When Online is Out of Line: The Scarlet Letter

Whenever someone was banned from that forum I was a part of, the moderators posted an image of a troll being struck by a bolt of lightning and the word ‘banned’ appeared under their user name. They would also be added to a thread titled ‘banninated’ which served as a kind of banning hall of fame. It included a list of the people who were banned, a description of the reason they were banned and a link to the thread in which they were banned. The rest of the thread was devoted to mercilessly mocking the banned members and speculating about their lives. This of course, was in addition to the mocking and speculation that occurred in the original thread in which they were banned as well as the mocking and speculation that occurred in various other threads at random times.

If the banned member was active in the Facebook group associated with the forum they would be removed from that group upon their banning. Many current and previous members of the forum would unfriend or block the banned member on Facebook upon hearing of their banning.

Before I was banned I would sometimes participate in the roasting of banned members. It gave me a sense of camaraderie and a feeling that I was a part of the community. Once I was the one who was banned, knowing that I was being torn apart by the community and that I had become a persona non grata felt awful.

It was as though I had been branded with a scarlet letter but instead of wearing an A for adultery I was wearing a B for banned. I was an object of scorn and a punchline of jokes. In being represented as a troll I had been dehumanized and rendered as ugly on the outside as I felt on the inside.

Perhaps being rejected from that community would have been easier if I’d had another community to turn to but I didn’t. Of course there are a lot of other internet forums out there and I did consider joining a few of them but ultimately decided not to. Who’s to say I wouldn’t be just as hated at those places and treated just as badly, maybe even more so?  The truth was that as horrible as that bad baby names message board could be, as far as message boards went, it was not one of the more horrible ones. In fact, I think it was one of the nicer ones.

The prospect of reaching out to people from my past was in the back of my mind but it was a scary prospect indeed. What if I was just as annoying, rude and immature as all those people on the forum said I was? What if all those negative things those people said about me were true?  Why would anyone want to be friends with someone like that? People had been friends with me in the past and had applied positive descriptors to me such as funny, intelligent and empathetic but that was then. I had changed over the years. Maybe I had, as one forum member suggested, experienced a decline in my mental abilities. Maybe I had become, well, the kind of person who got banned from message boards.

There were people from the forum who even now, liked me but maybe those people were wrong about me and everyone else was right about me. After all, my best friend from there had been banned herself.

I drew comfort from my forum friends who told me that being banned was not a reflection of my worth and that those horrible things those people had said about me were a reflection on them, not on me. Yet my ties with those comforting friends seemed tenuous. I feared they would ditch me like Karen and Weasel had. Then I would literally be friendless.

Fear and loneliness continued to eat away at me until one day I decided to start making friend requests and sending messages to friends from my past. I knew I was taking a risk but decided it was a risk worth taking and I would just have to hope it turned out better than when Bernadette and I had decided exposing Marcia’s lies was a risk worth taking.

When Online is Out of Line: I’ll Be Back

I heard through the grapevine that it had been announced on the forum that Bernadette had been banned for stalking Marcia. People were creeped out and horrified that we had searched the internet for information about Marcia and her family even though they had done the same thing to me less than two weeks ago. Their hypocrisy infuriated me.

While being banned is meant to prevent you from ever coming back to the forum, getting back on to a forum you’ve been banned from is pretty easy to do. To read the public area of a forum you’ve been banned from all you have to do is clear your cookies. If you want to post on the forum and gain access to the members only section you have to register for another account without being recognized for who you are but that’s not too difficult to do either.  If you’re not banned by or recognizable by your IP address it’s as simple as registering under a different email.  If IP address is an issue then you just have to register with a different email from a different location or use an IP blocker.

Old habits die hard and after I cleared my cookies I was going back to the public section of the board on a regular basis. That section of the board was devoted solely to discussing names but even there members were writing nasty, insulting comments about me. One member re-started a thread that I had started previously, saying she wanted a thread that was Kira-free. Another member said she thought Magnolia would make a good middle name for a kid but was hesitant to suggest it because it had been my user name. She went on to say that she was really, really fucked off that I hadn’t changed my user name before the ban hammer hit because Magnolia was a lovely name but I had turned it in to something that should not be used. Then there was the member who referred to me as a psycho stalker with the posting speed of a spambot

Many if, not most, of the members who have been banned from the forum I was a part of have come back under a different account. Sometimes they’re upfront about who they are and tell everyone off but usually they come back under a fake identity and make themselves a part of the community again by pretending to be someone they’re not (then there are those who are banned for originally creating a fake identity and come back as themselves.)  Other members eventually discover that they’re a previously banned member, at which point they are banned again. Sometimes they continue to come back with more fake identities. There are also banned members who create new accounts so they can lurk on the forum without posting.

Registering for that forum again to post under a fake identity was never remotely appealing to me but coming back to tell people off was and so was registering to go back and read everything that had been said about me after I was banned.

I had more anger over the whole situation than I knew what to do with. As a release I wrote “letters” to the board that I deleted soon afterwards. I had this fantasy that if I “sent”those letters everyone on the forum would agree that I was right, that they would recognize their hypocrisy, that they would apologize for how badly and unfairly I had been treated but I knew it was just that: a fantasy. “Sending” that letter would just make me look worse in the eyes of the assholes and hypocrites. They would respond to it by further attacking and insulting me.

When I told my forum friend Trixie that I was considering going back to the forum to give everyone a piece of my mind she said she didn’t think it would be worth my time. She also said nothing good would come out of reading the thread in which I was banned.

