Confessions of a “Net-Nazi”

Hi, my name is Kathy, and I am, apparently, a “Net-Nazi”.

I first heard the term this morning, someone used it in a comment somewhere, while at the same time bashing the very trolls who make “Net-Nazis” a necessary evil, so I can only assume that one or the other part of the comment was sarcastic. Which part, I’m not sure.

Yes, evil, apparently, that’s what we are. We, the mods and admins of the web, the blood-thirsty, power-crazy bastards who dare to wield madly abusive and restrictive rules like ‘PLEASE STOP TALKING ALL IN CAPS’ or ‘do you think you could possibly post a message that isn’t made up solely of smileys and animated GIFs?’. I know, it’s like living in a police state.

I’ve been a mod or admin on various forums and message boards over the past 12 years, and a simple member on yet more of them. And the weird thing is that no matter what the subject of the board, no matter how nice the 99% are, there will always be 1% to ruin the whole thing for everyone. And it’s quite freaky to see how the same patterns keep repeating themselves on completely unrelated sites.

A few people start bending the rules further and further, a mod steps in and asks them (politely) to stop, they scream that they are being oppressed by the system and bend the rules even further, the mod asks them (a little less politely by now) to stop or they will get kicked off the boards, then they storm off, leaving bitter messages and inflammatory PMs telling everyone they have been persecuted by the mean old mods and they’re going off to start their own boards. And then they start poking and prying and plotting in their own little corner, obsessing over the “old boards” and ranting on and on about those bastard mods and how evil they are. In most cases they will secure the new boards just enough for leaks of what they are talking about to get back to the mods and let them know they are being talked about.

And as much as I have seen this pattern happen over and over again, I just don’t get it. But then there are many forms of offline dickishness that I don’t get either. I try to live my life by Wheaton’s first law (don’t be a dick), it’s not easy, we all have inherant molecules of dickishness (antiwheatonian particles), but it can be done. But what on earth can drive a person to “tracking down their enemy” (i.e. entering their screen name into google) and digging up personal stuff about them? This is also part of the same old repetitive pattern of board trolls, and if, like me, you’re a fairly public person on the web, there’s a lot they can find.

Thing is, I don’t care. I put that stuff there, I know it’s public and I haven’t posted anything that I’m ashamed of. No doubt when they come across the photos of me eating spit-roasted babies for breakfast, or discover my first prize in the puppy-kicking world championships of 2003, they’ll be reassured that I am the evil heartless despot that they always figured. But hey, it’s my past, and the interwebs will keep it safe and public until the end of the world (Only a year to go then, eh…).

I actually tried it myself, when I heard they had been “researching me”. It dug up some strange old stuff.

Like the details of how Dear Husband and I were desperately trying to have a baby back in 2004. I can’t believe I actually told people what day my period started on. Who the hell wants to know that? Weird. The basic google search brings up this blog, of course, my twitter profile, my flickr account (both of which are also available via this blog) and a bunch of volley ball videos which have nothing to do with me. Pure evil.

The thing is that as much as I don’t care what they get up to behind my back, it still hurts to be treated like an evil bastard when you were just trying to get people to stop bugging other people. I didn’t even use pepper spray! The thing is that mods are people too. When you spend hours and hours helping to build a community and then someone comes and pushes you around and calls you names for no reason, it hurts. When they then go around telling everyone that you are an arsehole and that you’ve been bullying them, it really hurts. And the thing is, I’m sure they think they’re in the right and that you really ARE a heartless oppressive bastard. And that’s what hurts the most.

I have seen nice people, really NICE people who become mods and who get completely crushed by this kind of behaviour. People who end up crying themselves to sleep at night, worrying about the prying and the feeling of violation that can come from knowing that someone, somewhere is looking into your every action on the web and any scrap of personal info they can find with malicious intent. As I said, I am quite a public person, and I know what I post and who it’s accessible to. But some people are more private, and don’t appreciate being poked at on the web.

I hate bullying, in fact I hate anything that even vaguely resembles bullying, even the consensual kind like dressing people up for their hen or stag nights and parading them around town. Even when it’s supposed to be fun. It makes my skin crawl. And this just feels like the nastiest most insidious form of bullying. It was why I have stayed away from forums for the last few years, until I got dragged back in to a situation recently, trying to help someone who was going through exactly this. And it’s also why I now have no patience whatsoever for people who behave like this.

So if you’re reading this and you have ever been in a situation like this, on one side or the other, take a deep breath and walk away. Move on. Don’t be a dick.

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2 thoughts on “Confessions of a “Net-Nazi”

  1. Chillax, it’s the internet – people troll. Don’t take it so personally. And to be honest, if stuff like that hurts you, you shouldn’t really be a MOD in the first place.

    1. I’m not taking it personally, I’m just using my own example to illustrate what I’m pointing out is a very widespread phenomenon. I’m just musing about the curiousness of human behaviour, that’s all.
      It does hurt, but I deal with it. Being hurt by it makes me human, not weak. Saying I shouldn’t be a mod because of that is like saying don’t become a police officer if you don’t enjoy enjoy dealing with murderers and rapists (on a slightly more dramatic level, of course). The unpleasant stuff is part of the job, but it’s not ALL of the job. If anything, the people who DO enjoy the unpleasant stuff are the ones who shouldn’t be allowed to do it.

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