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: 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: The Beginning of the End

You never know what straw is going to break the camel’s back. The incident that ultimately led to my downfall on the board started out innocently enough but at that point nothing I did was considered innocent.

Someone posted a video of George W. Bush dancing at a funeral and many members expressed the belief that he was drunk. I said I did not believe he was drunk. We debated back and forth whether or not he was drunk for a while until a member called Vegas (all names mentioned from here on out are pseudonyms for the names or screen names of board members. Some have been mentioned previously in this saga. Others are being introduced for the first time) said “Yet another thread derailed by Kira nonsense. If you want to believe it’s impossible for a former alcoholic to start drinking again, you are free to believe that and we are free to disagree. I don’t know why you have to insist that you are right and we are wrong. Just let it go. Jeez.”

Hedwig then piped up to agree with Vegas and say “I have a feeling that if the majority had said George Bush wasn’t drunk Kira would have said he was. Gotta have whatever contrary opinion allows you to have every other post in the thread!”

Apparently I was exceptionally unlucky on that board when it came to discussing former presidents and I just couldn’t win. As you may recall, the incident that resulted in me being suspended started when I posted about an issue involving Woodrow Wilson without giving my own opinion on the matter and was subsequently accused of being unable to think for myself and relying on the board to do my thinking for me. Now when I clearly was thinking for myself and expressing an opinion that the board hadn’t formed for me I was accused of doing so solely for the sake of being contrary.

I was frustrated so I said “Oh yeah, another thread derailed by me because I’m a horrible person who’s responsible for all the problems on this forum and no one shares any blame for the way they choose to interact with me.”

Hedwig retorted with “That sounds about right. I know you’re being sarcastic but it’s pretty much true.”

Trixie jumped to my defense with “Hedwig, those comments were unnecessarily cruel. It’s understandable that someone on the autism spectrum would see neurological differences as accounting for strange behavior before they would see drunkenness. If someone made a comment like that to my daughter I would be so heartbroken for her.”

Hedwig snapped back that the fact that she would be heartbroken for her daughter did not mean anyone on the board should have to walk on eggshells around me or take my autism in to account because autism was no excuse.

Suki said “Ouch. Some of the comments made to Kira just seem unnecessarily mean. If I was told that I was always responsible for things going wrong and always ruining everyone’s fun I would just be so hurt. There are people in my life that I find annoying but I don’t treat them like this. There must be better ways to deal with someone who wants to be a part of every conversation.”

Then CatWoman said “I agree with Hedwig and I don’t care if that’s cruel . Kira, you monopolize the board, you argue for the sake of arguing, you take offense at things that aren’t offensive and you post in every thread. Why can’t you stop this behavior? I don’t understand.”

At that point I let loose and wrote a long post detailing all my thoughts, feelings and frustrations. I pointed out that I was not breaking any board rules and that there were people who appreciated my contributions to the forum. I pointed out that me posting on the board was not preventing anyone else from posting whatever they wanted and that if anyone didn’t want to read what I posted they didn’t have to. I talked about my struggles with my disability.  I said I knew there were people who were hoping to drive me off the board by going out of their way to make me feel unwelcome, by constantly poking at me until I snapped and lost it completely but I wasn’t going to let that happen. I acknowledged that my participation in the forum was not entirely healthy but that it also helped me psychologically in some ways and without it my mental health might be worse.

I guess I was hoping that by laying it all out there like that I would get people to finally understand and acknowledge where I was coming from but that’s not what happened. I was made fun of for writing an ‘epic length post’.

Lola said that my long post proved that I enjoyed being dogpiled. She told me I was addicted to the board and showed all the symptoms of an addict. I couldn’t stop and I didn’t want to stop.

Firecracker told me that a hyperdefensive wall of text in response to complaints about monopolizing the board was shocking, that people kept trying to nudge me in the direction of appropriate social behavior but I wouldn’t listen and that every other forum she’d been a part would have tossed me out a long time ago.

Candy told me that I should observe the behavior of other people and conform to it-it was unusual for anyone to post as much as I did or to post when they were on vacation like I did.

