments that are all going the same place...]
2. early in the thread objections to the content can sort of sink threads, so if that's where you're going, maybe either take an extra few minutes to make your comment seem like it's part of a discussion and not just about you and your bad mood

And for people who want to make posts about topics that have a certain meaning to them personally, keep in mind that that meaning can get lost in the discussion and if you'd like to share that sort of thing, doing it later in the thread in a comment is often helpful to people who may be thinking "Why did you post this?"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:53 PM on October 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


this group seems to have a very aggressive "don't tell me what to think" reflex.

That's a really good point; there should be a clever term for it.

I don't see it as contrarianism for its own sake, but more of an anti-bandwagon, anti-groupthink attitude, which is probably more likely to surface the more people are marching in step on an issue: Mother Teresa a good person? You're kidding; she's anti-contraception! Freddie Mercury an awesome singer? No way, Radio Gaga is directly responsible for Lady Gaga's monicker, and I hate her!
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:02 PM on October 24, 2011


there should be a clever term for it.

I like South Park's "Cynical Asshole", which I wanted to apply to myself, but I realize that I still get waaay too excited about some things to fully embody the style.

Some of the people around me though? It's like the caricature was invented to define them.
posted by quin at 2:08 PM on October 24, 2011


There are differing views on mental illness here. This reminds me of the "would you date a mentally ill person?" thread. You had people saying "hell, no" and people saying "these people don't need to be further stigmatized, asshole!". I don't want to rehash that but the "hell, no" position isn't indefensible.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:09 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's funny because this is the first-ever post I've had that's gone to a MetaTalk ( that I did not start) and I'm home sick from work. If I'd been at work I wouldn't have had the time to even look at it really except to worry 'oh noes my post is being talked about on MeTa' - (although this isn't really about ME at all).

I knew some people would knee jerk at the NYTimes and the word executive and the hotel room, but then I also thought people would get the message and start to counteract that, and that's mostly what happened. It's sad that some had so much angst about the hotel room. It's something that helps her and I know the impulse to feel a bit coddled and cared for when you're in a bad spot, especially when you're single and know that no one's going to stop by and check in or anything. Even her doctor was like, OK, this works for you. When I had really bad anxiety I'd spend a lot of time in my bathroom, just sitting there, because there was less stimulation in there and fewer things that would set me off. I considered something like renting a hotel room and sitting in the bathroom there, but didn't want the expense and also it just took a lot of coordination I wasn't really capable of. The point is that sometimes you just do what you can.
posted by sweetkid at 2:15 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


this group seems to have a very aggressive "don't tell me what to think" reflex.

YOU DON'T KNOW ME!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:16 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's a really good point; there should be a clever term for it.

And the part that I find so hilarious about it is the turtles all the way down aspect to this where one of the crappy rejoinders we see all the time is about all the "groupthink" here and anyone who agrees with anyone else, or the mods, is a groupthinker person. As if there are simultaneously people violently agreeing and disagreeing on every topic. This site has some social norms certainly, and definitely falls out more along some lines than others, but compared to most other places I've spent any time on the internet you can find a diversity of opinions on a lot of topics. Individuals can be strident about their opinions, sure, but I don't see that "Hey buddy, tow the line, we're all like THIS here" sort of stuff the wa I see it other places.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:20 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


this may not have been the best way to talk about them here on MetaFilter.

I'd love to know what way would have been better. Not trying to be hostile, but the story was in the NYT yesterday. Is there a preferred waiting period?
posted by Ideefixe at 2:26 PM on October 24, 2011


My reflexive hostility toward anything that smells like someone telling me what to think is called The Jerk Teenager Who Lives In My Head.
posted by The Whelk at 2:35 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ah, yes, the "You're Not the Boss of Me!" argument.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 2:41 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


That thread is a prime example of why I no longer participate in MetaFilter. Some of you might see that as a good thing, of course. I came across this story in the paper the other day and found it inspiring, since I have ADD myself and being able to consistently connect with my potential has been a lifelong challenge. It's not easy to keep going back for another attempt at professional excellence while carrying the knowledge that there's a high probability of failure, and the lady who's the subject of this story has an unusually difficult set of problems to cope with.

