October 17, 2012

Blogging or message boarding? Which one is right for you? Are you SAFE?

Ancient Beekeeping by Pieter Bruegel
The title of this post is misleading. You aren't limited to two options. You have many. I hoped an either-or question would capture your attention and get you reading because there's a variety of ways to participate in online recovery work. Some methods are more communal. Some are more agentic. Depending on your personality and your values, you may be drawn more towards one than the other.

You do not have to post about your life to benefit from online learning. You can read only. Read other people's blogs. Read message boards. Read self-help books. On message boards, it is not uncommon for someone to read the forum regularly before posting a comment. People may never post a comment and still benefit from feeling like they're a part of that community because they are. This is why most forums have a public board where people can connect to other people in similar circumstances without compromising their security by posting. Some forum members use public computers at their library. Depends on how abusive their relationship may be.

As a dreadful forum manager *grin*, I've received emails from grateful people who've gained wisdom and courage by reading the WoN forum while they learned about narcissistic relationships. They had never posted a single comment. I'm especially grateful to our forum members who write about their lives and are willing (because they value community) to support other people. They listen and empathize--far more valuable than advice or website links. That these good people take time out of their day writing long, sensitive messages that are lost in the backpages---is a miracle to me. When a community works, it makes ya cry because you know communal values are how human beings have made it to the 21st century. What's gonna happen now that self-admiration and self-preoccupation is acceptable, even encouraged, is anybody's guess. 

Managing a forum isn't easy but somebody's gotta do it. Forums aren't something to mock---it requires formidable social intelligence. The manager/moderator keeps one eye on the individual's rights and the other eye on the group's rights and no manager will do this perfectly 100% of the time. Not even myself...and I'm about as communal and other-oriented as a person can be.  

HOWEVER, there is NO perfectly safe place for anyone to write about their lives, or their thoughts, or their opinions, or their preferences, or anything personal at all. A moderator can intervene when people take pot shots at each other but I can only clean up the mess after the fracas has occurred. Anyone, even if you warn people that you're afraid, is vulnerable to being criticized, shamed, and bullied. People in recovery, even ACoNs (nah, ya don't say!), have unconscious agendas.  Recovery is about making our agendas conscious, becoming self-aware. Self-awareness is a l-o-n-g process and anyone who thinks there's an end is only kidding themselves. Ten years in recovery work? pshaw...we're newbies! Find me ONE self-actualized person on this planet and I'll eat my hard drive.

How Safe Are You?

There are risks with "anonymous" recovery groups which is why vulnerable people might consider participating on the safest forum they can find before standing alone in the blogosphere. Get your worst secrets out in a group and then try standing on your own. As we've witnessed recently, some folks have an open eye on agentic rights and a jaded eye on community. sheesh. For some reason and maybe it's the planetary alignment or perhaps the upcoming elections, but people are on edge. Short-tempered, self-centered, reactionary. This recent drama triangle in the blogosphere mirrored a recent drama triangle on the WoN forum with people taking sides, defending the rights of the individual without keeping an eye on the whole. 

When  narcissism is afoot, there will always be relational consequences. Someone will be hurt and it's usually the ones who need someone to keep an eye on them. 'Cuz we are our brother and sister's keeper and to pretend we aren't is narcissism, an escape from our reality as social creatures who depend on one another. 

However, and this is unavoidable, members of forums must extend trust to managers which is hard to do when trust has been betrayed in the past. The best suggestion I have for those who want to take advantage of anonymous posting is to get to know your forum manager. I participated on a forum where the  manager never self-disclosed. We didn't know much of anything about her other than she be da boss. After reading about the importance of self-disclosure for healing AND for moderating people's natural idealizations, I became even more dedicated to letting people know me as intimately as they could online. I'm about as transparent as glass and if you don't like what you see, you wouldn't like me in real life either. Although most people do. 

And, last point: each person must assess how much risk you are able to tolerate. If writing a blog increases your anxiety, then don't write a blog. If trusting your forum manager increases your anxiety, don't post messages. You must make a fair assessment of where you are in your healing process because there is no guarantee everyone will care as much about you, as they do their opinion of you. You can start a blog and if you are suffering too much distress and worry, delete your blog or put it on private with no visitors allowed. You can start it up again in six months and if you still feel exposed and anxious, delete it again. 

There is no such thing as failure as long as you are trying

If you join a forum and the manager doesn't respond to your concerns after emailing him/her, leave the forum. If you read a book and the advice is stupid, throw that book in the fire. Don't pass it on to someone else who might not realize the book is trash. If you go to therapy and your therapist gives you panic attacks, stop going to that therapist. I guess my point is that when we are ready to examine not only our narcissistic relationships but also ourselves, we MUST protect ourselves as adults, especially if we were not protected as children. 