“I want to go back and read the thread where I was banned” I said to Bernadette

“Why? You know it would just be really stupid.”

“My curiosity would be satisfied”

“Satisfied in a good way?”

Well, no, my curiosity would not be satisfied in a good way but unfortunately I had the kind of curiosity that didn’t discriminate between good and bad. I wanted to know all the lurid details of everything even if I knew they would upset me. If people were talking about me I felt I had the right to know what they were saying.

Towards the end of the summer in which I was banned I went on vacation to Rhode Island. I brought with me the new computer I had gotten for my birthday. This seemed like a good opportunity to register for the forum again with a low risk of being recognized. I set up a new email account for that purpose.  I would get back on to that forum, I would learn everything that had been said about me there and maybe I would give it a piece of my mind.

 

When Online is Out of Line: Pop Goes the Weasel

While the accusations that I was lying and faking were hurtful to me, they were also helpful. Some of the people on that forum were clearly ridiculous fools. Since they were clearly and unequivocally wrong in their claims that I was a man with multiple internet personalities who had faked my dog’s death, perhaps they were also wrong in their claims that I was a rude, annoying troll who was incapable of thinking for herself . Because as always while there was a part of me that felt those people were judging me unfairly and were wrong about me, there was also a part of me that felt they were right about me.

Weasel told me the names of the people who had accused me of faking. Some of them came as no surprise because they were the people who would constantly attack me on the forum but some of them did surprise me because they had never said anything cruel about me before.

“I was also surprised that some of those people accused you of lying but I’m sure they were just doing it because they wanted to feel like they were part of the crowd. It has nothing to do with you personally” Weasel said.

“They can search the internet for evidence that I’m a liar all they want. They’re never going to find any because I haven’t lied about anything.”

“Exactly. They’ve been digging and all they’ve come up with is ‘Oh yeah, that matches up with what she said.’ ”

I told her about the evidence Bernadette and I had found that Marcia was lying. Her mind was blown. Like me, she’d always disliked Marcia but had never suspected she was a faker.

“Maybe I should go back to the forum and post the evidence we found of Marcia’s lies” I said.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“You’re right. People will just believe what that they want to believe and Marcia is already a miserable person so there’s no point in trying to make her more miserable. It would end up hurting me more than it would hurt her.”

“Do you think Bernadette would do it?”

“I don’t know. She didn’t seem too enthusiastic about it the last time I mentioned it.”

Weasel also told me that a lot of people on the forum had said they hated that I was banned. When I later asked her who those people were she told me that she’d been cautioned by people on the forum not to share any more information about what was happening on the forum with me and she’d realized they had a point. She wasn’t helping me move on by doing that.

“Okay, I’m curious about what’s been said about me but I understand why you don’t want to tell me.”

“The thread really wasn’t even that bad, Kira. It was mostly concern for you with a smattering of ‘she’s annoying’ from assholes.”

Before I knew it a few weeks had passed since I’d been banned. I was surviving. I wasn’t doing all that well emotionally but I hadn’t been doing well before I was banned either. Those ‘old chestnuts’ of autism and mental illness that according to the forum I used as an excuse for my bad behavior were continuing to wreak havoc on my psyche.

As I thought about the accusations from the forum that I’d been lying about my life, I thought of some of my interesting life stories and was inspired to write some of them down. This wasn’t the first time the forum had gotten my creative writing juices flowing. For Bernadette’s amusement I would write hypothetical scenarios that could occur on that forum. They read like sketch comedies.

I was talking to Weasel every day,  sometimes for hours. We would talk about current events, our personal lives, our likes and dislikes. We shared our past and present experiences and our problems and struggles with each other.

One day when I logged on to messenger eager to talk to her, I was not able to send a message. Thinking there was something wrong with my computer, I clicked on her profile. I saw the yellow X of death. She had blocked me.

When Online is out of Line: The Morning After

For years the first thing I had done when I got up in the morning was check that internet forum. When I got up the morning after I was banned I felt the reflexive urge to do just that. When I remembered that I couldn’t and thought about what had happened, a sinking, empty, dreadful feeling spread throughout my my body.

Although I could no longer log in to the board since I was banned word gets around the internet so I heard about some of things that were being said about me there.

Whitney said: “I won’t be weeping into my pillow over this decision, god knows, but I do think the way we got here was….not great. The woman had been a member here, for good or ill, for a very long time, and the tone of some of the posts directed at her today made me really uncomfortable. Yes, she was annoying. Yes, she insisted she wasn’t going to change. Yes. And yet, I would have thought we as a community were better than some of the insults flung at her. I don’t know. I understand that tempers were frayed and patience has just all run out for her. But I’m a little disappointed at some of the things that were said. Maybe it doesn’t matter now, the situation is over, but that’s what I think.”

Frenchie said “I’ll cop to being someone who had to take a commenting break from the board for about six months because I thought I was being a total butthead to Kira but I wasn’t reeling it in. I was always at a ten with her no matter what we were discussing. I couldn’t figure out how to deal with someone who took everything I said so literally, and then didn’t seem to internalize any of it at the same time. And I was way ruder than I should have been. On the other hand, she was driving me up a wall, so this will definitely prompt a lot of uncomfortable navel-gazing on my part. ”

I appreciated both of those posts very much because even though I was called annoying it was acknowledged that no matter how annoying I was it was not okay for people on that forum to have treated me as badly as they did.

Sushi said: “Wow, I missed the party… but then I have things to do, like prep a house for my in-laws, who are descending upon us next week.