Starbuck said that it wasn’t normal for a message board to be affecting one’s mental health and that I should see a psychologist (isn’t it just so helpful to tell someone who struggles with severe mental illness to see a therapist? As if that’s a brilliant suggestion they never would have thought of on their own and they haven’t already been in therapy for a long time.)

Clarissa felt that in saying I thought my mental health might worsen if I didn’t have the board in my life I was being deliberately emotionally manipulative.

Rudey Bozo said “Just because something is not against the rules doesn’t mean it’s okay to to do it. It’s called being courteous to other members. You don’t rule this board. This is not a Kiracracy. You’re just being selfish and immature.”

I have to admit that she did kind of have a point there and that the “this is not a Kiracracy”line was pretty clever but considering she was always hurling nasty insults including telling me to get a life and a job and calling another member an arrogant bitch, I don’t think she had much room to be lecturing me on courtesy to other members. Not to mention that the moderators often responded to complaints by pointing out that the offending behavior did not violate any rules.

Speaking of moderators, a moderator popped in to say that the moderators had been informed of the current situation and were monitoring it. She also told me she’d noticed the amount of posts I was making ramping up lately and was monitoring that as well.

Reagan said that no one was saying they wanted me banned but I was very annoying.

Lola replied “I want Kira banned. That way she can find whatever she’s looking for somewhere else and won’t come back and do the same thing in a few weeks or a few months. People were calling for her to be banned after the Woodrow Wilson thread and now she’s lost even more ground. The board will be fine without her. This is not the place for her.”

 

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 difficult Thanksgiving

The treatment I had received on the board and the thread devoted to picking me apart had sent me in to an emotional tailspin. I was constantly upset and agitated. I felt nervous, worried and anxious. I was overwhelmed by anger and despair. I perseverated on everything that had been said about me and everything I had said. I contemplated what I could have said differently and what I would say in the future.  I was unable to concentrate or focus on anything around me and I kept getting distracted, as my mind was elsewhere. I was frequently shaking, flapping and gritting my teeth.

My family noticed this and asked me what was the matter but I couldn’t bring myself to tell them. I found the whole thing too embarrassing and shameful. When I was brought to my psychologist and my psychiatrist for emergency sessions I couldn’t bring myself to confide in them either. My medication was adjusted.

Bernadette was upset by the way I had been treated on the board, especially by the way Marcia had treated me and she was upset that the moderators hadn’t done anything about it. She sent one of the moderators a message asking why they were okay with Marcia personally attacking me and accusing me of lying with no evidence to back it up. She received the following reply:

“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes of the board that you don’t see-messages between moderators and between moderators and other members. Nobody got off scot-free, it just didn’t get dragged in to the public arena. If Marcia wants to start a thread throwing a fit over the things that were said to her in private that would be her prerogative and you could find out exactly what went down. As she hasn’t done that, you’ll just have to trust that the moderators are doing their best to apply the same rules to everyone as fairly as possible.”

Gee, it sure was nice of the moderators to give Marcia the dignity of privacy. Too bad they couldn’t afford me the same dignity. You can see what a great job they were doing of applying the same standards to everyone.

That Thanksgiving I went to my sister’s house to celebrate, where I was exposed to more family members asking me what the hell was the matter with me. This was supposed to be a day of thankfulness and celebration. I knew that in the grand scheme of things being targeted on an internet message board was not that big a deal and that I had plenty in my life to be grateful for but with the emotional turmoil I was in, I wasn’t feeling very thankful or festive.

Then, just when I thought the situation with the forum couldn’t possibly get any worse, it did.

When Online is out of line: Glitter up your ass

That thread with my name on it was emotionally a hard thing for me to read.  Those comments in which people expressed disbelief at my age, accused me of using my disability as an excuse and implied that I was pathetic for living with my parents and spending a lot of time on the internet had preyed on my deepest insecurities and hit me in my most vulnerable spots. Those comments in which I was called an annoying, creepy, danger to the community had made me feel dehumanized, worthless and alienated. People had commented before in real life on my exceptionally good memory but no one had ever said it made me creepy or dangerous. Whenever they mentioned it it was in a complimentary manner. They found it impressive, admirable and a useful skill to have. Now even my assets were being turned in to weapons to be used against me.

