One rotten apple...

Internet groups, forums, and bulletin boards have been around for ages, and they have a special importance for people considering moving to another country or who want to communicate with like-minded people about their new home. But there can be a down side to them - which will come as no surprise, I'm sure.

I've read about various expat forums in Mexico (not to be named) that are really terrible for gossip and flaming. If you don't know what flaming is it is when some poor chump posts a comment and gets burned to smithereens, sometimes without even knowing what hit him.

For several years anyway, Mazatlan has had two forums. One is a Yahoo group and the other is a kind of portal for Mazatlan information that also has a forum. Over the last nine months or so I have seen both of these groups pretty much lose their collective minds and degenerate into name calling and unpleasantness. I am amazed at the kind of petty stuff people will write in public.

I think one of the problems with these forums is that if you want to, you can be anonymous. Make up a silly online name, use a yahoo, hotmail, or gmail account and no one will know where that venomous post came from! Isn't this fun?

John over at Viva Veracruz forum had a bit of a challenge with one user when his forum was new but by managing the negative attitude properly he managed to keep his forum from going sour.

One of the things I like about Viva Veracruz is that the forum itself is organized by interest. Food, Around the House, Mexico resources, Speaking Spanish, etc. So if you are interested in a couple of things but not the rest, just go where you like. It also isn't an email format - you go to the web address when you want to see what's up and you post from that interface. It is nice because there aren't a bunch of redundant posts - you can see right away if someone has answered the question.

But there is an option in Mazatlán, and that's where you'll find me. Our friend Jennifer has a forum at MeXscape, and it is a good one. The forum is similar to Viva Veracruz (described above) and it is a friendly, helpful place. In the event someone were to write an inflammatory or mean spirited post, I'm sure she would deal with the perpetrator right away. No need to worry about flaming.

I'd love to see people at the two other older forums clean up their acts and play nice. They do manage to do that for a week here and there, but then back it goes to negativity and crankiness. So instead of subjecting myself to reading that kind of thing on a daily basis, I am going to participate in MeXscape and Viva Veracruz, where people are nice to each other!


1st Mate said...

Nancy - the same kind of out-of-control forum was happening here with Viva San Carlos (http://vivasancarlos.com/) The political stuff got so insulting and crazy it got split off into a separate forum. There are still insults and flames going around, but it's a lot better than it was. Some people just don't have anything better to do than try to ruin somebody else's day.

Billie said...

Nancy, it is the same here in San Miguel with two different forums. I'm on one of them and I'm spending too much time just deleting the crap without even opening the message. One of my best laughs was one time someone asked a question and they got a nice reply saying that they could get lots of information about that by googling. The first person wrote back and said she didn't have time to google. Just give her a summary. Do these people realize how they come across to the rest of the world.

Steve Cotton said...

Great topic. I have noticed the difference between bloggers and message board posters. Nancy, I think you hit it on the head: the ability to be anonymous gives some people license to act in a manner that would shock their mothers. But even when people know one another (in Melaque and La Manzanilla), they tear into each other personally.

Nancy said...

I think things would be a lot more civilized if you had to post your picture to post.

Some of the offenders here are using their real names....and I look forward to the first time I run into them at a meeting or party or something....

I wonder if they would be shocked if someone said something to them IN PERSON! Or, maybe they just stay in their house all the time and find their amusement being critical.

I have to practice saying "ni modo" (oh well, what can you do?)

Toni Skalican said...

I wish I could say I were adapting better. My host family is wonderful, I love the culture, and I'd like to think my language skills are improving, but I've actually spent the whole weekend in and out of bed--my body's not agreeing with all of the traditional mexican cuisine. I'm tired every 3 hours, and the smell of Mexican food makes me nauseous. Any suggestions for this?

Also, I have to say that I admire your decision to come and learn Spanish. But--I also think you might be crazy--Washington is the most gorgeous state in the US!

Sans said...

I totally agree with you about the Mazatlan forums. I was victim to a keyboard spanking in one, when I asked a question that, apparently, had been asked before. (and it was a timely question, one in which the answer can change daily, I might add!) But,I have to admit--it has become somewhat of a guilty pleasure of mine to log on to those sites. It is like watching a trashy Jerry Springer episode. I just cannot help but grab some potato chips and follow the crazy arguments!

Nancy said...

Toni, I wonder if adjusting to the heat and humidity has something to do with feeling unwell? Also, have you been staying hydrated well enough? Especially when you run. You could also have an intestinal bug - it might not be a bad idea to talk to a doctor or your pharmacist. Hang in there!

Sans, I should try your outlook. Grab the chips and get into the trashy side of life. Ha!

CancunCanuck said...

Excellent topic and very good points. There are a couple of forums for Cancun, one of which I play on regularly. It's split into topics as well, it's mostly for tourists but we have the "Life in Cancun" section for those of us that live here and those that want to. It's actually a very well behaved board, mostly because the owner and moderators make sure it stays that way. There have only been a couple of flaming incidents (I was the victim of one and it ruined a friendship), but they are taken care of quickly and defnitely discouraged.

Anyone interested in the Cancun forum, it's at www.cancuncare.com/forum

Todd said...

Ah, the soap opera that message boards can be.

A couple of years ago some one showed me a site that I found very entertaining. It had caricatures of the different personalities on messaged boards.

It called them "Flame Warriors"


Have a look, I hope you find it as entertaining as I did.


Calypso said...

Hi Nancy (and Paul),

An excellent commentary. It is sad how some can lose all sense of respectable behavior behind a keyboard and screen.

We are all still learning how to get along - not always an easy thing. The key I think is respect and tolerance.

Intolerable behavior needs to be kept on a short leash - if it is allowed to go on too long, the rotten apples will spoil the barrel I think.

We are always happy to read comments from you at Viva Veracruz - I know you have a busy new life over there in Mazatlan - of course your Blog is terrific as well.

We need good speakers (writers) to speak out defending civil behavior and good communication skills - thank you so much for your efforts.

Staying Tuned!

heatherinparadise.com said...

My job for the last four years has been working for the owners of an informational tourist website and popular message board. This site was peaceful, fun, and harmonious for years, but in the last year had some really dramatic scenes: fallings out, name-calling, flaming, etc. A few months ago, I was at the end of my rope, but things seem to have settled down now.

People cry about "moderation," but the truth is that the forum is NO FUN without it. Apparently grown people can't act like adults when conversing on a message board.

Great post!

Theresa in Mèrida said...

I am on two forums and I have seen a wide range of behaviors. One thing that I have noticed is that some people have no connection between what they type and their brain. It's like they have no impulse control.I do admit it's irritating to read the hundredth message that says I am visiting Merida, what should I do? But then again it may be that person trying to make contact and have a conversation. Also there are the group that take anything anyone says in the worst possible light and any comment that is the least bit negative about living in Mexico is met with go back to where you came from.
That said, I have actually met and made some great friends via the message boards.
And just like this long comment that I am making, there are the people who ask 25 questions in their very first post, I get over whelmed and just don't know where to start to answer.