I’m another one who has been here since 2004 (and before that, under a forgotten login) and look at my pathetic post count… But Kira? 28,000+ posts. Not. healthy.

I’d been seeing her posts ramp up again rather badly recently, and I sighed aloud to myself: she’s slipping again. This time, she was in threads she really had no reason to be in, like Pregnancy Updates… which I thought was weird. It’s one thing to peruse them and lurk, but to post when you aren’t part of the convo at all was just a bit bizarre. So I started avoiding her threads/posts other than the Minor Celebs thread. I just couldn’t take it.

I don’t like banning long time posters but this was absolutely justifiable. She’s divisive, provocative, rude, has these annoying blinders on, and acted like she ran the board. I started to find it insulting that every time she was called out on her excessive posting and rudeness, she’d drag the old autism/mental health chestnut out again. I think this latest go-round became really untenable, even more than the previous attempts to curb her impulses, and I saw that she continued to chase away other posters, this time including myself. It’s that relentless thing in her that just grates and drives everyone nuts.

Thank you, ninjys. I truly hope she finds counseling that will help her behaviors.

I hope this opens a new chapter where folks can be comfortable posting again.”

That post I did not appreciate so much. Since Sushi thought the number of posts I had in relation to the amount of time I had been on the board was so unhealthy I have to wonder how she felt about those people who had been members for a shorter time period and had more posts than me. I also have to wonder how she felt about those other people who posted in threads that they “had no reason to be in.”

She found it insulting that I would bring up the old autism/ mental health chestnut?  Well I found it insulting that she would refer to disorders I’ve struggled with all my life and have suffered a lot from as an old chestnut.

I have gotten counseling to help myself but my counseling has never focused on behaving in ways that will please the assholes of the internet because there is no pleasing the assholes of the internet. The assholes of the internet might benefit from counseling themselves.

The events leading up to my banning certainly hadn’t felt like a party to me and now that I had been banned my mood was rather funereal.  My grief was compounded by a couple of feelings I couldn’t shake: 1. It was my own fault I’d been banned and I’d gotten what I deserved  2. Being banned from an internet forum really was not a big deal and it was ridiculous for me to be this upset about it.

I reasoned that if I had posted less or argued less with the people who criticized me I wouldn’t have been banned so how could I complain or grieve over a situation I had brought upon myself?

I knew that people could grieve and feel a sense of loss over situations that did not involve death but extending that concept to being banned from an internet forum seemed a bit much. It was just an internet forum after all. It wasn’t like it was “real life” and it wasn’t like being banned from it was the end of the world.

Yet the truth was that that forum had been a very real part of my life and that when I was banned from it a part of my world did come to an end.

Grief is among the most painful emotions humans can experience. Another painful emotional experience is social rejection. I had just been kicked out of a social group that was very important to me and was really my only social group outside of my family.

Of course alongside my feelings of grief and rejection were feelings of anger. I was angry that I had been banned, angry at what those people had said to me, angry about the hypocrisy, the unfairness and the cruelty. Sometimes the anger was so intense it felt like a boiling hot rage welling within me and the only thing that could fill the overall emptiness I was now feeling inside.

Bernadette tried to comfort me:

“I’m sorry people have been so rude to you, Kira. I know it always hurts a little when the dogpiling starts, even though we’ve all seen it before. Being banned will feel weird for a little while – for a few days it’ll keep popping into your head. You might even think of checking the board over the next few weeks, forgetting that you’re banned for a moment. Then when you remember, you’ll feel bad about how it all happened. Soon enough, though, you’ll stop thinking about the board except for occasionally, and you’ll feel more neutral than negative.

You’ll laugh when Karen posts something ridiculous from the board and be glad you don’t have to deal with it. You’ll be amazed when you think about how much idiocy and cruelty you’ve put up with for years. You will find other ways to occupy your time, online or off. For example, I chat with people on Facebook more now, and I’ve read a couple of books for pleasure, a habit I had unfortunately lost in college. I also found some really fun strategy and sim-type games that I play sometimes. If you want to read about names, go to sites like Baby Name Wizard or blogs like British Baby Names. If you want discussion of news and various topics, try Quora, or look for subject-specific boards.

Again, you will be totally fine. Soon, you’ll wonder why you ever stuck around that forum when people there treated you so horribly for such a long time. Yes, many people there are intelligent, some are funny, and a few are kind, but many are also arrogant intellectual snobs who enjoy bashing others for sport. Just look how much we complain about them!

You don’t need people like that in your life. They’re not even worth a “bye, shitters” post. When I was first suspended, I considered returning after the six months to share my true thoughts and get banned once and for all, but why bother? I don’t want to waste my time. It would be like complaining on Facebook about people who were mean in high school. It’s over now, and everyone should move on.”

Even as I recognized the wisdom in her words, I still felt awful and I was still reeling from being banned.

 

When Online is out of Line: Bird Noises in the Bathroom

As I read the latest thread that had turned in to me being attacked en masse, there was that familiar sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. My heart was racing. I felt like I was in the middle of a hungry wolf pack, being attacked on all sides.

The attacks and the insults just kept coming. People who had previously defended me attacked me. People who I had assumed liked me or were at least neutral towards me attacked me. People who had been away from the board for a long time came to the thread to tell me I was the reason they left and to attack me.

Yo-ya said “I tried to come back to the board a while ago but it was the same old Kira show. Autism is no excuse for your behavior. My 9-year-old stepson is autistic and has some behaviors that are annoying as shit like making bird noises in the bathroom but unlike you he stops when we tell him to. People who just want to enjoy themselves shouldn’t have to deal with you. You’re just birds noises in the bathroom.”

