If you’ve read the first two chapters of my When Online is Out of Line saga you may be wondering about the moderation on that forum. Most internet forums are moderated by forum members whose identities are out in the open. This forum had ninja moderators. Members of the forum moderated under accounts that were separate from their regular membership accounts and their identities were kept a secret from the general membership of the board. Each moderator’s screen name was Ninjamod followed by a number and each one had an avatar that was a cartoon of a ninja.
I guess the rationale behind making the moderators anonymous was to prevent the moderation decisions from affecting the way other members perceived and interacted with them when they were just being regular members of the board. They wanted to prevent favoritism and bias as well as accusations of such.
I can understand that rationale but ultimately I think the concept of ninja moderation is rather silly and that it’s better to have a forum moderator’s identity out in the open. I never knew for sure who the ninja moderators were but after after putting some clues together I made some educated guesses that I was pretty confident about. I imagine there are members who know with absolute or near absolute certainty who the moderators are and members who have no clue who they are. When some members know who the moderators are and others don’t that creates an unbalanced and unfair dynamic.
Ultimately I think ninja moderation made people more inclined to suspect bias and favoritism. When a member praised or defended a moderator decision you had to wonder if they were really praising and defending themselves. When a moderator praised or defended another member you had to wonder if they were really praising or defending themselves or a good friend of theirs.
The ninja moderators said that they didn’t want to show favoritism and bias and that the same rules and standards applied to everyone. That’s what they may have aspired to but they certainly weren’t entirely successful at it and perhaps it wasn’t possible for them to remain unbiased. They were human after all.
There were some double standards for behavior on that board both among the moderators and the general membership. Some members were praised for or given passes on doing things that other members would be criticized or chastised for doing.
The person on that board who criticized me the most was a woman named Marcia. One time she criticized me when I was admittedly not on my best behavior but she was behaving just as badly. I recognized that I was behaving badly and apologized for my behavior. When a moderator came in to the thread they did not acknowledge my apology. They told me my behavior was really immature and not worthy of a member of that board and praised Marcia for criticizing me in the manner that she did. She had criticized me in a manner that was rather immature and vicious, which was par for the course with her.
During that incident I got a message from a board member we’ll call Weasel. She acknowledged that she and I hadn’t always agreed on everything but one thing we could agree on was that Marcia was a total cunt. She went on to say that I wasn’t imagining things or seeing things that weren’t there, Marcia had a a vendetta against me and jumped on everything I said. She didn’t know why but she guessed it was probably just because she’s a bitch.
I’d never said or done anything horrible to Marcia so I did find the viciousness with which she was constantly attacking me to be rather baffling. It could have just been because she’s a bitch or there could have been more to why she chose me as a target. Maybe I just rubbed her the wrong way, maybe I reminded her of someone she didn’t like, maybe I reminded her of something she didn’t like about herself, maybe she went after me because she perceived me as being vulnerable.
Marcia was the one who first started attacking me on that board and others followed her lead. She wasn’t as pretty or as nice as Marcia Brady but on that board she enjoyed similar levels of popularity. I suspect she was more feared than loved though, as she could be pretty damn intimidating. She wasn’t particularly smart or interesting but she did have some “interesting” ideas. For example she though that little kids who brought napkins to school are sissies, that dentists are lying crooks that should be avoided and that it’s inappropriate to discuss one’s relationships with other people with one’s therapist.
I was made fun of on that board for my high post count but Marcia had the highest post count of all and had been a member of that board for many years. What would have been characterized as rudeness or cruelty had it come from most other members was characterized as bluntness and refreshing honesty coming from her, which is funny considering she’s a dishonest person.
There was proof that Marcia had been dishonest about her life (there will be more about that later) but a member called Purple Cat once accused another member of lying about details of her life with no proof at all as she mocked and insulted her. I said that was mean spirited and suggested taking the feelings of other board members in to account before making comments like that to them. Purple Cat snapped at me but eventually acknowledged that what she said was hurtful and apologized.
Bernadette then sent me a private message saying it was admirable that I’d stood up for another member who was being targeted. Shortly afterwards I got a private message titled “This is a Warning” from a moderator. It said that my behavior was unacceptable and if I didn’t tone down my responses to people they’d be forced to take further action. The moderator explained that I’d called Purple Cat out and rapped her over the knuckles for a very minor offense and it was not my job to police the behavior of other members. If something someone said bothered me I should ignore it or report it to the moderators rather than rile people up.