If you are not ready (and you may  never be) don't join a recovery forum/community OR an individual-set-of-blogs-discussing-similar-topics-but-definitely-not-managed-by-anyone-other-than-the-individual-blog-owner-him-or-herself.

Take Care of YOU. Do the Right Thing for YOU. Make no judgments of yourself. Don't beat yourself up.  Don't compare yourself to anyone else, or put yourself down. Treat yourself with compassion. The fact that you have awakened is impressive. It's a miracle. 

Take things as you are ready and remember this: S-L-O-W  is  fast. There is no such thing as failure as long as you are trying.

Love to all,

Oxford Art Online PDF biography of Pieter Bruegel, the elder


  1. Well, I'll be the first. Beautiful and wise post, and really lays out the categorical differences and challenges of each. I must say I think you are a superb Forum manager and blogger. Just my opinion. And I could be right!

    1. You are such a good person, CS! It's so easy to go with the crowd and vent 'archaic' anger on any target giving us the least justification for doing so! It's very easy to peck to death the odd chicken out and never be reprimanded for our behavior 'cuz everyone knows she was asking for it.

      It's so easy to do things we regret later so Thank God for people who dare to say, even as kindly as possible, that perhaps there's a bigger picture than one person's "injured feelings". Perhaps there's a better way to support an "injured friend" than lighting another torch and yielding to human being's lesser instincts. We got 'em. Don't trot 'em.

      My concern throughout this Drama-ShameOnYa inevitable altercation, is with the newbies. The people who will be alienated from a daily practice that assists their recovery and improves the quality of their lives.

      I want people to know that while these nasty situations occur from time-to-time, there IS more protection in a forum than in the individual-set-of-blogs-discussing-similar-topics-but-definitely-not-managed-by-anyone-other-than-the-individual-blog-owner-him-or-herself.

      And of course, if your forum manager has Hitlerian traits and a authoritative personality and she lives IN your neighborhood and you can't avoid seeing her, you might not want to post on her forum, either.

      If blogs intend to be a community, there has to be moderation of some kind. I can't see how its possible to have a community without 'rules' or a leader or even a tribunal if needed.

      I'm not making fun of anybody's stress in this mess but altercations are not uncommon and they will happen again and people can't even get along with their local PTA so why would blogging be any different?

      I hadn't given much thought to the distinctions between blogging and message boarding until a couple of days ago and then I had to think about it for a bit.

      In the evolution of WoN, we tried letting everyone speak their mind without deleting comments and within a week, the place was TRASHED I TELL YA. TRASHED. Moderation was absolutely necessary for people to get along. I think we call it being "civilized."

      Thank you for daring intervene when intervention was called for. My best friends online, are those who encourage me to be my BEST Self. Not my worst. It's a good rule to live by in "real time", too.


    2. You have made my day. You and the people who "reality checked" me on RC today. I think I said on Upsi's blog that I hoped that the Charity business would bring out the best in our community. My bad, I guess. Saying such a thing is tantamount apparently, in some people's minds, to forcing someone to bend over and take it up the rear. Who knew?

      Thank you for being there, for your balance, perspective, long experience, and for keeping your sites up and running, at the cost of tremendous energy, time, and even family drama. You are a precious resource. love CS

  2. Thanks, CZ. I have to admit, I've never considered trying a larger forum like WoM. I've kept my interactions pretty limited to a few blogs and thought myself quite brave. I'm one of those who isn't sure I'll ever be able to move into the forum, but it doesn't keep me from exploring. Thanks for this post outlining what's available and the importance of being self-aware.

    1. Hi Judy,

      I've participated in excellent forums and a couple of really bad ones where the leader ruled with an iron fist. I have always encouraged people to "test" a forum by watching how managers handle conflict before they post.

      There will always be conflict. Do managers protect the most vulnerable OR do they pamper their cronies? Is there a clique egging each other on like bullies? Those are good things to watch for.

      There's an article on my side-links about groups and forums and the WoN message board, if anyone is thinking about joining a forum.

      I'm not trying to add new members folks! WoN is relatively small because its all we can handle. The point of joining WoN is 'healing' which means we have very long messages from members with equally long replies. Our forum is about self-disclosure and "intimacy" so it's NOT a good fit for everyone!

      I am face-to-face friends with each of my advisers who often have very different opinions from my own. That's why we're a strong management team---they keep me in line when I need an upbraiding. And that is why I love them. They encourage me to be my best self.


