So I left a message board the other day. It’s not one most of you know. I had been a member there since 2004, and it was an off-shoot of a message board I’m still a part of today.
I don’t know how most folks do it, but when I go to a discussion board, or forum if you prefer, I actually wish to discuss things. I will make a statement, ask a question, provide answers to questions asked of me, or just joke around talking about nonsense for a while.
The board I was on has shrunk significantly in the past few years. They went from a hundred active users to about 10, though there are technically thousands of members, most have long since left.
The board has changed hands a number of times, with each new administration having new sets of ideas, but still working to maintain the general feel of the board for everyone. That being: allow as much freedom as possible, especially to hang yourself if you’re idiotically inclined, while also moderating with enough force to keep people from getting the board in trouble.
Currently, the board is owned by 4 people, who do their best to keep things at an even keel. The board was once very liberal, then it became super conservative, then libertarian, and now more moderate. Through it all, I’ve been a member, and I dealt with each change in atmosphere as it came, because the people were decent, the conversation enjoyable.
Well, after 13 years, most of the decent people had left, and the conversation had become nothing more than a broken record, looping and repeating the same broken phrases over and over again. People kept trying to dance to the music, myself included, but you can only hop around like an idiot for so long before you start to feel foolish.
So about a week ago I decided to try something. We were having a discussion about gun control, gun rights, and whether gun manufacturers and sellers had a responsibility should their weapons be used in a murder. My position was that gun manufacturers should be held responsible, at least to some degree. Guns are made for killing, that is their purpose.
Of course, the conversation began to play out as it always did, with everyone taking their assigned positions and nothing new being shared. I noticed, as I sat there, half asleep from exhaustion (mom had been in the hospital for a few days and I had been traveling to Cincinnati and back every day), that no one was asking questions. The sentences with question marks seemed like questions, but they were just assumptions tied up with question marks as window dressing. No one was actually curious as to the reasons behind what people were saying.
So, I decided to test whether or not anyone actually cared, or whether it was just one of those monotonous rote discussions that had become all too commonplace. So I came up with a radical idea, I said that gun sellers should be held responsible if a buyer used that weapon in a crime. It was outside of what I actually believed, quite a ways outside, and anyone who knew me would have seen through it, if they were paying attention.
No one did.
Instead, it was immediately attacked, unquestioned, with everyone making assumptions about what I meant, not asking, just assuming. I mean, honestly, why bother asking someone what they meant if you can just make it up? Saves time, really. No need to have two people in the conversation that way. Nice and neat.
Around the second day of this, I started dropping clues into my posts. For example, talking about how my idea was just a modest proposal, or in one sentence I remember saying that it wasn’t like I was advocating eating poor children. Still, no one got it. They were so hyperfocused on what they thought I said, and what my intentions were, that for several days it just went on. Finally, after getting frustrated from the utter lack of actual discussion taking place, I revealed my hand. What happened?
Everyone got angry. I was told I had made a poor trolling attempt. Some simply didn’t believe my explanation, assuming I had been caught out and was trying to backpedal, even though I’d never backed down from a position before in my time there (at least, without admitting it wasn’t well thought out, or was wrong). Yet they were willing to believe this totally non-me behavior, again, without question.
Even from someone whom I had considered a friend, I got this treatment. I knew then that it was time to go, that I had worn out my welcome, that what I was seeing was the death of a community slowly, by asphyxiation of thought, by the neutering of ideas in the name of complacent familiarity. So I left.
It may not seem like much to some, but I had given 13 years there. For several years, towards the end, I had managed as their tech admin, taking care of the board software, updating, adding features when requested. Now, just to clarify, it wasn’t everyone who shunned my response. The board owners knew me well enough to know I wasn’t lying, and we still keep in contact, but for the rest of the board? I’ve left, and I’ve no intention of coming back.
I’d say the board is probably heading downward fast, but it has been around long enough, and the remaining people stubborn enough, that short of a technical disaster, it will continue onward for years to come. I hope things improve, I really do, but my part in that community has ended. I wish them the best.
I notice that I’ve been losing patience with such things. Where once I could talk with someone about the same point over and over again, but these days I haven’t the energy. I just don’t care anymore. Life is too short, and the topics too inane.
That’s all for now.
P.S. – For those concerned, it’s not TBBS. This was a spinoff board of TBBS from way back. Still, my patience grows thin even with that board more and more every day. I’m starting to think it’s a symptom of a greater problem, one I’ve talked about before. I hope that I don’t feel the need to finally leave there, as I’ve put 15 years in, and know so many wonderful people. I guess my tolerance for some things has just faded, and I grow more and more concerned about people who become so entrenched in one idea, in one point of view, that they forget the histories of the people around them, and treat old friends like strangers.