When Online is Out of Line: The Best Worst Thing That Possibly Could Have Happened

I was very pleasantly surprised by the general response I got from the friends from my past I reached out to. They told me how happy they were to hear from me and they bore me no grudge for my years of silence. When we talked it was as though those years of silence had never happened. We picked up where we’d left off and I felt as comfortable with them as I had years ago. One friend told me that getting in touch with me had made her day, summer and year. The feeling was mutual.

I ended up talking to some of my old friends on the phone and getting together with some of them in person. When I’d been deprived of genuine, face to face friendship for so long, having it again produced feelings of giddiness and euphoria akin to first love. I began to wonder why I had wasted so much time on that forum with people who did not like me, did not appreciate me and did not have my best interests at heart when there were people out there who loved me, appreciated me and wanted nothing but the best for me.

I realized that the way I was viewed by that forum in general is not the way I’m viewed by people in general or the world in general. Many people view me as funny, witty, intelligent and empathetic.

I realized that as powerless as I had felt on that forum, I now had a choice in whether or not I continued to let the people there have power over me. They could not make me feel inferior without my consent and it was time for me to revoke the consent I’d given them. I could refuse to wear that scarlet B they pinned on me.

I knew I was continuing to be mocked, snarked on and torn apart en masse but so what if those people didn’t like me? I don’t like them either. So what if they think I have major character flaws and behaved inappropriately? They have some major character flaws themselves and engaged in some wildly inappropriate behavior themselves.

It was hard for me to shake the notion that since I’d been banned from the forum and those people hadn’t, they were right and I was wrong but I just need to look to the larger world to know that authority figures don’t always make the right decision and justice is not always served.

I can’t even say the moderators made the wrong decision in banning me though. There’s a lot I could say to the moderators about that but this is what I’d like to say to them most of all: Thank You.

Thank you for getting me away from those toxic people and that toxic environment. Thank you for giving me the impetus to seek out better people and better environments. I know a lot of people claimed that forum would be better off without me. I’m not sure if that’s true but I do know I’m so much better off without that forum.

 

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: The Sting of Betrayal

Although I had been closer to Karen than I had been to Weasel, being blocked by Weasel hurt more. Karen had given me an explanation for why she had blocked me and I had come to believe that she had both of our best interests at heart. Weasel had blocked me with no explanation. I was left to speculate as to why she had done that and I did not believe her intentions were in any way noble.

I kept thinking about how she had consoled me when Karen had blocked me. I thought about how I had said to her “You aren’t going to block me, are you?” and she had replied to me “No, Kira I would never do that. I am your friend always and forever.” Now I felt like an idiot for believing her.

When I told Bernadette what Weasel had done she said “I’m not really surprised. I wouldn’t have expected her to remain loyal for very long.  She flip-flopped on me a few times. She’s a fair weather friend.”

A few hours later Bernadette got the following e-mail from a ninja mod:

“This is a notification that you are henceforth banned from the forum for your creepy, and frankly unhealthy obsession with “outing” a supposed faker and the lengths to which you have gone to dig up proof of faking.

We have examined your proof and found it to be wanting and you are no longer welcome in the community.”

At that point I put two and two together and realized what had happened. Weasel had taken the information I had confided in her as a friend and shared it with the moderators in an effort to get Bernadette in trouble, stir up drama and make herself look good on the forum.  Those questions she had asked me about Bernadette had not been friendly, innocent questions. They had been leading questions meant to get me to spill information that she could use against me and my friend. And I had been dumb enough to fall for it.

The truth was that if anyone had a creepy, unhealthy obsession with outing a supposed faker, it was me, not Bernadette. I had suggested  to her that since those assholes on the forum wanted to accuse me of lying about my life with no evidence to back it up, despite all their efforts to dig for it, we should go back and share the evidence we had found that proved Marcia was a liar. Bernadette had replied that that would be pointless, as the people on the forum would just complain about how creepy and trollish we were and then go back to starting cat threads. They weren’t worth our time.

Neither of us cared that Bernadette had been banned because she hadn’t planned on returning to the forum anyway but boy did Weasel’s betrayal sting. It stung even more than all the nasty things that had been said about me on the forum. At least those people had been upfront about the fact that they did not like me and that they did not care if they hurt my feelings.