Jill said she was all for people being honest and blunt but telling me I was just bird noises in the bathroom was extremely mean spirited. Yo-yo replied that she didn’t see how it was any meaner than what anyone else said.

I was especially hurt at being told I was just bird noises in the bathroom but there were plenty of other mean comments:

“You’re a troll. Go be annoying somewhere else on the internet.”

“You’re ruining this board. Get a blog or something.

“You are literally addicted to this board. Get out of here. You should probably get off the internet entirely but baby steps…”

“Your standard of behavior is really shitty and it has zip to do with autism. You expect people to pat you on the head and walk on eggshells around you and when they don’t you lash out.  There’s no hope of you controlling yourself at this point.”

“Kira doesn’t give a shit about anyone else.  She uses mental illness as an excuse.”

“I can’t stand Kira.”

“We’re not your puppets or your therapists.”

“You are using the board in what is universally agreed upon to be an unhealthy manner.”

“Everyone is bothered by you.”

“You’re either going to get banned or this board is going to become a sad, empty place.”

“I’m ready to pack up and leave this board right now.”

“This is not the place for you. You need to go.”

“We have never distinguished between deliberate and unintentional trolling here.  If you troll you get banned.”

“If you get banned it’s your own fault.”

Despite or perhaps because of the emotional distress that thread was causing me, I could not tear myself away from it. I felt compelled to keep reading it, keep responding to it, keep trying to defend myself. Fear and panic were descending on me. Being banned now seemed like a very real possibility.

“I think I’m going to get banned” I said to my forum friend Karen.

“The ninjas said they’re monitoring the situation”

“But popular members are saying they want me banned so that will probably convince the ninjas to ban me.”

“It hasn’t convinced them before.”

I was keenly aware of how vulnerable I was. I knew that I could be banned at any moment and that I was powerless to stop it. My feeble attempts to defend myself left me feeling small and pathetic. The way I was once again being ganged up on and insulted, the way my words, my behavior and my life were once again being picked apart left me feeling utterly humiliated.

In addition to the people insulting me, there were people expressing concern for me.

“Kira, I know how important this board is to you and if a group that was important to me wanted me kicked out I would be devastated but it’s what needs to happen. I was hoping you would get over your obsession with this board but you haven’t. I don’t want you to be unhappy. You’re a smart girl. You’ve been to college. You can go back to college.”

“You’re a young woman. Your life shouldn’t be so boring that all you do is sit on the internet all day. Go out and do something. Volunteer, join a group, find a hobby. Don’t die without anyone knowing or caring. There’s a serious danger of that happening.”

Kevin, one of the few men on the board, said:

“I’m not sure how true this ‘Kira is a recluse who has nothing in her life but this forum to occupy her’ narrative is.  Even if it is true I’m not entirely comfortable with what is undoubtedly an attempt to get Kira to leave the board being framed as an altruistic urge to help a troubled young person. It feels a little disingenuous.

That being said, it is undeniable that Kira has an extremely unhealthy relationship with this community and this community has an extremely unhealthy relationship with Kira. Kira, honestly at this point I don’t understand what you’re getting out of this relationship. I don’t know what the solution is though. I worry that if we run Kira off she will go somewhere where people will be far, far nastier than we could ever be.

I’m exhausted of these conversations and I cannot begin to imagine how they are making Kira feel. I’m tired of thinking and worrying about all of this. I’m upset that this is happening to a community I care about.”

I think that was the post that summed the whole situation up best of all.

The back and forth continued. Soon the thread was over ten pages long and for the second time the moderators created a thread devoted to bashing me, with my name as the title.

Dolly said I’d made no effort to change my behavior on the board and it was just the most annoying thing.

I pointed out that I had taken other people’s criticism of my posting in to account and adjusted accordingly. For instance, I now included my opinions about every news story I posted.

Sprinkles retorted that I had been asked to post less but I was still starting a lot of threads and asked if I honestly didn’t see the what the problem was.

I wrote some reply about how I didn’t see the problem with it because you didn’t have to read what I posted if you didn’t want to and you were free to start your own threads but no one ever saw that reply because when I went to post it a message popped up on my screen. It said ‘You have been banned.’

 

 

 

 

 

When Online is Out of Line : “Evidence”

The attempt to out Marcia for her lies went about as well as I expected it to go-meaning it went terribly. Although most of the board made it quite clear that they were curious about who the faker was and what the evidence that proved her lies was, they also took the opportunity to call Bernadette a troll, a shit stirrer and an attention whore for bringing it up.

Some said they didn’t care if anyone lied about their name or relatives, that people are entitled to privacy and that no one should be forced to reveal every single detail of their lives.

On that board there was no reason anyone would need to make up a fake name or a fake sibling for themselves in order to maintain privacy.  There were plenty of people who just never gave out their names and were referred to by their screen names.  There were plenty of people who never mentioned their siblings or who were only children.

If anyone wants to maintain that those kinds of lies don’t matter and that digging up information on someone like that is creepy or unethical that’s a perfectly valid viewpoint but practice what you preach and don’t throw stones from glass houses.

A moderator sent Bernadette a message chiding her for starting a shit stirring thread and asked to see the evidence she’d gathered. Bernadette forwarded the evidence and pointed out that the board rules said if you suspected someone of faking you could start a thread about it.

The mod replied that if you were going to start a thread accusing someone of faking you needed to name them directly, rather than drop hints and ask questions. Yeah, there’s no way calling Marcia out directly right off the bat would have gone over well either. She would have been criticized for making premature accusations and revealing personal details and would have been told that if she was going to start a thread she should have been more vague about it.