The notion that being intelligent, persistent, and willing to maintain high expectations for herself equates to unearned privilege is insulting and intellectually lazy. Dismissing anyone or anything that one wishes to belittle as an example of privilege has become a persistent trope on Metafilter: anyone who lands on their feet is deemed to have an invisible knapsack of privilege which much be unpacked. In the spirit of critical theory, there's no need to come up with a defensible argument, just an alternative narrative which posits that any and all good fortune which accrues to an individual must have been stolen from the collective. In this model of the world, equity of outcome is assumed as the natural order of things which has been perverted by a privileged minority to its own selfish ends.

This is bullshit. It's equivalent to saying that sharks and killer whales modified fluid dynamics and genetics to ensure that the plankton would remain at the bottom of the marine food chain. The fields of critical race theory and its offshoot, critical legal studies, have yielded numerous thought-provoking and insightful observations about our social and legal environment. But their critical analysis of an idealized meritocracy does not support the collectivist notion of mandatory mediocrity, in which anyone who has the temerity to rise above the median outcome for their starting conditions is branded as a socioeconomic criminal, or indeed a socio- or psychopath: some kind of undead creature that has crept into an egalitarian Eden and must be exterminated forthwith. This radical collectivism has historically been characterized by extreme anti-intellectualism and a totalitarian viewpoint so extreme that is has rapidly collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions everywhere it has been tried, though not before plumbing new depths of atrocity first, most recently in Cambodia, where possession of spectacles marked the owner as an unworthy heir of the capitalist tradition, and therefore an enemy of some ideally unprivileged proletariat.

That this willfully ignorant and mutually antagonistic outlook has become fashionable on Metafilter is deplorable.

~

On a separate note, about moderation:

This was also a case where there was some early threadshitting-like commenting that we axed which may have halped the thread right itself.

Lately, I've wondered if this isn't part of the problem. Obviously, a public garden is much nicer when it is carefully weeded. On the other hand, I sometimes read threads where the angry comments have been removed and as a result I have no idea who said what. If someone is being a very public asshole, consigning those comments to the bitbucket gives them a bit of a free ride - doing it too often may earn a moderator's rebuke or exclusion, but as we know it's even OK to get kicked off and come back some time later under a different handle on condition one promises to be good...rinse and repeat.

This reminds somewhat of the difficulties teachers face in breaking up playground fights; the victims of bullying often end up worse off than the instigators. Defending themselves or retaliating against aggression is itself viewed as aggressive, and passive victimhood or complaining gets the kid labelled as a problem, because dealing with crying traumatized kids is time-consuming and difficult, whereas the bullies often often seem to be more functional and so suck up fewer resources. Thus, the well-known phenomenon of moving the victim to another school while leaving the bully in place. It is efficient from the teachers' perspective, albeit only in the short term.

Individuals can be strident about their opinions, sure, but I don't see that "Hey buddy, tow the line, we're all like THIS here" sort of stuff the wa I see it other places.

But isn't that exactly the sort of stuff you and the other mods assiduously weed out? I read some thread the other day where the post-cleanup comments suggested that some posters had been accusing others of being paid shills for a cause or campaign, and that's a charge I've seen hurled here repeatedly as a device to shut down an unwelcome argument. Sure, such aggressive rhetoric only makes up a tiny fraction of the discussion on Metafilter, but the most effective poisons are those that are fatal in very small doses. Leveraging a position of minor moral superiority into a platform from which to launch virulent attacks on opinions of which one disapproves is a normal, everyday occurrence. I can't say if it's gotten better or worse without undertaking a rigorous quantitative analysis, which I don't have the time or inclination for. It may well be that Ivan Fyodororvitch is right, and the long term trend is getting better rather than worse. My personal perception, sad to say, is that the opposite is true.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:45 PM on October 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


this group seems to have a very aggressive "don't tell me what to think" reflex.