There were however people who were sympathetic towards me and defended me against my attackers.

LionHeart wrote:

“It raises my hackles when people who barely ever post here anymore only pop up to bitch about how much Kira or the board sucks and are then gone with the wind. That kind of thing has happened here before and it nearly destroyed the board. I think the board may be swirling slowly down the drain anyway but perhaps we could do it with a shred of dignity.

But now that Kira is on a 2-week break all those who say she is killing the board for them won’t have to look at her heinous threads and she won’t beat them to all the scintillating topics they are just dying to post. I’m sure we’ll have a virtual Renaissance.

I’m not the biggest fan of the format of Kira’s threads but they’re a direct result of people jumping her shit for just posing a topic and saying “What do you think about this?” If she were to start including her opinion she would absolutely get her shit jumped for something else. I have no doubt about that. I also find it laughable that people claim they are so traumatized by the questions she poses that they are unable to respond, even if the topic interests them.

Overall I’m most annoyed by the people who obviously still care enough about this board to try to run Kira off/change her entire personality but don’t care enough to post here much at all.”

Honeysuckle wrote: “I haven’t said anything about this issue so far but I’ll say something now.  I’m speaking out now because I feel this was the wrong way to handle the situation and I feel sorry for Kira reading this shit. In the other thread I thought it was agreed that a “Let’s talk about Kira” thread would be a bad idea but here we go.

I think what collectively went on certainly approached bullying. Moreover, what essentially is the difference between bullying someone and being cruel to them? I guess cruelty is more encompassing than bullying so in fact what’s been done to her was even worse than bullying.

I don’t believe for one second that Kira was deliberately being antagonistic. As far as I can tell she’s made plenty of effort to take others’ criticism in to account but she is who she is and she’s broken no rules. There’s no obligation to post according to the format she’s laid out and there’s no rule saying everyone can only post one thread a day. Getting defensive was not helpful to her but I don’t blame her one bit for feeling defensive and showing it.

I get why people are put off by some aspects of her posting but I can’t for the life of me figure out why if you really want to participate in this board, she’s what’s stopping you. If you don’t like the threads she starts find a thread you do like, if you have a topic you want to discuss, start a thread about it, if the only topics that interest you are the ones  Kira’s gotten to first and you can’t find a way of contributing that’s an actual contribution and not a criticism of how she posted it, somehow I doubt you wanted to discuss the topic all that much. It’s hardly fair or accurate to blame her for why the board is stagnating.

Something has gone very wrong here and it isn’t Kira.”

Angel wrote” So Kira posts too much on a public forum? Yet we are always hearing complaints about how slow and boring this place has become. Not stating her opinion is irritating?  There have been lots of times when I’ve asked friends for their input about an issue because I’m not sure what my own opinion is. Getting defensive when she’s called out on pretty much every word she types makes her a bad person? If I was getting jumped on all the time I’d have a bad attitude too.

If you don’t want to read what Kira posts don’t. Put her on ignore and go on with your blissful Kira-free lives. Jumping on her every time she posts is immature. You can’t force someone to be what you want them to be.

Imagine Kira as your daughter or your sister. Would you want them treated as you have treated Kira?  You bet your ass you wouldn’t. A little kindness goes a long way. Stop being assholes.”

Angel caught some flack for the things she said. Some said it was hypocritical to advocate kindness and then call people assholes. I guess I’m a hypocrite too then. Unkind people are assholes.

Smartypants said “Kira is a grown ass woman. I don’t think we have to treat her with kid gloves and I don’t think anyone subscribes to the notion that we’re nice and blow glitter up peoples’ asses. She’s annoying. People get annoyed and say things about it. Tough shit. Maybe that’s the consequence for her annoying behavior.  If this many people think you’re annoying maybe you are annoying. Maybe she should move on to another platform like Facebook and stop hijacking this board.”

I wouldn’t want anyone to blow glitter up my ass or treat me with kid gloves but I also didn’t want to be insulted by people who were acting like kids.  Being nice is usually considered a good thing but that board did seem to have this bizarre belief that nice is the opposite of smart and nice is the opposite of honest.

