I am a member of two writers’ groups on Facebook. One was founded as a fallout when Litopia disintegrated, and lots of people still wanted to hang out. It’s still in working order, despite having virtually no rules; one reason might be that it’s strictly by invitation, and you’re not very likely to start major fights with someone you actually know.
The other one had a Litopia moment the other day. A thread got heated, invectives started to get thrown about, and the moderators took the thread down. Moments later, there was another thread up complaining about the removal of the first one. It quickly descended into complaints about arbitrariness, despotism, and general violations of free speech.
This would happen every three weeks at Litopia.
After a few years of this, the moderators at Litopia - of which I was one - simply gave up. It’s not easy to stay positive, cheerful and impartial when people complain endlessly, which they will, simply because any group of more than three people will have different opinions about things. And that is, in brief, why the whole thing fell apart: there were not enough people left to run it.
With this experience, I have some advice for everyone who is a member of any form of online writers’ group. Or any online group at all, really.
* The Moderators are as human as you. They’ve got headaches and toothaches and bad days, too, like you. And sometimes they make mistakes. Cut them some slack. When you’re out shopping, would you actually yell at a supermarket attendant who made a mistake? (If you would, you’re simply an unpleasant person and there is probably not a whole lot I can do for you.)
* They do this for free, and you will get what you pay for. If it is a free service, you have the right to expect nothing. It is actually they who pay - by doing this instead of something they would rather be doing.
* Moderating the forum is not the most important thing in their lives. They have children, mortgages, jobs, cars that need repair and roofs that need mending, a grandmother who just fell ill and a dog that needs walking. Some days you won’t even register.
* Most importantly: What happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet. FOREVER. You’re a writer now, hence a professional; your name is your brand. And guess what? Your future business associates will google you. Your behaviour on the Web will come back to you. If you come across as a difficult person, someone who will happily lash out at people and dish out personal insults adorned with four-letter words at the mere whiff of a slight, you are henceforth labelled “Difficult to Work With” and you can expect form rejections. It might not be the worst possible reputation to have, but it’s definitely in the top three. (Unless you’re Harlan Ellison.)
This is why you should never complain when a moderator deletes your post. You should thank them.
They might have saved your book contract.