When I read that line, I immediately thought of the concept of negative face. MetaFilter has some serious face needs.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:47 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


But isn't that exactly the sort of stuff you and the other mods assiduously weed out?

No it's totally not. It's not content based but virulent attacks are against the rules and early threadshitting is as well. If people want to make an argument that we have a bullying problem here, please make it plainly. We do not have repeat asshole offenders coming back under new usernames to the best of my knowledge. If people come back and start up the same old shit, their Brand New Day is over and so is their time here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:50 PM on October 24, 2011


Let's say I get banned for ranting about hipsters all the time, I come back and don't rant about hipsters but I start to rant about the 1% and get banned again, can I still come back since I got banned for two totally different fixations?

What responsibility does metafilter have to help those of us with irrational fixations. Is it morally right to simply cast people from the community? Is there any form of counseling available for those of us with unhealthy fixations?
posted by Ad hominem at 3:03 PM on October 24, 2011


Attitudes like the one ennui.biz is exhibiting are a direct contributor to my fear of taking the steps to go on temporary leave from my job.

See, I have ADD. Recently diagnosed, but I've had it forever. I've also got a fairly bad bit of depression and anxiety -- some of it can be attributed to the ADD, some of it's just there on its own thanks to my faulty wiring.

I'm having a really, really hard time coping right now. I've got one of those administrative jobs like sweetkid mentioned in this comment on the OP. It's the hardest goddamned job on the planet, as far as I'm concerned. You try sharing an office with two loud, swearing, overly dramatic coworkers and a never-ending parade of walk-in visitors looking for batteries or micro USB cables or candy or any of a thousand other things. Go google a list of the executive functions in the brain that are impaired by ADD, and then compare those exec functions to a list of an admin's typical duties. They're basically the same. The things that I have the absolute most trouble with on the very best days? Those are my basic job duties.

Basically, my life is falling down around my ears right now. I cry every single day -- luckily there is a restroom near my office that I can usually hide out in, but sometimes I am not so lucky and I have to white-knuckle it through the day, hoping no one calls me out on my glassy eyes or shaky voice.

I've actually been pretty open with many of my close coworkers about my issues, but do I really want to keep myself open to the kind of shitty attacks that are on display here, about this very issue? No, I don't really think I do. So will I pursue that temporary leave? I'm not sure. Maybe it's in my best interests to ignore my own mental health and concentrate on making sure none of my coworkers develop assumptions about me in the vein of ennui.biz. Maybe it's best to just keep white-knuckling it through the days and hoping that the badness passes quickly this time.

Time to go cry some more.

sweetkid, thank you for posting the article. I really, really enjoyed it and will forward it to a couple of therapist-folks I know who might not have seen it.
posted by palomar at 3:06 PM on October 24, 2011 [23 favorites]


If someone is being a very public asshole, consigning those comments to the bitbucket gives them a bit of a free ride - doing it too often may earn a moderator's rebuke or exclusion, but as we know it's even OK to get kicked off and come back some time later under a different handle on condition one promises to be good...rinse and repeat.

Not really. Rinse and do not repeat or you're going to hear from us much sooner the second time around and you're going to get booted unapologetically if you don't turn it around. People being able to come back, whether quietly or openly acknowledging that it's them giving things another go, are pretty much bound by an expectation that they'll give us a reason to have them back after whatever went down previously. If they can do that, great: people grow and change and get better at getting along here. If not, then not.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:20 PM on October 24, 2011


Is it morally right to simply cast people from the community?

I guess you're being snarky here? I can't tell.

If people cannot or will not treat the community as a shared s
posted by rtha at 3:33 PM on October 24, 2011


Whoops.

That should read: can't or won't treat a communal space as such, and instead treat it as their own special place to shit wherever they like, whenever they like, then they have to go do that someplace else.
posted by rtha at 3:35 PM on October 24, 2011


can I still come back since I got banned for two totally different fixations?

Sure and the third time we'll probably tell you that the ranting needs to stop, period. If you have irrational fixations that manifest themselves in treating other people here in ways that are against the community norms, that's your own deal and you need to manage it not expect every single person in the community to help you manage it [and this is how MetaFilter is different from the non-profit in the NYTimes article].