Quackers said “If a child of mine were getting upset about their online interactions I would be asking serious questions about the depth of those interactions and why they are being taken so seriously. Then I would take it as sign to wean them off of what was clearly causing a disproportionate emotional response.”

This exemplifies another misguided albeit common belief- that it’s unreasonable to be upset or angered by anything that is said on the internet or to take anything that’s said on the internet seriously because it’ ‘just the internet.’ This is nonsense. Words have power and words can hurt, whether they’re spoken, written or typed. The computer (or Iphone or tablet) screen between you and the people producing the words does not serve as a buffer against hurt feelings.

Moose Pimples said: “Actually if anyone in my family was behaving the way Kira was online I’d deliver the smackdown myself or watch the fallout with a great deal of schadenfreude and laugh my ass off as they got exactly what they deserved.”

If I told anyone in my family abut what was going on I was pretty sure they wouldn’t laugh or tell me I deserved to be treated that way but I had not told anyone about it because I found the whole situation embarrassing.

There were various other comments made in that thread:

“I have a great deal of sadness and compassion for Kira.  I suspect she’s had a lot of  setbacks in her offline life and has internalized the seemingly constant barrage of people telling her she’s a worthless failure. We don’t know about her life beyond what she chooses to share here but every time she posts I feel sad for her. She is a bright, articulate person and she seems to have utterly no one giving her the help she needs to improve her life.

I do think she uses this forum in unhealthy ways but I also think it does her good and provides some light in her life. I hope her break is a good one but I worry that it’s only going to isolate her further.”

“I appreciate that Kira has gotten many, many interesting discussions going here that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. I don’t believe for one second that this board would be thriving more if she’d been more restrained in her posting. If she hadn’t been here the membership and participation rates would still have declined and it’s quite possible they would have declined much more dramatically than they did. Her enthusiasm for starting new topics is probably keeping as many people holding on as it’s driving others away.

That being said, I’m concerned about how invested she is in this place and I don’t feel good that her participation here, however much it might be keeping the forum going may be contributing to the decline of her mental health. Hasn’t she mentioned that she suffers from depression? I have no idea how I would react to a discussion like this if my mental health were less than optimal.”

“I think I know exactly what’s going to happen when Kira reads this thread and it’s not going to be pretty.”

” I would really like to stay away from the idea that Kira uses autism as an excuse. I find accusing someone of using their disability as an excuse to be rude and presumptuous. You are essentially telling someone that you know better than they do how their disability affects them. You are appointing yourself the supreme judge of how people are and are not allowed to be legitimately affected by autism without even being autistic yourself.”

“I used to use this board in a similar manner to the way people are suggesting that Kira uses it now. I posted just to post and it didn’t matter if the online interaction was meaningful. I just needed validation that I existed outside my bedroom.”

“The way Kira uses this board is problematic and unhealthy. It bothers me that there’s nothing we can do about that, not just for the board’s sake but for Kira’s as well.”

There were people who thought referring to me as “Miss I have autism” was unnecessarily  bitchy and then there were people who accused those people of being delicate snowflakes who would fall apart if someone looked at them the wrong way.

Q-Tip (sorry, now I’m just creating screen names based on random objects in my room) said “I think it’s wrong and pretty damn rude to ask Kira to take a break from the board. I see it as asking the weird kid who gets picked on at school to not come in while the mean kids are allowed to stay and play,”

Rabbit said she felt that it was kinder for the moderators to ask me to take a break than to have me stay and continue to experience what I perceived as being picked on and torn apart.

Oh, yes, it was so very kind of the moderators to ask me to take a break and then start a thread inviting everyone to pick on me and tear me apart when I wasn’t there to defend myself.  Some people on that board had compassion for me and some did not. Whoever the moderators were and however they felt about me, they showed an appalling lack of compassion by starting that thread.

Shortly before the forum administrator locked the thread HushPuppy said “Is anyone else uncomfortable that there are 10 pages about Kira? I’m surprised she’s still being discussed and dissected. Maybe we’re just as obsessed with her as she is with us.”

Yes, I was uncomfortable that there were ten pages devoted to discussing and dissecting me and yes, the obsession went both ways.

 

 

 

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.