I asked the moderator why they were perfectly fine with other members policing my behavior and calling me out on minor offenses. I didn’t get a response to that but the next time another member publicly called me out over a minor offense some people suggested that it would have been better to address the issue privately. The moderator said they disagreed because this was a self policing board and publicly calling me out in this manner was a good example of that.
One time when I was googling the name of the board I ended up clicking on a link to a blog post about the board. I’d been hurt by the comments that were made about me on the board but the comments that were made about me on that blog were even worse. One comment read “That imbecile Kira is on a European vacation and spending the entire time on the internet. Most members could only dream of going on such a trip but Kira’s using up all the bandwidth in Romania to keep refreshing People. com. Maybe someone should plunk her down at McDonalds so she’d know what it’s like to work for something for once in her life. What a spoiled ungrateful brat.”
Another person referred to me as a sad sack who lived in her mama’s basement with an encyclopedic knowledge of celebrity baby names and said that if that was the only thing she could think to do with her brain she’d blow it out. There was another comment that referred to a pedophile on the board. I didn’t imagine that comment referred to me but when I brought those comments up on the board someone said they’d heard rumors that there were people on the board who thought I was a pedophile. I have no idea what gave them that impression.
Some people on the board did some detective work and the identity of one of the members who’d made those comments was discovered. The moderators acknowledged that the comments were distasteful but since they weren’t actually made on the board they didn’t break any board rules so they weren’t going to do anything about it. Some people expressed sympathy for me and said they were sorry I’d had my feelings hurt by reading such awful comments about myself. Others told me to just get over it and stop looking for reasons to get offended.
Once when I started a thread sharing some funny stories from my childhood and inviting others to share funny stories from their childhoods a member named Cowgirl responded to me with “You had to start a whole thread over shit like this?” When another member told her that response was uncalled for she said “I don’t fucking care” and “Who’s paying you to defend Kira?” Shortly afterwards a quote written in Georgian text appeared under Cowgirl’s screen name. It translated to “Defending that person is like defending Windows 8.”
Cowgirl and Maleficent ganged up on me to derail my thread by filling it with a bunch of memes and jokes that were unrelated to the topic I’d wanted to discuss. A moderator came in to say that Cowgirl was being rude but she wasn’t breaking any rules so nothing would be done about it and that I should just ignore her. She also said that she felt Maleficent’s apology for what she had done was sincere. She had made no apology of any kind (not even a fake ‘sorry not sorry’ kind of apology.) This wasn’t the first time a moderator had claimed someone had apologized for their behavior when they hadn’t.
It was funny in a not funny kind of way that I’d get in trouble with the moderators for doing things that were not against the rules but if someone was rude to me they’d get let off the hook because they weren’t breaking the rules. It was funny that my actual apology had been insufficient for the moderators but complete non-apologies from other members were sufficient. Bernadette decided that ninja moderators defined apologies as any post that was not blatantly antagonistic that was made by a member they favored and directed at a member they didn’t favor.
Since I kept getting in trouble with the moderators, it got to the point where every time I saw they were active and online I’d feel fear and nervousness in the pit of my stomach because I figured they were about to criticize me for something I’d done. Even though my private messages were often friendly messages from other members, every time I saw I had a new message I’d think “Oh shit, what did I do now?”
I’ve never been one to blindly follow authority and there have been times when I’ve rebelled against it but for a while I tried to have a certain amount of respect for the authority of the ninja moderators. I tried to convince myself that they were right, tried to rationalize the things they said and did, convince myself that there were no double standards, that they treated everyone fairly and equally. After all, it can be pretty disturbing to acknowledge that the people who lead you, who have the power to make important decisions that will affect your life are corrupt in some way and are working against your best interests.
I’m experiencing a much more major version of that now through the leadership of my country under the Trump administration. It would be pretty hard for me to leave this country and I wouldn’t want to anyway because it’s my home and I’m attached to it. In terms of logistics it would have been quite easy for me to leave that board but emotionally it was too difficult. It was a toxic environment that often caused me distress but I’d become attached to it and it felt like my home on the internet.