That said, we know there are some users who have a hard time keeping themselves in check and we will often work with people helping them keep in track with some "hey you're doing that THING again" emails in lieu of actually banning people. I maybe send a few of those emails a week to people who seem to actively want to be a part of the community but can't quite keep it together. Of course, this is not something we'll do if people are actively harassing or stalking other members, just sort of a "hey you have to stay on this side of the asshole line please" notes.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:39 PM on October 24, 2011


Is it morally right to simply cast people from the community?

One of the things that helps me sleep well at night is remembering that I work for a community website rather than an emergency services provider. I don't think I would function well with the stress of being responsible for people's access to seriously vital social/medical/administrative services and dealing with the situations where someone both desperately needs that access and is incapable of not actively jeopardizing that access with their own behavior or decisions.

Ultimately, getting banned from Metafilter mostly means having to hang out somewhere else online. Which if you have an attachment to this particular community is a bummer and we're pretty sympathetic toward that, but it's also pretty much on you to find a way to make it work if it's important to you to be here but you also have heard from us that how you are when you are here is a problem. We can't fix people's social interactions, we can only tell them what needs fixing when something does and hope that they will find a good approach to resolving that instead of no approach or an actively bad one. If it doesn't work out, they can go dork around somewhere else on the web instead.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:52 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think it's telling that they weren't able to get a quote from any of the employees she was responsible for.

I think you're making assertions you have no evidence to support. Maybe they couldn't get a quote from any of the employees, or maybe they got a bunch of quotes and decided not to use any of them. There's as much evidence for the former than for the latter — exactly none.

You keep making statements about Ms. Myrick and asserting them as fact, but as yet I haven't seen you present anything to back them up.
posted by Lexica at 3:54 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


this group seems to have a very aggressive "don't tell me what to think" reflex.

It's called "adolescence".
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:54 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


On another website I read, there was a post over the weekend about a man who brutally murdered his wife and two children before turning on himself. The local paper in this family's area printed an article laying a TON of blame on the wife for being an emasculating nag and a shrew -- the only quotes they printed were from the dead husband's friends.

A woman posted in the comments of the post I read, stating that she had been interviewed for that piece but that the paper had decided against running any of her quotes, or any of the quotes they got from other friends of the wife.

Who knows what kind of quotes the NYT reporter(s) got? I don't have any special (and verifiable) information on the subject, does anyone else? No? Then shut up.
posted by palomar at 4:00 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


(maybe "shut up" is a bit too harsh. sub in your preferred phrase if you please.)
posted by palomar at 4:03 PM on October 24, 2011


palomar, I'm glad you elaborated a bit on the comment I made about ADD ( although I am sorry about your circumstances at work.) I had meant to elaborate that it's not that people with ADD are somehow limiting themselves from getting out of administrative jobs and into higher level work, but that our work environments and culture are not equipped to help them achieve and impress and get there, so they're stuck in so called lower level/admin work that is exactly what they're not suited for. People without ADD sometimes start in similar positions, but because they can handle that environment they're promoted. So I know I've said it over and over, but I thought this article was great because it shows that accommodating people's challenges and mental illnesses and things that take them out of the psychonormative "normal" or whatever will give us a better range of gifted people in our workplaces and it's so much better for us all than to leave people like palomar and Ms. Myrick to be miserable in illsuited positions and living with the fear of failure/getting fired ( which just leads to more performance difficulties).

I don't have ADD or schizoaffective disorder, thankfully, but when I have bad anxiety I really have to carve out some specific things for myself in my job and my life so that I can handle things. I've learned how to do this and have a great safety net and just am getting to the point confidence wise where I can stand up for what I need, and that's a great thing. I hope people reading this know that they can change their circumstances and make life better for themselves at work. We all spend so much time there that it's imperative that we make things better.
posted by sweetkid at 4:04 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I didn't and don't want to turn this into a referendum on the moderators, who work hard at a thankless job. But Mods, I'm willing to bet that 80% of your thread cleanup duties involve the same 20% of the set of users who've had comments removed. And to double down, I'll bet that there's a correlation between comment removal and the probability of invoking MetaTalk or MeMail to deflect challenges. I do think there's a bullying problem on here, and that it's become endemic. Sorry.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:16 PM on October 24, 2011


moderators, who work hard at a thankless job

That's not really true. The mods get thanks & praise all the time.