  3. one last remark tonight--you come up with the BEST images for your posts. Your site is a feast for the eyes and the mind.


    1. Thank you, CS!! This painting of ancient beekeepers seemed most appropriate. It certainly holds your attention, doesn't it?

      This painting is also titled "The Beekeepers" and was painted 1567-1568. It may have been Breugel's last work. I love it.

  4. Hi CZ, Very good and wise post, with many important points to think about.

    After years of mod/advisory work on a message board that's a bastion of crazy (both the fun kind and the kind that gets the FBI involved) I definitely feel what you're saying. Calming outrages and walking the delicate line between facilitating discussion and squelching it comes pretty natural to me. As you say, keeping one eye on the individual's rights and one on the group's.

    In many ways, that's why I wanted a blog of my own, so I would have my own voice to tell my own story (all of which I am willing to take responsibility for) without having to walk that line. The thing I didn't really expect was that anyone would notice. It simply didn't occur to me that anyone would read what I had to say way out here in the blogosphere. I mean, I've had another blog for years that's had like, 4 views. :p But being that's the case, I do feel a responsibility to be mindful of other's feelings and basically, not be an ass.

    Sure, we can say pretty much what we like (within reason) on a blog and say if you don't like it don't read it, but I can't pretend that words exist in a vacuum and have no power to affect others for good or ill. This is the kind of thing my Nmother says to excuse reams of verbal abuse. "they're only words, they just disappear into thin air. You're oversensitive." Yep, not buying that. Maybe for some, but not for others.

    I only want to get my own story out in writing, hopefully without hurting anyone else in the process.

    1. Blogs are GREAT, Elena! They allow us to express our individuality, to create a space that's reflective of who we are. Blogs keep track of awesome links we don't want to lose and all things considered, even with spam and trolls and bickering: Blogs Are Awesome.

      At a certain point, well---let's face it. I was really disoriented for awhile and could hardly unscramble my brain enough to put ten words in a sentence. I needed a group of people to support me while re-stabilizing.

      The Ambush (as I call it) was traumatic and my reaction to The Ambush was disabling. I could not have dealt with outside criticism of my mental and even physical health at that time. It would have crushed me--so that is another reason why I'm "pro" message boards for vulnerable people.

      Then we get stronger and in my case, I felt an inner drive to separate from the group and define myself. Although, I never felt a need to 'leave a group behind' as some people might. We are each so different and there is no right way for everyone to follow. If we're listening to ourselves, we'll hear our inner promptings and as our self-trust increases, we'll follow those inner promptings.

      I read all kinds of blogs. From searing "Anarchist" blogs to "We Is All One" blogs which enrich my life and broaden my understanding of human nature. I don't have any need to censor other people's blogs or tell them what's permissible and what isn't. We each have our own journey. (wow. did that sound cheesy or what?)

      BUT, on blogs and websites discussing abuse, where fragile people connect, I prefer being cautious and kind. Not that I am always THAT because reading about abuse every day is overwhelming at times. Then I call myself to task (or one of my good friends does that for me), regroup, take a time out, a deep breath, do something nice for myself, and start again. I have been supporting people for a long time with only a few occasional lapses in sanity. hehehe!

      BUT, I love people and I want to help people, and I want to help myself, and I've been a mess.

      My online demeanor and attitude is how I parent my children, too. Always did. It's why they're compassionate people today. I do not believe in, nor condone, authoritative and punishing behavior whether its at home or in the office or at school. But that is my philosophy and it doesn't work for everyone!

      Even in the worst of times when I was going through therapy, I was not a brazen out-spoken person with people to hurt. True healing means we reclaim the person we always were only with deeper understanding and appreciation for our qualities and values and traits. Had I flipped 180 degrees or even 182 degrees, lol, I'd have been 'reacting'. The opposite of the real me.

      Since kindness and generosity were my core values as a child, kindness and generosity needed to be reclaimed. I don't know that there's any basis to my reasoning but that's how I've looked at it.

      In other words, LOL, I agree with your comment: "I do feel a responsibility to be mindful of other's feelings and not be an ass."


    2. I'll bet you're a wonderful mother CZ. I'm sure of it. Not perfect of course (I'll say it before you do....ha!) but way beyond 'good enough'!


    3. Hi CS!

      My biggest mothering failures are my siblings.


      My daughter, who is 39, believes spirit children pick their mothers. I told her she probably wouldn't say that if she met some of y'all's mothers!

      She hasn't decided yet how she ended up with her Dad, but we think the Gods were feeling bored and slightly sadistic when they arranged for my X and I to meet at University, in Zoology 101.

      Yea. Zoology. There's a cosmic joke in there somewhere...



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