The next day a mod sent a follow up reply saying they’d decided the evidence was weak and did not prove any faking. They pointed out that if she’d just sent the evidence to them they could have told her that and that would have been the end of it but since instead she decided to start a shit stirring thread,  she would be suspended from the board for six months.

“I’m sorry I encouraged you to do this” I said to Bernadette after she showed me the message.

“It’s okay. We talked about the potential consequences. We knew this and worse could happen.”

“I feel like I should have known it would turn out like this.”

“This is disappointing but not surprising. I couldn’t have continued to post on the board and not said anything.”

“So, I guess you can come back in October.”

“I don’t think I will come back. This has left a bad taste in my mouth for the board.”

“I’ll miss you.”

“We can still talk off the board.”

In the thread a moderator posted a message similar to the one she had sent to Bernadette. She wrote that the mods had reviewed Bernadette’s “evidence” and hadn’t found any of it to be compelling. We had to laugh at their use of the term “evidence” because that was the term we used for the proof they supposedly had of Bernadette sending me screenshots. We knew the “evidence” of Marcia’s lies had to be more compelling than that “evidence.” Yet we also knew that whether or not moderators found evidence compelling depended at least partially on how they personally felt about the accuser vs. the accused and the popularity levels that the accusers vs. the accused enjoyed on the board.

The discussion in the thread soon moved on to jokes about faking, expressions of glee that Bernadette was gone and mocking her for things such as her love of The Backstreet Boys and Bernie Sanders.

At one point someone called Garamond said that they’d noticed that when I’d been suspended for two weeks Bernadette had stopped posting for two weeks and they wondered if that was meant as a gesture of solidarity. Garamond stated that if that was the case it showed a surprising level of emotional investment. In the past I’d been told I had an unhealthy level of emotional investment in the board for not wanting to take a break from it for a few weeks. Once certain people on that forum decided they didn’t like you, you were damned if you did and damned if you didn’t.

A board member called Sparky replied to Garamond by saying that she also had noticed that Bernadette had done that and that it would be interesting to see if I also disappeared for six months. Clearly these people felt entitled to talk about me as if I wasn’t there when I was there and clearly that was part of their (perhaps subconscious) plan to continue to make me feel alienated.

Perhaps I should have taken the opportunity then and there to disappear for 6 months (and then another 6 months after that, and another 6 months after that).  It may have spared me some of the humiliation and heartache I endured about 3 months later.

 

When Online is out of Line: Worth the Risk

Even though the rules of the board clearly stated that if you suspected someone of lying on the board you were free to call them out on it, we knew that it would be risky for Bernadette to do so regarding Marcia. Even though those who did online detective work to expose the lies of other members were usually hailed as clever heroes and those who were exposed were usually condemned as lying fools, we knew that in this case there was a good chance Bernadette would be condemned as a creepy stalker and Marcia would be seen as a victim.

Like me, Bernadette was a board target/outcast. Like me she was kind of weird and socially awkward. Like me she had a tendency to say and do things that were perceived by others as annoying, rude or offensive. Like me, she was often accused of  lying, trolling and shit stirring. I’d actually chided her for comments that I found rude or offensive myself and at one point I did believe she was a liar and a troll but once I started talking to her one on one I’d realized that wasn’t the case.

Then of course Marcia enjoyed a position of power, privilege and immunity on that board so any transgressions of hers were likely to be dismissed.

Bernadette decided to contact the site administrator Lorna about the evidence of Marcia’s lying rather than the Ninjas because her interactions with the Ninjas had been less than positive and they seemed rather biased.

Despite the fact that Lorna was the site administrator she actually wasn’t very involved with the forum. She didn’t post there very often, she often failed to address issues with the forum and she’d talked about selling the board to someone else. As frustrating as her lack of involvement with the forum she ran could be, it also meant she was less likely to be biased.

When Bernadette sent the evidence of Marcia’s lies to Lorna, Lorna replied that the evidence was impressive. She said she would talk to Marcia about her lies and get back to Bernadette with what she decided to do about it. Months passed and Lorna never got back to her. Marcia continued to lie and evidence of additional lies was discovered.

Was it creepy of us to dig up that evidence on Marcia like that and attempt to expose her lies like that? Perhaps. Do I feel particularly bad about it? No. Not after the way she treated me and the way she accused me of lying. Not when people on that board dug up information on Bernadette from the internet and presented it to the board, trying to catch her in a lie. Not when people from the board were Googling me, trying to catch me in a lie (more about that in later blogs)

It was ultimately a waste of our time and energy to get so wrapped up in exposing Marcia’s lies but being so wrapped up in the board in general was a waste of our time and energy. In all honesty I Google information about people I know or want to know more about all the time but I prefer to think of myself  as an unpaid private detective rather than a creep. I tend to assume most of the people who are horrified by that kind of thing are hypocrites because they do it too.

Anyway, we grew impatient and frustrated. Bernadette considered “outing” Marcia on the board but we couldn’t think of a good way to do it and we weren’t sure if it should be done.

“You keep going back and forth about this, Kira”  Bernadette said.

“Well, I’m conflicted. I want Marcia to get in trouble but I don’t want you to get in trouble”

“I feel the same way.”

Eventually Bernadette decided she was going to go ahead and do it. She didn’t want to contact the ninjas about it so she decided she would start a thread about it. Naming Marcia as the faker and revealing the evidence right off the bat didn’t seem like a great idea so she decided she would say there was evidence that a member was lying about things such as her name and the existence of certain family members and ask if people were interested in learning more. That didn’t seem like a great idea either but it was the best we could come up with.