Telemarketers & parking inspectors: they have thankless jobs.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:42 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The mods pruning out the first comments were great for this thread. It was basically lol'ing about the woman having a therapy dog and going to a hotel room when she needs a break and OMG is this the Onion? type stuff. No good.
posted by sweetkid at 4:42 PM on October 24, 2011


I'll bet that there's a correlation between comment removal and the probability of invoking MetaTalk or MeMail to deflect challenges.

I'm not sure I understand this, can you explain what it means? If you want to drop us an email I'll be happy to let you know who the most-flagged users are and what, if anything, we're doing about each and every one of them.

And I've said before I think there are a few asshole users who occasionally hassle other users in general but I don't really feel that there are people who target other specific users and try to harass them out of here. We can all talk about what our definition of bullying is, but it's important to me and to what I think our working definition on the site is, that it's not just being assholes but it's the social coercion aspect and the active harassment of a particular person that is the issue. If you think this is happening and you think we're turning a blind eye to it, I'd apprecite if you wouldn't just make generalized allegations but that you be specific and name names. If you're not comfortable doing that in MetaTalk, that's fine but in that case we'd appreciate an email via the contact form.

I'm willing to bet that 80% of your thread cleanup duties involve the same 20% of the set of users who've had comments removed

I don't think it's any secret that 80% of the work that we do involves less than 20% of the users on this site. I'd say it's more like twenty to thirty users, period. And this is sort of how most online communities work. 90% of everyone lurks most of the time. 10% participate. Maybe .1 to 1% cause problems. We've done the math and there's a huge jump between users who have been flagged once or twice and the sort of people who are regularly racking up flags on a weekly basis. That said, the way this community is set up, we have a long slow process for "getting rid of" people who are causing problems and most people who want to stay and who attempt to participate in good faith get to do so. If this is unacceptable to you, if you think that we should be doing something different, here is where you get to talk about that. Or send us an email.

Sorry.

Again I don't know what sorry means in this context? You're sorry that you think that? You're sorry that it's true? You're sorry that you said you didn't want to make this a referendum on mod actions but then you called out the site as being full of bullies? You're welcome to your own thoughts. We are not betting here. What would you win? If there's bullying here that we're not seeing we'd like to get on that and work on it. If there is actual bullying of users here it strongly implies that we're turning a blind eye to harassment of other users on this site which is something that I've said repeatedly we would like to not do. I've also said that I think people toss around allegations of bullying because they personally feel aggrieved and are not maybe mapping the differences between real life interactions and online interactions. We disallow callouts of people who are not interacting in a particular thread on MetaFilter and to a lesser extent here [callouts of specific users nonwithstanding]. Harassing other people via MeMail is an instant ban as soon as we're made aware of it. We have a low threshhold for how aggressive it is permissable to be towards another user.

We also have, however, general ideas of how much people should be able to handle, discussionwise and sarcasm/snark-wise to be able to interact here. It's important to be able to make normative assessments so that we can talk to users and say "You're out of line." or "You think that user is out of line but they are in line with how things work here." or "That seems out of line and we'll talk to that person." It's important that people not only be mindful of their own behavior but where it fits on the continuum of how this place works. And if they need help figuring it out, that's mostly what we're here for.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:46 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Again I don't know what sorry means in this context? You're sorry that you think that? You're sorry that it's true? You're sorry that you said you didn't want to make this a referendum on mod actions but then you called out the site as being full of bullies?

I'm sorry to hurt your feelings by expressing my negative opinion about how your existing strategy works out. I did not say the site is 'full of bullies,' and I think you drew too much from my original analogy which was meant to address (what seems to me) the ongoing tendency towards uncivil behavior by a small number of users.