 

When Online is out of Line: No innocent victim

Although the moderators of that forum had never really come down on my side or spoken out against the people who attacked me, this time some of the people who attacked me were so far out of line, I held out hope that the mods would defend me and admonish my attackers.

Instead I got a message from them asking me to take a break from the board for two weeks and assuring me that it wasn’t meant as a punishment. It felt like a punishment to me and I didn’t appreciate that I was the one that was supposed to remove myself and not my attackers. Since I was so wrapped up in that forum and it was my main form of socialization, being away from it for two weeks was not appealing to me.

I replied by asking if I was really being given an option or if I was going to be forced to take a break. I said that it didn’t seem fair that I was being asked to leave when other people were bullying me, that they would just see that they could make me leave by antagonizing me.

This was the reply I got:

“Well, we’d prefer that you take a break on your own but since you don’t want to, we’re closing your account for two weeks starting tonight. We don’t like it but we’ve run out of other options. None of this is fair or unfair. It just is.

No one is making you go away. You are being sent away to get some perspective. Maybe you can think of ways to spend your time that don’t involve this board. Maybe you can follow the advice you’ve been given and post threads that are more personally meaningful to you.

No one is bullying you. They don’t like you and they’re no longer being polite about it. There’s a difference. We’ll deal with those people but you’re no innocent victim in all of this. We’d ask that you stop flying off the handle every time you think someone is being rude to you. It only escalates the situation and you’ve been wrong about the other person’s intention more often than not. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt and we’ll request that others do the same for you.”

I felt rather gaslit by that response and I found parts of it to be ridiculous. I don’t think I’d been wrong about the other person’s intention more often than not. The only instance I could recall in which I supposedly misread someone’s intention was when Marcia said something I perceived as a slight against me and she claimed she didn’t mean it like that. Considering Marcia’s history of attacking me, I think I can be forgiven for perceiving it that way.  Making passive aggressive statements to insult someone else and then claiming they’re misinterpreting you when they get upset about it is an emotional manipulation technique as is telling someone that their perceptions of reality are usually wrong.

Another way to gaslight someone is to tell them they’re always over reacting to things they have legitimate reasons to be upset about. Yes, I had certainly gotten defensive on that forum but I saw that as a natural reaction to being attacked, not as ‘flying off the handle’ in reaction to imagined slights. I didn’t just think people were being rude to me, I knew they were being rude to me. Sometimes it’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt but sometimes there’s no benefit of the doubt to give. When Marcia called me a troll was I supposed to assume she was complimenting me on my brightly colored hair?

These people were ‘no longer being polite’ to me but they weren’t being rude to me?  Considering all the awful things that had been said to me on that forum, I was surprised at how hurt I was by the statement ‘They don’t like you.’ It’s human nature to want to be liked. Logically I know not everyone’s going to like me but I don’t like being disliked by a large group of people.

That subforum in which I was being reprimanded for posting threads that weren’t personally meaningful to me?  It was called Outside and Impersonal. The thread in which I was reprimanded? It was about something that was happening in the town right next to the town in which I lived.

The moderators, however, were absolutely right that I needed to get some perspective and find ways of spending time that didn’t involve the forum. Unfortunately perspective and better ways of spending my time were not things that would come to me easily.  Nor would they come to me quickly.

Reading and participating in that thread had been traumatic for me.  Every cruel insult, negative comment and nasty criticism was like a prick to my skin and left me with a sinking feeling in my stomach.  The notice that I had been suspended for two weeks left me feeling like I had been punched in the face. That night I went to a movie but I didn’t comprehend it much at all because I was so upset and my mind was so preoccupied.  Unfortunately my trauma was just beginning.

The next morning I contacted Bernadette.

“Hey, how are you?” I asked.

“I’m okay. I’m pissed that you were forced to take a break from the forum but no one who antagonized you was.”

“What’s going on on the board?”

“The mods started a thread with your name on it.”

 

 

 

 

When Online is out of Line: Teenage Mutant Ninja Moderators

If you’ve read the first two chapters of my When Online is Out of Line saga you may be wondering about the moderation on that forum. Most internet forums are moderated by forum members whose identities are out in the open. This forum had ninja moderators. Members of the forum moderated under accounts that were separate from their regular membership accounts and their identities were kept a secret from the general membership of the board. Each moderator’s screen name was Ninjamod followed by a number and each one had an avatar that was a cartoon of a ninja.