“Is potentially getting in trouble over someone you hate really worth it?” I asked Bernadette

“Actually, Kira, I hate her considerably less than you do. I’m doing it in the interest of fairness”

“You know you’re going to get accused of trolling”

“I’ll say “Yep, I’m trolling for a good cause.”

“You might get banned.”

“That’s okay. It’s just a silly website I spend too much time on. I survived for years before I joined it and I’ll survive afterwards”.

“Just make sure you’ve thought through all the consequences.”

“I have. It’s definitely worth the risk.”

“Good luck.”

When Online is Out of Line: An Interesting Discovery

Soon enough my two-week enforced break period was up and I returned to the forum. In retrospect I wish I hadn’t returned. It would have saved me further drama, trauma and heartache. But hindsight is 20/20 and all that.

In fact, during my break Bernadette asked me if I thought I would ever leave the board. I replied “I think I might get banned eventually or the board might shut down” so clearly at that point I could not contemplate leaving.

I though of some things to say to the moderators and to the people who attacked me about the things they had said and done in my absence but in the end I did not say a word to them about it. I realized it wouldn’t do any good because they obviously knew how much they had hurt me and they obviously did not care. By responding angrily I would be giving those people exactly what they wanted. Instead I focused on thanking the people who had said things about me that were helpful or supportive.

As you may recall, the character I call Marcia was the one who said the nastiest things of all about me. Naturally this made her the subject of a lot of the conversation between Bernadette and I and naturally it made us curious about her. Bernadette asked me if I’d ever looked her up on social media. When I replied that I hadn’t she looked her up herself and shared what she found with me.

We had fun snarking on Marcia’s pictures and creating lolMarcia memes. I know it’s not very nice to make fun of anyone’s physical appearance because they can’t help the way they look but Marcia can help the way she treats people so I was pleased to discover that she’s as ugly on the outside as she is on the inside. And her fashion choices certainly don’t help matters.

Then Bernadette snooped on Marcia some more and discovered something interesting. Remember how Marcia accused me of lying about my identity? Well, it turns out she was being dishonest about her own identity.  Internet sleuthing revealed that her first name wasn’t Marcia as she claimed, her middle name wasn’t Ruth as she claimed and her last name wasn’t Jackson as she claimed.

If it seems weird that one would reveal one’s full name on an internet message board and weird that we would care that she was lying about her name, remember that this was a board about names. Marcia talked constantly about how she hated it when people spelled her name Marsha, pronounced it Mar-see-uh and made Marcia Brady references. She talked about how radical she was for keeping her maiden name of Jackson when she got married back in the 70’s. It turned out she’d actually taken her husband’s name of Green when she got married.

She also talked about how much she hated her sister’s middle name, Veruka.  It turns out Veruka is her own middle name and that the sister she calls Airlie appears not to exist. I suppose it’s possible that she just didn’t include her sister on her online family tree (that gave the option of listing a relative but making their name and information private) for whatever reason but despite the ninja’s previous advice, I’m not too inclined to give Marcia the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Let me make it clear that I have no issue with anyone using pseudonyms for the sake of privacy. In fact I’m using pseudonyms for everyone on this blog (I’m even using pseudonyms for pseudonyms-Marcia is not the name the asshole known as Marcia claimed to have) except Airlie, because there’s something very Freudian and funny about having a sister named Airlie who’s a lie you pulled out of the air.

What I do have a problem with is someone having the nerve to claim to have no tolerance for lying of any kind and to accuse others of lying about their identity with no evidence to back it up, when they are lying about their own identity. I wasn’t the only one she took to task for supposedly lying. She once chewed someone out for lying by referring to her friend’s son as her nephew. Funny, considering there’s a good chance her own nieces don’t exist at all. She said she did not think it was okay to lie about names on the forum. Funny, considering she had been lying about names on the forum for years.

The forum in general had a low tolerance for lying. It was made clear that you could choose not to reveal your name or your location but that if you lied about your name, location or pretty much anything else, you would be banned. Many people were banned for lying-sometimes for things like names, dates and locations, other times for things like fake children, fake deaths and fake stories. My personal favorite was the woman who was banned for pretending her dog was a human child.

Members of the board would go to great lengths to root out lies of other members through internet detective work and would take great delight in outing them for their dishonesty on the board. The person who lied would then be banned and the person who exposed them would be hailed as a hero.

The board rules stated that if you suspected someone of lying you could either contact a moderator about it or start a thread to out them.

“So, what are you going to do with the information you found about Marcia?” I asked Bernadette.

When Online is Out of Line: A Smoking Gun and a Dead Body

Bernadette told me that she had received a message from a moderator saying “It has come to our attention that you have been taking screenshots of the thread about Kira and sending them to her. What do you have to say about that?”

She had been sending me information about that thread but not in the form of screenshots so she replied “I have not taken a single screenshot of that thread (or any other thread as far as I can remember). Whoever told you that is lying.”

The moderator then replied with:

“Are you sure? I have a screenshot that says otherwise. It would be wise to come clean at this juncture.”

To which Bernadette reiterated: “I have not taken any screenshots. If you’ve seen a screenshot, it was not taken by me.”

Of course all of this only added to the fear and anxiety I was already feeling. Additionally I felt guilty for getting Bernadette in trouble but she assured me it wasn’t my fault and she bore no grudge against me.