You're welcome to your own thoughts. We are not betting here. What would you win?

If you're going to be so literal, a more respectful environment where it's not OK to reflexively snark at people. My problem with the deletion of comments as a remedy for this is that it provides people with an incentive to hit and run; they might get the comment removed and be slapped on the wrist, abut as you say getting booted out of MetaFilter is a 'long slow process.' It's my personal opinion, which may well be shared only by a few, that letting offensive comments stand and get the criticism they deserve, and which will attach to the person who made them, is a more effective way to maintain a civil discourse.

It's important that people not only be mindful of their own behavior but where it fits on the continuum of how this place works. And if they need help figuring it out, that's mostly what we're here for.

To be honest, I think that's what the person's family and friends are there for. In my simplistic and emotional view, what you're there for is to maintain a civil discussion on behalf of the people who don't make a habit of repurposing threads as a megaphone for their particular views. I realize it's perplexing to interpret this absent examples; I've tried to describe the behavior I find odious or reply to the person directly rather than talk about complex and multidimensional people in an accusative fashion.

In a nutshell, I do not like political hyperbole or the people who use it on a regular basis. On MetaFilter that takes in more people from the left than the right for the simple reason that the site has a strong leftward bias to begin with. There are many Mefites, of both the left and the right, who argue passionately and with conviction for for or against various political propositions. I'm all for passionate discourse. But there is also a small number of posters who are little better than trolls marking out territory on the fringes of the discussion, and bullying people who so much as cast a shadow into it with cheap rhetorical shots and lines of argument that are more suited to 4chan than Metafilter: arguments in bad faith, pre-emptive claims of victimhood, overuse of the humor defense, appeals to base populist emotions, and so on. Again, this takes in people from both the left and the right. The one thing they all have in common is a hostility to moderation and a fondness for rhetorical rather than substantive argument.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:42 PM on October 24, 2011


Slightly chasing the derail here, but I would like to express my desire that we not let useless snarky comments, threadshitting, etc., stand without deletion. It's a guaranteed derail and I really like being able to read (and sometimes discuss) relevant comments, not argument streams. You want to talk about that stuff? Take it to MeTa, MeMail, etc.
posted by introp at 7:23 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


In a nutshell, I do not like political hyperbole or the people who use it on a regular basis.
This is more than a bit cheeky from someone who's claiming in this very thread that MetaFilter is beset by a radical collectivism that is at the top of a slide into the Cambodian killing fields.
posted by Abiezer at 7:40 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


If I was in the habit of threadshitting, your tu quoque argument might be more apposite. I don't think I am, or that it is.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:53 PM on October 24, 2011


Jessamyn: We've done the math and there's a huge jump between users who have been flagged once or twice and the sort of people who are regularly racking up flags on a weekly basis.

I know this will never happen, but it would be kind of interesting to see how many, and which, comment of my own (or hypothetical user X's own) that I've received--not seeing flags of other people's comments or who flagged mine, but just knowing that "Your comment: 'YOUR FAVOURITE BAND SUCKS HAHA' was flagged 3 times" as a way of keeping oneself in check and understanding that I/user X might have posted a comment that upset people so that I/they would be aware of it going forward.

Then again, I suppose that the people who are worried about posting something that might receive flags aren't likely to be the worst offenders you mention above.
posted by 1000monkeys at 9:12 PM on October 24, 2011


1000monkeys: "I know this will never happen, but it would be kind of interesting to see how many, and which, comment of my own (or hypothetical user X's own) that I've received--not seeing flags of other people's comments or who flagged mine, but just knowing that "Your comment: 'YOUR FAVOURITE BAND SUCKS HAHA' was flagged 3 times" as a way of keeping oneself in check and understanding that I/user X might have posted a comment that upset people so that I/they would be aware of it going forward."

Making the flags visible to users might act as a bit of a deterrent. On the other hand it would be more likely to act as a point of conflict for the mods, who could now conceivably have to justify their actions on every incident. People take their deletions personally. They would probably argue en masse.

