In which I consider some pitfalls in online fora for mental health problems

As you may recall, I said in a previous post that I had joined a forum to support people who were recovering from eating disorders. Well. It didn’t last long. It only took a few recent posts from a moderator to realise that the things that I had to say and suggest were not compatible with the way in which the site was being run. What I mean is – if I posted one more honest reply then I would have been banned.

I think I’m in a pretty stable and balanced state of mental health (despite the last two weirdo posts – sorry about that folks!) and was giving up my free time and energy to give input to people who I will never meet in real life. I did so because I myself used to go to those sites for support when I was still recovering and I actually found the responses from other perpetuated my problems rather than fixed them. Knowing there were others in the same boat, hearing other people talk about being worse off, having circular discussions, the constant focus on the self and not considering others or general thoughts or even philosphies that might help people to dig deeper. I was frustrated with the superficiality and focus on behaviours and ideals in responses rather than reality and possibility from some members and felt that perhaps I could give an alternative view that might click with some members. All well and good, right?

What I had not anticipated was that by expressing an opinion or exlaining something, I might provoke an aggressive, threatenening response from a moderator.

As I listed in my last post my very few epectations from other individuals as:
To be addressed and treated in a civil manner
To be allowed freedom of thought and speech
To be respected as a human being
To be forgiven for my mistakes

I feel that these have not been met on this occaission and as I am forced to taste disappointment, I’d sooner take my meanerding thoughts elsewhere.

I am not going to give up my free time and energy to something that causes me upset, or that of others. I am sorry that the moderator in question was incapable of understanding my standpoint, or why I was seemingly undermining their ill-considered challenge to the OP, but I expect more from senior members of fora – I expect them to be impartial and not get involved in emotional responses and public displays of instability. It sets a bad example. Responses and challenges to people with ingrained or obsessive pychological problems require a lot of thought and consideration for the individuals situation. Any ill-considered or inappropriate challenges that display a lack of understading and consideration of the OP undermine the reponder’s ability to appear all-seeing and wise. I know we are all only human, but to be healthy it is important to admit when you make mistakes, and to accept information that fills in the gaps that you had without overt defensiveness or aggression.

Perhaps what I said (albeit in a non-confrontational style) was considered inapropriate and insubordiate, undermining the unshakable wisdom of the moderator in question, but I had rather fancied that as a recovered indivudual who had been asked to contribute to the forum due to my experience etc, that I might be considered an equal and not subordinate. I won’t lie, my instinct was to respond with the full force of my upset, disappointment and fury at being singled out as a troublemaker when I felt my contribution was perfectly valid. I realized quite quickly though that this would not help anyone – not the disgruntled moderator, not the OP, not me, and so rather than get involved in a discussion that would detract from the OP’s problems and appear petty and self-involved, I chose rather to do the dignified thing and just leave the site, saying it was nothing personal, but I didn’t want to go upsetting anyone, especially those so vulnerable, so it was better if I just left.

I was running though my head the email I was going to send to the person who set up and runs the forum about how I was worried about the moderator who I unwittingly disguntled, and their inappropriate and aggressive response, as well as the concern that this person was doling out a fair bit of blanket responses and non-constructive comments, such as indicating in a rather harsh way, that a member wasn’t getting replies because they didn’t bother to reply to anyone else’s threads. When people need support and help they don’t need to be told that its their fault and it is irresponsible and inconsiderate to push those kind of opinions onto them. I also recognised that pretty much every time that I have planned out such an emotional email it is a very bad idea – so, that recognised, I shall refrain and rather have expressed myself here in moderation (if you’ll excuse the pun) rather than cause a total meltdown from any party 😛

I don’t want to be associated with a community that perpetuates meaningless, hurtful or ill-informed comments, and I certainly don’t want to be fingered as doing so myself, and so, even here I refuse to sink to the level of petty bickering despite my very strong instict to put my nitpicking attitude to work at pointing out that the offending agressive response to mine was concluded with a sentence that made absolutely no sense, conceptually or gramatically. I would have continued to contribute to the site for years but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let someone threaten and upset me online when there’s enough of that going on in real life. Call me immature for having a tantrum and slamming the door but life is too short to do somthing that makes you unhappy.

If you want help for your eating disorder, look to people in real time – talk to your family, your friends, your therapists, your doctors – don’t rely on online discussion boards that may inadvertently neglect the need to take responsibility for yourself, or learn acceptance and compassion. A forum can’t cure your problems – only you can.

“The coin flips again and again, and again, and again
as our sanity walks away”
~live, white, discussion


4 thoughts on “In which I consider some pitfalls in online fora for mental health problems

  1. That was some grown-up self-control you exercised out there. Really hard not to lash out when you know you could crush your opponent with violent wit equal to that of Cyrano de Bergerac. And you’re right about focusing on yourself in circular discussions just leading to more unhappiness. Glad you got out of that situation. Like you said, enough obnoxious bastards in the real life.

    PS: Hi!

  2. Heeey Flanders! long time no type. I know I’m pretty proud of myself. So can we expect some more blog entries some time soon?

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