Both of us were baffled by what the moderators had said because even if she had been sending me screenshots, short of somehow hacking in to our e-mails how on earth would they have been able to prove that?  What were they claiming to have a screenshot of? A screenshot of Bernadette sending me a screenshot? How would that work?

“The more I think about it, the more I think the moderator is lying” Bernadette said.

She decided to send an e-mail to the forum administrator, Lorna about the matter.

After explaining the situation Bernadette wrote in her e-mail:

“Okay, so something strange is going on right now, because like I said, I have never sent Kira any screenshots.  Please bear with me while I run through the few possibilities I can think of:
1.  Some liar took a screenshot of the thread about Kira and sent it to the mods, claiming that I took it.  Maybe the liar even Photoshopped the screenshot somehow to make it look as if I sent it to Kira.  The liar might have claimed that I sent the screenshot to Kira, who then sent it to the liar for some reason, not knowing that the liar would show it to the mods.  This scenario seems pretty unlikely to me, but I guess it’s possible.  In fact, I want to believe it’s true, because the other scenario I can think of is more upsetting to me:
2.  No one sent the mods any screenshots.  Knowing that I am friendly with Kira, ninjamod6 suspected that I might be sending her screenshots and decided to see if she could get a confession out of me.  In doing so, she lied to and manipulated me, abusing her power as a moderator.
I really don’t want to believe that one or more mods is essentially out to get me and/or Kira, but the first scenario just seems pretty unlikely to me.  I also have to ask, is sending screenshots actually against any board rules?  Again, I never sent Kira any screenshots anyway, but is ninjamod6 even justified in questioning me about sending screenshots?  I am just kind of baffled by this whole event.”
Lorna replied:
“If  the mods had it out for Kira she would have been banned ages ago. It would have saved them hours and hours of grief, would have made their lives easier, would have made their Thanksgiving nice and quiet . That we just gave Kira a two-week break rather than banning her has not been a popular decision but it’s fair
As for the screenshots, I’ve seen Ninjamod6’s evidence. It’s not a smoking gun and a dead body but it’s not nothing. If it was a conspiracy to frame you a lot of people put a lot of time and effort in to it.
I understand that Kira is asking you what people are saying about her. Nobody likes being talked about but sending her screenshots is defeating the purpose of the break, which is to get everybody to cool down. It’s spreading the drama, not containing it. IT’S NOT HELPING HER. “
The implication of that e-mail seemed to be that I should feel grateful to the moderators for not banning me despite pressure to do so but after all the nasty, unfair things they’d said and done to me, it was hard to feel gratitude towards them. I understand that I put them in a difficult position and that I was basically a moderator’s worst nightmare-someone who annoyed a lot of people but didn’t actually break any forum rules. I don’t know what the ideal solution to the problem was but I do know that starting a thread inviting the whole board to trash me when I wasn’t there to defend myself wasn’t it.
Maybe sending me information about the thread while I was on break wasn’t helping me but do you know what else wasn’t helping me? Starting that thread in the first place. I don’t see how it helped anyone. It certainly seemed to be inflaming the situation rather than cooling it down. No conversation about a conflict is going to result in an effective solution to that conflict if the person who’s the center of that conflict is not an an active participant in it. If people are just going to insult me, attack me and say I’m never going to change, they’re probably right about that last part.
“It’s not a smoking gun and a dead body but it’s not nothing and a lot of people put a lot of time and effort in to it? What could it possibly be?” Bernadette wondered.
“It IS nothing, or at least nothing that proves anything” I replied.
“Yeah, it’s “evidence” “
“Have you heard anything more from the ninja moderator?”
“Nope”
“Oh no, she didn’t believe that we could see her taking screenshots with our magical ninja powers! What do we do now?”
“Yeah, I may be naive but I’m not THAT naive.”

When Online is Out of Line: A Danger to the Community

That thread with my name on it was started by Ninjamod6. It read:

“We have asked Kira to take a break from the board for two weeks.  We realize not everyone will agree with this decision but it was the best we could come up with. It’s not meant as a punishment but it’s a technique we have used in the past when we’re getting numerous reports about the same person- the person takes a break and everyone calms down-although usually it happens behind the scenes rather than out in the open like this. When she comes back we request that you cut her some slack and we have requested that she do the same with members she seems to have an antagonistic relationship with.”

A member we’ll call Hello Kitty asked the moderators if they’d made a determination about whether or not I was being bullied. A moderator replied that they’d issued some warnings to other people but they saw it as rudeness and dislike more than bullying because they’d expect bullying to be more insidious and to go on over an extended time period.

Regardless of what the moderators wanted to call what was being done to me on that board, I certainly felt like I was being bullied. It had been going on for years and it had been getting progressively worse. I knew there was more to it than just what was directly said to me on the board itself.

I knew members were talking trash about me and spreading rumors about me behind my back . I knew that they did it over private messages on the board, over Facebook and on their spin off board that only a select group of members from the main board were invited to. I knew that behind the scenes I was being reported to moderators, that a bunch of members had reported me to Facebook for having a fake name so that I would get kicked out of the board Facebook group. I knew that a large group of people were doing their best to make me snap, to make me feel unwelcome and excluded from a social group that was important to me, to get me kicked out of it.

Once a moderator had said they didn’t think I was being bullied a member called Hedwig  said she found the whole situation weird because unlike most forums this forum hid the identity of the moderators and that meant the people who were picking on me could be moderators.

A member named Mackenzie took offense at Hedwig’s comment. She said it was seriously disturbing to suggest that the moderators were the bullies and that she thought the moderators had made a good decision.  It’s not surprising that she reacted that way since I’m pretty sure she’s a moderator.