This has been explained in Meta before, but I suspect that in the heat of the moment most users probably forget it. Something being flagged is not a direct reason for it to be deleted. It's a sign to the mods that a user (or perhaps more than one) is concerned about a comment and wants them to look at it. The mods review each case individually and then decide what action is required of them in that particular instance. So a contentious but on-topic comment is less likely to get deleted than two people attacking one other. But also, context and a judgement call also means the difference between something being deleted with a single flag and one being deleted with dozens.

There's a side effect to this process: trust issues. Because the system is not entirely transparent, we as users are supposed to trust that the mods are acting with the site's best interests in mind, and not acting selfishly. Or out of prejudice. I would be willing to bet that this was a factor in the new mod appointments. Because being a good mod is not just a matter of someone who can "read the room" well. It's being someone the wider community trusts to act objectively. Note what happened when restless nomad was initially appointed. She has prior modding experience. But some people did not know her, and reacted aggressively and distrustfully to her -- in ways that probably wouldn't have happened if the person taking the actions was say, cortex. Taz has gotten a bit of an easier welcome, I think, because we know her well and she's been more of a well-liked, consistent contributor to the community. Someone we know and trust. Plus we'd just had another mod appointed recently and had had time to get used to the idea of a new addition.

This is not in any way a criticism of restless nomad. I think she's doing a great job. But the difference in reception was interesting, I think.
posted by zarq at 2:49 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Restless nomad has a great philosophy (totally paraphrasing now): If people don't notice me, I'm doing my job well. She's doing great, and I'm getting the benefit of being able to find my way trailing after in her hard-won footsteps. She was the first new mod in years, and got the brunt of ACK, SCARED!

But we know that it's scary for people when something new like that happens. And speaking for myself, if I do something strange, it's going to be an error in judgment because I'm still learning it all, and not some new frightening direction that moderation is taking.

At any rate, one oddity of flags is that if we see a pile of flags jump up immediately it's almost always something biggish... but sometimes they dribble in. Something might have one flag, later two, and depending what time of day and how many people are viewing that thread, sometimes takes a long time for a definitive flag mass to form on a single item (especially overnight, U.S. time). And also, the opposite: if something is caught quickly, it doesn't accumulate a pile of flags... so justifying anything either staying or going based only on number of flags wouldn't work out so well because it would be "why did you delete that one with only two flags, and let this other one with 10 flags stay?"
posted by taz (staff) at 3:50 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I maybe send a few of those emails a week to people who seem to actively want to be a part of the community but can't quite keep it together.

Now I'm imagining Jessamyn calling people at night and singing them to sleep with The Asshat Song. (The top non-video hit for "asshat song." w00t!)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:37 AM on October 25, 2011


It's my personal opinion, which may well be shared only by a few, that letting offensive comments stand and get the criticism they deserve, and which will attach to the person who made them, is a more effective way to maintain a civil discourse.

The evidence presented by several high-traffic forums and sites that use that method doesn't really support that view. If you're aware of a site that lets offensive comments stand and be criticised, yet has a civil discourse overall, I'd like to know what it is and maybe even join in there.
posted by harriet vane at 1:02 AM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

but I don't see that "Hey buddy, tow the line, we're all like THIS here" sort of stuff thejessamyn
Heh. It's toe.
I do think there's a bullying problem on here, and that it's become endemic.anigbrowl
As you noted, I'm of the opinion that things have gotten quite a bit better here with regard to nastiness and bullying. What's missing are people who make it their business to regularly attack and ridicule people they think deserve it. Back in the day, there were a handful of people whose participation here was mostly of this type—a few did it in a humorous fashion (to onlookers, of course, not those attacked) which a good portion of the community applauded and considered this to be part of the spectacle...which, in turn, encouraged imitators. Most of whom couldn't manage humor, but managed being pricks well enough.

That's mostly gone. Why, I don't know. I suspect moderation played a strong role, but not an exclusive role.

