Author Topic: When should you mention that something doesn't come across right online  (Read 2257 times)

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geekette

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This is a long-past situation, but I thought it might be interesting for a discussion.
Years ago I was part of a group online, and one of our youngest members sometimes made comments which would probably have come across okay and humorous in person (especially taking her age into account), but without the tone and facial expression came across insults or even as bratty remarks. It did mean that people went through periods of getting along fine with this member, but other times she would end up pitting the whole group against her for comments which would have been fine jokes or general opinions in person, but not online.
At one point, she actually sent me a private message asking why people didn't like her, and I struggled in trying to explain to her how her comments came across as personal insults or worse because of the lack of context. I don't think I was very good at explaining it, because she had trouble understanding that what she thought she said and what other people heard were often quite different.
She did improve a bit after that, but by that point she did have a negative reputation between some of the less active members (who only saw the worst of her comments, not the ones that came across okay).

 I wonder now if I should have said something to her earlier about how her comments came off before she prompted me, either in general or specific cases. And does her age (she was between 10 and 12 I think) affect whether I should have?
« Last Edit: October 18, 2012, 06:37:42 AM by geekette »

QueenofAllThings

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Re: When should you mention that something doesn't come across right online
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2012, 06:47:18 AM »
Was this an adult group with one child member, or a mixed group?

geekette

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Re: When should you mention that something doesn't come across right online
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2012, 06:51:37 AM »
We were all children - I was actually the oldest, at 16, with one or two who were 15 close behind me, and the average was about 13 (I think we never gave exact ages). She was one of our youngest members - her older cousin was also a part of the group, and she started out by making comments with him before getting her own account.

QueenofAllThings

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Re: When should you mention that something doesn't come across right online
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2012, 10:07:26 AM »
Frankly, this is why young children shouldn't be unsupervised on the Internet.

I think it was kind of you to try to help, but she, at age 10, simply isn't mature enough to handle ongoing on-line conversations with teenagers.

TurtleDove

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Re: When should you mention that something doesn't come across right online
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2012, 10:35:30 AM »
In a more general sense, I think it's a "know your audience" thing.  On my lawyers board, people "get" humor and nuance and there is no need to couch everything with "in my opinion" or "all yous general" or "absent some completely rare medical issue" or any of the other "niceties" that seem to be required on this board for people to not get their hackles up.  In contrast, if I were to not be witty and sarcastic and backtracked all of my comments to neutralize any possible offense to anyone on my lawyers board they would think I had been abducted by aliens and would probably not want me to participate.

So it's a matter of audience and personal preference and that is not universal.

Seraphia

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Re: When should you mention that something doesn't come across right online
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2012, 01:23:26 PM »
The problem with bringing it up is that, if you're doing it online, the mentioning is subject to the same misconstruction.

I've been involved in my share of internet misunderstandings, and if anything, it makes it worse to say: "You may not realize it, but you are coming across as [trollish/immature/looking for offense/pot-stirring/whatever]." All that ever seems to end in is the person figuratively wailing: "The Internet is picking on meeeeee!" If there were a way to get a sarcasm punctuation mark into common use, I would be thrilled.

I think your young friend would have greatly benefited from someone IRL taking her aside and reading her comments back to her in real-time, but online? No go. In a sense, all online communication is going to be tone-deaf, including the messages that her communication style wasn't making her any friends. At least by waiting until she asked you, you could deliver the message when she was in a mind to hear it. If she wasn't, well... it's rare you can tell someone what they don't want to hear.

Example: I have a friend who I primarily talk to on Skype. He made a comment which I found sexist, and I told him to stop being a pig and think about the woman as a person, not a set of body parts arranged for him to look at. His response was basically: "but do you think she was flirting or not?" I was really angry. But on his end, he thought that I couldn't possibly be that angry, must have been joking, and was avoiding the question. My angry, to him, was Seraphia being hyperbolic and funny. His earnest question, to me, was vulgar, offensive and dismissive.

I think you did the best you could, especially since she was so young. Hopefully she learned that, in the future, humorous IRL doesn't always make you humorous on the internet.
Ancora Imparo - I am still learning

shivering

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Re: When should you mention that something doesn't come across right online
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2012, 11:57:15 AM »
I do think her age matters in this particular situation. At 10-12 she didn't have the maturity or experience to really understand that meaning gets lost in translation over the internet. But, even if you were all dealing with each other in person, she may not have clicked with people because of her age.  You handled the situation as best as possible and I don't think you should've said anything prior.

In cases where the person is older, I still don't think it's your responsibility to explain unless you are a moderator/administrator and think it will help the board dynamic or you are particularly friendly with that person and they've brought it up. Also, you never know if the person enjoys acting the instigator. Not to the level of trolling, but just causing some friction.