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It's not called 'Discord' for no reason—discord is why you must have moderators


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I'm not throwing shade at Discord particularly. But if any of you gets a notion to try to do what we did back in the day (get offa my lawn, whippersnappers) I want to give some advice to any of you contemplating setting up a site to replace this.

Social media today is a cesspool that draws out the worst in human nature. It has fatal flaws that cultivate the Deadly Sins, and it began the day the first person decided to figure out how to monetize the internet. A site like this—in spite of the ads, which were a necessary evil that I personally despised and would have gotten shed of If I could—can never be about profit. It can never be about personality, or popularity. In fact, it can never be a "social" site at all in the way social media exists today, because it's not a place to play, flirt, pose, brag or, importantly, lie. The purpose of it is finding a way to make life tolerable enough to live so that death does not seem preferable.

Most importantly, it can never be about power or politics, about who's in charge, who's got rank, who's high in the pecking order...in other words, who's a Mod. You cannot attempt to create a site dedicated to persons with mental illness without Moderation, and you cannot, must not, Moderate it in the way most any other site would be Moderated.

Moderating CrazyBoards was never about jockeying for rank. Indeed, the best way to make sure you didn't become a Mod here was to ask to be one. Frankly, if anybody knew what it entailed, nobody in their right mind would accept it. (I suppose that explains how we ended up with some, actually...) On a site like this, Moderation is a position held in trust. The members are vulnerable. Moderators here were always selected, with care, through long observation of their contribution to the boards to find those members who had the ability to tell when someone was ill versus when someone needed a kick in the ass, and respond appropriately. If possible, they were also selected for knowledge of psychology, or meds, or an academic discipline, but these latter qualities were not as important as the former.

We had some sharp cookies. (Cookies filled with nuts.) We were all crazy, too, of course, members first, Mods second. And we always worked as a team, because we understood that anyone could be symptomatic at any time, and we all served as a check on each other. We Modded the boards where we had experience with the condition or the topic, and generally stayed away from the ones we where we didn't, because what members here have always needed are facts and sound advice, not speculation and ignorant spitballing.

The members here are vulnerable because they become symptomatic, erratic, psychotic, delusional, obsessive, paranoid, and crushingly depressed, and as a result do and say things that would get them banned from most other websites. You have to make judgment calls about whether someone is having suicidal ideation or actually at risk of suicide, knowing that either way all you have to work with is words across the wires. It's not easy. You have to get to know people and follow their lives. You have to read all of it, not just the part that's interesting, and take it all in, but not absorb it to the point that everyone else's struggle becomes your own. You cant' take any of it personally, and you have to be double-damn-sure you don't take your own shit out on anyone, because you have Mod powers and you can never abuse them, or the whole asylum will come crashing down around your ears.

It's hard. If you undertake it, realize that you can't let just anyone help you Mod it, and if a Mod loses sight of the mission and starts focusing on what's "social" or political, or does anything unethical, they have to go, no matter how much you might like them personally.

We never permitted anyone with a professional credential in any health care field to declare their bona fides on the boards, lest members start turning to them for unofficial professional advice that they had no ethical business giving in this context, where their words would take on inordinate weight. Nor did we allow academics (and we had quite a few) to barge in and start asking the members to participate in research studies without us scrutinizing those plans. Very, very few of them met our high bar for protecting our members.

A place like this can't be run by one person, especially if that person suffers from MI also. It takes a team, and the team has to have a common shared mission, with principles. For example, we took banning very seriously, and had a standing policy that a decision to ban anyone could only come after three formal warnings (or something dangerous or inexcusable) and could not be done without the concurrence of two Mods and one Admin. We debated a lot, argued a lot, sometimes heatedly. The members never saw most of that. It went on in the back room. Importantly, the core of this ethos was present from the start, in the sensibilities of the founding Moderators, who understood the nature of the needs of people with MI, and what a peer support site would have to do not just to meet those needs, but to provide a safe harbor. Not just safe from the outside, but safe inside as well.

If you take something like this on, you assume a duty of care for the human beings who take shelter under your digital roof. It's not something to be done lightly, or by the faint of heart, and it takes a commitment of personal energy. I contemplated whether I could try to transition the site to a new format, as I have the skills to build and run a modern website, but I am getting older, and I have fought the demons in my brain for 35 years, and I am losing the war. Twenty years ago I could have done it; I am too broken now. But if you think you can—if you read all of the above and are not daunted—then I pass the torch to you. It burned for 18 years. I'd like to see it blaze again.

 

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The best moderators :( I never felt like moderators here picked sides and were unfair. Decisions that I mightn't have made myself always seemed fair and were made with kindness. There are very clear and well thought-out rules that everyone understands and if we were approaching them it was often enough to tap the sign. Because it was such a good team it never seemed vindictive, it was never reactive, it was always responsive. It's really difficult to be.. what's the word.. to be talked to pointedly... by a mod, it's always going to bring up feelings, but that was done so well to minimize that "rejection sensitive dysphoria" that many of us know well (and similar agonies).

I couldn't have done it, I couldn't do it now. I can imagine my RSD flaring, or someone saying something I see as cruel and me forgetting to take into account the mental health and safety and right to peace of mind of the person who said it as I reacted and rushed in to defend someone else.

I think one thing we could do is somehow stick to blogs, Q+As ("did anyone else find they got taller after taking probiotics?"), and games (like word association) and not do discussions because I imagine that's where tensions most often arise,  but of course they can arise anywhere.
 

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1 hour ago, Antecedent said:

I think one thing we could do is somehow stick to blogs, Q+As ("did anyone else find they got taller after taking probiotics?"), and games (like word association) and not do discussions because I imagine that's where tensions most often arise,  but of course they can arise anywhere.

I might additionally recommend that people avoid chatrooms. When our software eliminated its native chat capability, we elected not to try to replace our chatroom with a third-party plugin largely because chat had always been a constant moderation nightmare and an almost daily source of friction between members. It was a breeding ground for cliques and brought out the worst in insecure personalities. The danger of the chat medium is not just that the messages are conveyed in blind text with no facial cues to convey context or intention, but also the speed at which misunderstanding can ignite into flames. More than one would-be king or queen of the chatroom emerged and had to be deposed. We probably banned more individuals because of chat behavior than all other reasons combined.

As an autistic person, I quite literally cannot tolerate the environment of a chatroom for more than a couple of minutes before I have to retreat. We had to designate specific moderators as ChatMods because they were mentally resilient enough to operate in those conditions without getting caught up in the turmoil themselves.

All of which is to say, I know that chat is a tempting solution to provide a feeling of connection, especially when feelings of isolation or loneliness set in, but be aware and cautious of what such places can often be like, or turn into without notice.

On the other hand, if you enjoy juggling glass jars of nitroglycerine in your spare time, have at it.

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