What you're complaining about is what you consider unfair, bad-faith argumentation that is, from your comments, usually political in content. The problem with complaining about this is that it's everywhere. You will not find a forum in which this isn't present excepting those in which the participants are all like-minded and friendly to each other. Where there are differences of opinion, especially in politics, there is hyperbole, bad-faith, fallacious, and bullying argumentation. Sad, but true.

And, though you conveniently labeled his criticism a fallacy, Abiezer's comment was on-the-mark. The first half of your initial comment was a long tirade against those you think are oppressing you here, and it presented them via...wait for it...hyperbole. It's very, very hard for me to read your comments and not see your complaints as being about 50% valid and 50% sour grapes and vilification of those with whom you disagree.
If you want to drop us an email I'll be happy to let you know who the most-flagged users are and what, if anything, we're doing about each and every one of them.jessamyn
Whew, I really hope you reconsidered this. Because it seems like a bad idea to share with a random user, privately, information about a) the most flagged commenters, and b) your administrative opinions about them, your prior moderating efforts, and plans for the future. None of that is anyone's business but the administators' and possibly the affected users. No one else, I think.
It's my personal opinion, which may well be shared only by a few, that letting offensive comments stand and get the criticism they deserve, and which will attach to the person who made them, is a more effective way to maintain a civil discourse.anigbrowl
As someone else (harriet vane) has pointed out, that opinion has long ago been empirically proven false. I'm sorry to have to report this. But it's true. Leaving the comments there are like leaving little nuggets of crap lying around to attract flies and other pests. Only in the very most like-minded forums, with a very rigid and heavily enforced code of behavior, does that kind of self-policing work. The kind that I think you would object to as being bullying. Or is it self-policing when it's an opinion with which you disagree and dislike, and bullying when it's something with which you agree, or, more to the point, that you, yourself wrote?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:07 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


None of that is anyone's business but the administators' and possibly the affected users. No one else, I think.

If people are alleging that there is some sort of endemic problem on the site that we are not doing anything to curtail, we'll be happy to have a private conversation with them about the state of the site and what we are doing for moderation generally, since so little of that is visible to users.

The understanding is that this information stays private and there are serious repercussions for anyone who starts spreading that stuff around on the site. A lot of the work we do is sort of "back room" stuff, emailing with people and having conversations in modland and I think some people aren't totally comfortable with the "trust us!" directive. So this isn't something we'll do often and this isn't something we'll do without a seriously good reason and there's a limit to what we will and will not tell people about. However, we've mentioned in MeTa before that we do have information on flags in general but also in the aggregate and part of what we do is look at who is on our list of "most flagged users" and figure out what, if anything, we need to do about them. It's a community site and we try to have as much transparency as we can here. There is certain user information we have access to that does remain private, but mod strategy generally, while it's not something we'll usually outline in MeTa, isn't something that is totally 100% private.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:49 AM on October 27, 2011

So this isn't something we'll do often and this isn't something we'll do without a seriously good reason and there's a limit to what we will and will not tell people about. [..] It's a community site and we try to have as much transparency as we can here. There is certain user information we have access to that does remain private, but mod strategy generally, while it's not something we'll usually outline in MeTa, isn't something that is totally 100% private.jessamyn
Ah, thanks for explaining. I can see that you're balancing two opposing but important principles here and this seems like a reasonable decision. It's admirable that you guys both take this seriously and are deliberative about how to handle these issues. And I especially agree with and admire the "these are rules, but we make judgment calls about them" approach.

I'm a big believer in having and following rules, but applying a liberal dose of common sense (and a sense of fairness) to the process. I guess the times when loosely applying a ruleset is a problem is when the judgement of the authority is questionable, often when it's suspected of being self-serving or otherwise unfairly biased in some way. But I guess the problem is that there will always be some minority who are claiming a biased inconsistency in the enforcement of rules and so in many situations this ends up making a rigid enforcement the lesser-of-evils, and that's why a lot of authorities who are disinclined in this direction end up going that way, in the end. I imagine that you guys sometimes think, to hell with all these pissing and moaning metatalk posts, let's just be robots who rigidly enforce rules and are not responsive to complaints and see how they like that. I'm glad that's not happened.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:33 PM on October 27, 2011


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