My take on the recent melt down at Hang With Friends, of which I missed part, is that some of us were tripped up by a habit of thought. It's something we learn growing up, and use without realizing how much pain it can generate -  failing to distinguish a person from his or her behaviors.

If I say, "I'm a mean person." or "You're mean." I make the mistake of defining someone by their worst behavior. Mostly I think we don't consciously realize the implications when we say it, but unconsciously we do realize and it's painful. By clinging tightly to particular mistakes we or someone else made, we throw out all of the not-mistakes, all of the good interactions and happy moments that ought to be cherished. We imply the good things don't count, only mistakes count. It's a way of characterizing that leaves no room for learning from mistakes, because it says the mistake is the only behavior of which this person is capable. It implies they or we are incapable of learning or growing, defective and unworthy of respect as a whole. It means "I'm not OK" or "You're not OK".

This thought habit doesn't just cause bad feelings when it happens online. If we use it here, we're also hurting ourselves and others, unwittingly, in the worlds of family, friends and neighbors. It's very common. I unlearned it as an adult studying Eric Berne in college.

It would be great if we could examine our reflexive habits of making sense of ourselves and one another, to notice and challenge those that bring so much pain. If we fail to learn from this, it will happen again. As I see it, the video wasn't the real cause of our problem.

The alternative is:

  • Describe the offensive behavior in neutral language
  • Say how it makes you feel
  • Describe the alternative behavior you would prefer instead

This incident has taught me how fragile internet groups are, compared to face-to-face friendships. Just as it's easy to click away from a site you don't find immediately interesting (when you'd stay far longer if you were sitting in a room with the people), it's easy to leave an AN group when a disagreement happens. Then you are unavailable and unaware of attempts to heal the rift. Internet groups seem fragile, easily shred. I feel as if I went away for a few days and when I came back half of my family had deserted because they had a dispute.

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Replies to This Discussion

Yes, it's sad. From my point of view it's easier to tolerate difference in a group like this. If you don't like whats being "said" you don't have to "listen" or can change the subject. There's also the possibilty of a cooling off period before writing and posting. I hope we can agree to disagree in the future and avoid turning nasty.

Good advice, Ian. Thanks.

Could well be possible, Ruth. And I got the impression that there were other grievances mixed in, or PMS - we should always keep our fights clean, one topic only. We'll go on as best as we can, and the next new member might start the mother of all fights - but I can accept the risk.

Thanks for sticking with us!

I must have missed all of this, I love how you have written this though, Ruth. Very wise advice. It is sometimes easy to forget that there is an actual person sitting on the other end of the computer of whom you're communicating with, not just words on a screen. Hopefully, things have been worked out now. :)

Well, I am new here and have no idea what happened, except that a melt down is a common occurrence in online communities. It is best to just avoid ad hominems - personal attacks. Lively discussion of a topic is a good thing, but attacking a poster personally is not.

Hopefully things will pick up again....sorry you lost friends over this.


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