I guess the rationale behind making the moderators anonymous was to prevent the moderation decisions from affecting the way other members perceived and interacted with them when they were just being regular members of the board. They wanted to prevent favoritism and bias as well as accusations of such.

I can understand that rationale but ultimately I think the concept of ninja moderation is rather silly and that it’s better to have a forum moderator’s identity out in the open. I never knew for sure who the ninja moderators were but after after putting some clues together I made some educated guesses that I was pretty confident about. I imagine there are members who know with absolute or near absolute certainty who the moderators are and members who have no clue who they are. When some members know who the moderators are and others don’t that creates an unbalanced and unfair dynamic.

Ultimately I think ninja moderation made people more inclined to suspect bias and favoritism. When a member praised or defended a moderator decision you had to wonder if they were really praising and defending themselves. When a moderator praised or defended another member you had to wonder if they were really praising or defending themselves or a good friend of theirs.

The ninja moderators said that they didn’t want to show favoritism and bias and that the same rules and standards applied to everyone. That’s what they may have aspired to but they certainly weren’t entirely successful at it and perhaps it wasn’t possible for them to remain unbiased. They were human after all.

There were some double standards for behavior on that board both among the moderators and the general membership. Some members were praised for or given passes on doing things that other members would be criticized or chastised for doing.

The person on that board who criticized me the most was a woman named Marcia. One time she criticized me when I was admittedly not on my best behavior but she was behaving just as badly. I recognized that I was behaving badly and apologized for my behavior. When a moderator came in to the thread they did not acknowledge my apology. They told me my behavior was really immature and not worthy of a member of that board and praised Marcia for criticizing me in the manner that she did. She had criticized me in a manner that was rather immature and vicious, which was par for the course with her.

During that incident I got a message from a board member we’ll call Weasel. She acknowledged that she and I hadn’t always agreed on everything but one thing we could agree on was that Marcia was a total cunt. She went on to say that I wasn’t imagining things or seeing things that weren’t there, Marcia had a a vendetta against me and jumped on everything I said. She didn’t know why but she guessed it was probably just because she’s a bitch.

I’d never said or done anything horrible to Marcia so I did find the viciousness with which she was constantly attacking me to be rather baffling. It could have just been because she’s a bitch or there could have been more to why she chose me as a target. Maybe I just rubbed her the wrong way, maybe I reminded her of someone she didn’t like, maybe I reminded her of something she didn’t like about herself, maybe she went after me because she perceived me as being vulnerable.

Marcia was the one who first started attacking me on that board and others followed her lead. She wasn’t as pretty or as nice as Marcia Brady but on that board she enjoyed similar levels of popularity.  I suspect she was more feared than loved though, as she could be pretty damn intimidating. She wasn’t particularly smart or interesting but she did have some “interesting” ideas. For example she though that little kids who brought napkins to school are sissies, that dentists are lying crooks that should be avoided and that it’s inappropriate to discuss one’s relationships with other people with one’s therapist.

I was made fun of on that board for my high post count but Marcia had the highest post count of all and had been a member of that board for many years. What would have been characterized as rudeness or cruelty had it come from most other members was characterized as bluntness and refreshing honesty coming from her, which is funny considering she’s a dishonest person.

There was proof that Marcia had been dishonest about her life (there will be more about that later) but a member called Purple Cat once accused another member of lying about details of her life with no proof at all as she mocked and insulted her. I said that was mean spirited and suggested taking the feelings of other board members in to account before making comments like that to them. Purple Cat snapped at me but eventually acknowledged that what she said was hurtful and apologized.

Bernadette then sent me a private message saying it was admirable that I’d stood up for another member who was being targeted. Shortly afterwards I got a private message titled “This is a Warning” from a moderator. It said that my behavior was unacceptable and if I didn’t tone down my responses to people they’d be forced to take further action. The moderator explained that I’d called Purple Cat out and rapped her over the knuckles for a very minor offense and it was not my job to police the behavior of other members. If something someone said bothered me I should ignore it or report it to the moderators rather than rile people up.

