Saturday, 11 August 2012

The problem with "drama" groups:

 Trigger warnings for discussion of harassment, mentions of suicide, and bullying.

There are a lot of "drama" groups online, the basic idea is to find funny, silly or otherwise embarassing behaviour and to have a good laugh. This can be fun, but they also have a dark underside; Today, I'm blogging about the problems I've seen both as a sometimes member and as a target of these groups.

1. Often as a drama group grows bigger, it becomes fertile ground for grudges and harassment by highly popular members. One of the reasons I'm wary around popular members of such groups is that I know they often receive positive feedback even if they are being harassive or outright bigoted.
The group essentially becomes a yes group for them, unscrupulous popular members take advantage of this, and others who are otherwise decent people often lose sight of appropriate behaviour because of it.

2. Such groups often degenerate into what is basically a mob, a mob is only as smart as the least intelligent member of it. The resulting mob behaviour can egg even ordinary members way past the boundaries of appropriate behaviour. Ordinary members might not be as bad as the popular members whose inappropriate behaviour gets heavily reinforced so much, but they can still be pretty bad at times.

3. Such groups will often never forget anything you did or that they think you did (though they'll frequently misremember it as ten times worse than it was), if you said something stupid or silly ten years ago? Everything you say will be viewed in the light of that one incident, even if it wasn't actually that stupid or silly, or worse was willfully misinterpreted by someone who had a grudge against you.

4. Such groups often attract outspoken people, this means that in some sections of the internet, the main leaders of social justice groups and similar supporters of human rights may also be members of this sort of group. Good luck getting support from them if you got posted once on a drama group as a "bad person" regardless of why or how long ago it was, your inclusion on there regardless of how ablist, sexist, victim blaming or otherwise horribly bigoted the group's members were at the time means you're still a horrid person even if the group is now made up of  people who pledge support against what was done to you. So they can effectively isolate marginalised people from the support groups they need online based on the bigotries of the group in the past.

5. Commonly held beliefs in the group attain the status of "truths" far too easily; because everyone agrees that X is horrible/a liar/a bad person, it becomes "true" even in the face of more than enough evidence to disprove it. Basically it's like the gossip mill, the more something is repeated, the more people believe it, the more it is repeated, to the point where members basically become highly biased against individuals.

6. A large chunk of posters are often only there because they're scared of being featured themselves so think that joining in will protect them from being singled out. To my shame, I have been one of these. Often if you are one of the fearful members, you will find yourself going along with things without thinking about what you're doing or if it's actually appropriate. It's normal to crave the approval and protection of your peers, but it can lead you to do things you wouldn't normally do and even things you will be ashamed of doing after you pull your head out of your ass and realise what you did.

7. Your average drama group member cannot tell the difference between someone who is being silly and someone who is impaired, suicidal or otherwise unstable; or if they can, will not acknowledge it solely because you did/said something stupid so anything is justified.This creates the chance of them harassing someone quite literally to death. I've seen these groups quite literally hound someone who was clearly and unambiguously suicidal.

The mob think also encourages them not to consider this as even being an issue. If you bring it up in the group, the response will likely to be "oh so and so is a liar", even if it's pretty damn obvious that so and so isn't lying.

Basically, these places often start out as a laugh, but then the darker parts of mob think, bad rationalisation and social hierarchy come into play, which basically ruins them and turns them into a vehicle for harassment.

There's a difference between light hearted teasing, laughing with someone and what these groups end up as which is a bullying mob at best. This is why I suggest people avoid such groups, and point out what a horrible idea they actually are.

Yes, people do say some funny and silly things online. We all have our internalised issues, or days when we just don't think, however that does not justify such groups or their behaviour. There's a difference between laughing at something silly someone said and either correcting or teasing them lightly over it and being a bully. Drama groups often claim to do the first and typically do the latter in reality.

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