One of the most important aspects of community is strong moderation. If you are not involved with the community, make sure someone is. With my online community, I am not only involved, keeping an eye on things, but I have what I call “scouts” who love the community and care about it’s health.
With an online community, diversity must be at or near the top of the list of values. Because, in my opinion, this reflects how people really are, not as we wish them to be. So there’s bound to be conflict that has to be moderated and mediated.
But there’s another factor that presents itself from time to time, and that’s bullying. We allow all kinds of disagreements, questions, challenges, swearing, even anger, but never bullying. We have zero tolerance for that because it suddenly makes the room unsafe, members afraid and the community destructible. When someone displays bullying, they are immediately removed. I try to dialog with them because I don’t want them to feel condemned forever. I would like them to seek help and maybe return. But the priority is the community. Even with over 300 members, an online bully can decimate the moral of the room with one simple post. So moderation is key.
I recently had to deal with an online bully. The community was shocked. But those who were victimized were grateful. Because there was confusion that this popular person was removed… some knew why and some didn’t… I felt it necessary to write a post explaining it. Here it is:
As many of you already know, I had to ask one of our members to leave yesterday. There have only been a few who’ve been asked to part ways since the inception of TLS, and I think that’s a pretty good record. In all these cases it came down to one behavior that we cannot tolerate on TLS: bullying.
We can ask questions. We can disagree. We can swear. We can talk about anything. We can get depressed. We can get faithless. We can get angry. We can even say something that is unintentionally hurtful to another. As long as we can be informed, challenged, corrected, educated, and opened for change. In a community context, trying our best to live together is crucial.
But bullying is the intentional harming of another. And we must have zero tolerance for that. Even if the person is angry for understandable reasons, they have no right to inflict harm and damage another person.
My advice them is always the same: “We had to remove you from the room because you were hurting people. Please get some help, and when you feel you are better and can function in a healthy way in a community without harming others, then please come back and we will try this again.”
Zero tolerance for bullying.
Have you ever encountered a bully in your adult years? How did you deal with it? Or how was it dealt with? Did you learn any lessons from this that you will carry into your next encounter with one?