Ninjamod 3 piped up to assure everyone that none of the moderators had been picking on me under their regular member identities. I’m sure everyone appreciated that very definitive proof.

A member called Cookie said “I assume you also got numerous reports about some of the other participants in that thread . I know I reported one person in two different threads on Kira-related matters. Have those people been asked to take a break?”

The moderators didn’t answer that question.

The thread went on for about 10 pages until the forum administrator locked it. For 10 pages people criticized me, insulted me, judged me, defended me and analyzed me.  For 10 pages people picked apart everything I had done in the past and predicted what I would do in the future. My motives were speculated about. My personal life, my mental health and my disability were all up for discussion.

Here are some of the things I got to read about myself:

“Kira is an unrepentant antagonist and while I’m sure the two week break will do nothing to curb her hyper posting and combative spirit, I am happy for the vacation from it.”

“Kira spends more time on this board than anyone else can possibly manage. Sometimes I wonder if she sleeps. What really creeps me out is her encyclopedic knowledge of old threads and of who posts what. I think there’s been some tiptoeing around her because of her autism and her life crap.”

“It gets annoying when half the board has to tiptoe around Miss “I have autism!”

“Kira appears to be high functioning enough to use autism as an excuse for her aggressive posting behavior.”

“I wonder what happened to Kira. She graduated from college, had a job at a daycare and mentioned having a boyfriend at some point. Now suddenly she is too disabled to do anything besides post on the internet and apparently even living on her own is impossible. I think she needs more help than we can offer here.”

“I am shocked to learn her age. I thought she was 24 or some such with issues that made her seem like a teenager.  30?????!!!!? She really does need more help than can be offered here.”

“I wasn’t aware of Kira’s background until a thread where I ended up picking on her inability to clean a toilet. I had no idea that she didn’t have those basic skills. I had it in my head that she had been to college, was working, etc,  Guess I was wrong. I apologized to her but after that I was more aware of her attack mode and of how much time and effort she spent here. Her encyclopedic knowledge spooked me out.”

“Two weeks is a long time for someone who seems to spend her every waking moment online. I wonder if in the meantime she’ll find another board and become obsessed with them instead. I cannot imagine she will survive cold turkey. When she was posting while she was on vacation in Romania “I thought ‘This is not healthy behavior’.

I’ve noticed an increase in her defensiveness, her whining and her arrogance towards the board. She made a condescending comment to me but I didn’t want to give her the attention of responding to it and I know that if I did I would get the “I’m autistic!” line. I agree that she needs help we can’t give here but we can help the board by reigning her in when she can’t do that herself.”

“The things Kira posts are shallow and not thought provoking. She’s contributed to the board stagnation and is one of the reasons I don’t come here as much as I used to.”

“Nothing Kira posts comes from a place of wanting to create discussion-it’s just to boost her post count.”

“I’ve had Kira on ignore for a long time but she’s so difficult to ignore. I see her posts everywhere because people are constantly quoting her in reply and she posts so often in every thread that half the conversation is lost in the Kira vaccuum. I think she’ll be away for two weeks and then not change at all. The main reason I had her on ignore was her complete inability to see things objectively and deal effectively with human beings. Dealing with her is so tiresome. It’s decreased my interaction with this forum. I look forward to being more active while she’s away.”

“I’m just wondering if we can trust that Kira will stay away for these 2 weeks. With her being as obsessed with the board as she is it seems reasonable to assume she’d create another account to skulk about the board with. I really can’t see her staying away.”

“There’s a quote I think is relevant to this situation:  ‘The only common feature in all your dissatisfying relationships is you. That is extremely true with Kira.”

“Here’s how arguments about Kira always go:

One: I don’t like the way Kira posts.

Two: Don’t respond to her then.

One:  She’s  ruining the board for me.

Two: Then put her on ignore.

One: Then I miss things and things are weird.

Two: Post your own threads then.

One: She posts in my threads too, She posts everywhere all day long.

Two: Post in the pregnancy and parenting forum. She’s never there.

One: Okay but her reading and memorizing my information is creeping me out so I don’t want to put my stuff out there.”

Once again the nastiest comments of all came from Marcia:

“People have said clearly and unequivocally that they’ve left the board because of Kira. More, including me have said that they post less because of her. Now that she’s gone the board is already looking more active. Ignoring her is problematic. She’s made herself a part of this board. No matter how annoying and irritating she is, she is there. If you put her on ignore a bunch of threads become inaccessible to you and several more become incomprehensible due to her manic posting unless you unblock her posts to read them, which defeats the point.

This board is my main community outside my workplace and if I put Kira on ignore I have roadblocks limiting where I can go. “Can’t go down that road, she’s blocking it, I’ll go in to this shop , oh wait, no, she’s blocking the window. With the few other members I’ve put on ignore (and all have ended up banned), I’ve maybe locked myself out of one shop. Kira’s different. She’s everywhere and she knows everything every one of us has said and doesn’t hesitate to use that information when it benefits her. She’d be a danger in my community and she’s a danger in this community.

I am bitterly disappointed in the moderators telling us to cut her some slack. I really didn’t think that’s how we do things around here. Kira is going to come back here full of butt hurt about how she was bullied and got punished and it’s just not going to be pretty.”

I’m not sure why Marcia thinks I’d be a danger in her community but since her community is very far away from me, contains a lot of spiders and contains her, she can rest assured I will never set foot in it.

I was not full of butt hurt about how I was bullied and got punished. I was full of real, deep, genuine, justified hurt.