Weasel,  on the other hand had pretended to be my friend and to be concerned about me. She had reached out to me at a time when she knew I was emotionally vulnerable and encouraged me to confide in her. Then she had taken what I had confided in her and used it to stab me in the back. She knew full well how hurt I would be at being blocked by her but she did it anyway because tattling on another friend of mine for her own personal gain and pettiness was more important than my feelings or emotional well being.

At that point the emotional progress I had made since being banned from the board started unraveling. My acceptance of the situation had been based on the premise that I still had friends from the board that I could socialize with online. Now I was seeing that those friends could not be trusted and could slip away from me at any time. I felt completely and utterly alone. I was slipping in to a pit of despair.

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: A Silver Lining

Although I was fond of many of the people on the forum and I had a certain attachment to them, I did not consider most of them to be my friends. Karen I did consider to be a friend so losing her her brought a fresh level of pain to my situation.

At the same time, the banning was resulting in me forming friendships with people from that forum. One of the people I became especially friendly with was a woman I’ll call Weasel. I call her that because at one time she had a wild weasel running loose in her house and it became a joke on the forum but as you’ll see later in this saga, the name is also appropriate for other reasons.

I told Weasel about what had happened with Karen.

“I’m sorry. Losing a friend is hard” she replied.

“I wonder if Karen was starting to believe I was a faker like people were saying”

“She doesn’t believe that, sweetie”

“Why do you think she blocked me?”

“It has nothing to do with you personally. She’s just stressed.”

“You aren’t going to block me too, are you?’

“No, Kira, I would never do that to you. I am your friend always and forever.”

I wrote a message to Karen and asked Weasel to relay it to her. It said that I was hurt by what she she did but I understood why she did it and I hoped she would be friends with me again someday.

Karen replied: “Thank you for the message. Honestly, I am very worried for Kira. I think I probably encouraged her in ways that I shouldn’t have and I feel quite guilty over that. It was nice to be able to vent all the things that would irritate me and that was not only a petty thing to do on my part but I kinda feel like I contributed to her demise. Selfishly I don’t want to be banned if I tell her things that are happening on the board, but even more than that I didn’t want to sabotage any good that might actually come from her getting away from the board.

I wish her all the best. She has an amazing mind and is funny and clever and I still like her, I’m just afraid that I’m not good for her right now.”

After that I started to feel a little bit better. I reasoned that Karen might be friends with me again some time in the future, that I was deepening my friendships with other people on the board and that I would no longer be interacting with my cyber enemies. Maybe some good actually would come from me getting away from the board.

When Online is Out of Line: Your Time Here on This Board is Done

Under the line in the message informing me I had been banned was a line that said When ban will expire: Never. Under that line was a line that said reason for banning: E-mail sent to Kira*****@****.com.

A swift punch to the gut.

I opened my email. It read:

Hi Kira,

I think the posts in that George Bush thread were a long time coming. I think your time here on this board is done. At this point you have burned through all the good will people may have had. Once that happens the relationship just deteriorates completely.  I feel for you because I know you struggle but we don’t think this place is going to help you. We see the same patterns over and over again. It is destroying this community. It is time for you to move on. We will be closing your account. We wish you all the best in your life.

-NinjaMod6

At least that message from the moderator was more empathetic than the one I got when I was suspended.

“I’ve been banned” I said to Karen.

“Wow, really? The moderators haven’t said a thing on the board.”

A few minutes later the moderators announced my banning on the board. Their announcement read:

“The other moderators and I have agreed to ban Kira. Ultimately she didn’t have a healthy relationship with this board and that didn’t seem to be changing. We got more reported posts about her behavior than everyone else on this board combined. We think this is for the best for everyone involved.”

If it was true that they got more reports about my behavior than everyone else on the board combined and not just an exaggeration for effect it could have been because my behavior was exceptionally heinous but it also could have been because a bunch of petty and immature tattletales decided to complain to the mderators about my every move in an effort to get me banned.

“What are people saying now?” I asked Karen.

“They’re saying how surprised they are. Most people thought you would get a warning or a suspension.”

I wasn’t really surprised that I got banned but I was still devastated.  A place that had been an important part of my life for twelve years,a place that I had devoted so much of myself to, a place that was my main and often my only source of entertainment, socialization, conversation and friendship had just been taken away from me and I was never going to get it back.

Although I had been deeply hurt by all the ways in which people on that board had attacked,insulted and ostracized me over the years, I had never shed any actual tears over it. The night I was banned I cried myself to sleep.

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.”