I asked the moderator why they were perfectly fine with other members policing my behavior and calling me out on minor offenses. I didn’t get a response to that but the next time another member publicly called me out over a minor offense some people suggested that it would have been better to address the issue privately. The moderator said they disagreed because this was a self policing board and publicly calling me out in this manner was a good example of that.

One time when I was googling the name of the board I ended up clicking on a link to a blog post about the board. I’d been hurt by the comments that were made about me on the board but the comments that were made about me on that blog were even worse. One comment read “That imbecile Kira is on a European vacation and spending the entire time on the internet. Most members could only dream of going on such a trip but Kira’s using up all the bandwidth in Romania to keep refreshing People. com. Maybe someone should plunk her down at McDonalds so she’d know what it’s like to work for something for once in her life. What a spoiled ungrateful brat.”

Another person referred to me as a sad sack who lived in her mama’s basement with an encyclopedic knowledge of celebrity baby names and said that if that was the only thing she could think to do with her brain she’d blow it out. There was another comment that referred to a pedophile on the board. I didn’t imagine that comment referred to me but when I brought those comments up on the board someone said they’d heard rumors that there were people on the board who thought I was a pedophile. I have no idea what gave them that impression.

Some people on the board did some detective work and the identity of one of the members who’d made those comments was discovered. The moderators acknowledged that the comments were distasteful but since they weren’t actually made on the board they didn’t break any board rules so they weren’t going to do anything about it. Some people expressed sympathy for me and said they were sorry I’d had my feelings hurt by reading such awful comments about myself. Others told me to just get over it and stop looking for reasons to get offended.

Once when I started a thread sharing some funny stories from my childhood and inviting others to share funny stories from their childhoods a member named Cowgirl responded to me with “You had to start a whole thread over shit like this?”  When another member told her that response was uncalled for she said  “I don’t fucking care” and “Who’s paying you to defend Kira?” Shortly afterwards a quote written in Georgian text appeared under Cowgirl’s screen name. It translated to “Defending that person is like defending Windows 8.”

Cowgirl and Maleficent ganged up on me to derail my thread by filling it with a bunch of memes and jokes that were unrelated to the topic I’d wanted to discuss. A moderator came in to say that Cowgirl was being rude but she wasn’t breaking any rules so nothing would be done about it and that I should just ignore her. She also said that she felt Maleficent’s apology for what she had done was sincere. She had made no apology of any kind (not even a fake ‘sorry not sorry’ kind of apology.) This wasn’t the first time a moderator had claimed someone had apologized for their behavior when they hadn’t.

It was funny in a not funny kind of way that I’d get in trouble with the moderators for doing things that were not against the rules but if someone was rude to me they’d get let off the hook because they weren’t breaking the rules. It was funny that my actual apology had been insufficient for the moderators but complete non-apologies from other members were sufficient. Bernadette decided that ninja moderators defined apologies as any post that was not blatantly antagonistic that was made by a member they favored and directed at a member they didn’t favor.

Since I kept getting in trouble with the moderators, it got to the point where every time I saw they were active and online I’d feel fear and nervousness in the pit of my stomach because I figured they were about to criticize me for something I’d done. Even though my private messages were often friendly messages from other members, every time I saw I had a new message I’d think “Oh shit, what did I do now?”

I’ve never been one to blindly follow authority and there have been times when I’ve rebelled against it but for a while I tried to have a certain amount of respect for the authority of the ninja moderators. I tried to convince myself that they were right, tried to rationalize the things they said and did, convince myself that there were no double standards, that they treated everyone fairly and equally.  After all, it can be pretty disturbing to acknowledge that the people who lead you, who have the power to make important decisions that will affect your life are corrupt in some way and are working against your best interests.

I’m experiencing a much more major version of that now through the leadership of my country under the Trump administration. It would be pretty hard for me to leave this country and I wouldn’t want to anyway because it’s my home and I’m attached to it. In terms of logistics it would have been quite easy for me to leave that board but emotionally it was too difficult. It was a toxic environment that often caused me distress but I’d become attached to it and it felt like my home on the internet.