I love the internet. One of the great things about the internet is that it connects people to people and the connection creates general good. But it also connects jerks to nice people, which is not good.

We run a site where people meet, create friendships, cook, eat and generally just have fun. Every now and then, someone comes along who feels empowered by the anonymity of the internet, or maybe they’re just downtrodden in real life and see the internet as a place where they can fight back at society. Either way, they come out swinging and are always shocked (or pretend to be) when people dislike them.

In the latest episode, there is a woman with strong personal convictions. She is the type of person who always thinks she is right, that everyone else is wrong and she refuses to give anyone’s opinion the time of day. Although she doesn’t say things outright, she comes off negatively to people. Of course, she sees it differently: that anyone who doesn’t like what she says is “stupid” or “wrong” or “they can’t face the truth”. Classic. She’s also one of those “I’m not politically-correct and that’s just tough if people can’t deal with it” people. Note: if someone says they’re not PC, they’re probably a raving lunatic. And if we say anything to them, whoa!, we’re violating their right to free speech! Incidentally, I’ve realize that there are lots of people who don’t understand what free speech really means, who is required to uphold free speech rights and who is not, or where free speech is required and where it’s not. It’s a surprise to many people that, in general, free speech is a privilege, not a right.

So several weeks ago, we emailed this person and explained that we are getting complaints about their behavior on the site and that they may want to consider toning it down so that a more pleasant environment can survive. Oh boy, well, that was all just our way of “bullying her” into only saying things that we agree with and that there really have never been any complaints whatsoever. Yeah, this is just a cruel game we play with people because we’re so bored. Small minds. When it was clear that she was not willing to listen or correct her behavior, we gave her Warning #1 (we have a 3-strike policy).

We never heard a reply and then a few days ago she posts on the site that she had left the site and would not return because I “took personal umbrage with her presence on the site”. Huh? This was the first I’d heard that she officially left the site, I figured that we stopped getting complaints because she took my words to heart and was being more polite or was just not being involved in the wrong conversations. Silly me.

This is another amusing ploy that is common. There’s lots of “I’m leaving this site!”… “Really! I’m leaving! Never comin’ back!” … “Did everyone hear that? I’m really leaving, walking out right now unless someone says something to keep me here” … “What’s that? You want me to stay? Oh, I don’t think I can.” … “Well, maybe, keep telling me how great I am.” … “Oh, I appreciate all the kind words of support, but I just don’t know.”

Those are funny, but harmless. Unfortunately, there are some people who not only crave attention but have a desire to be the ring leader in a riot against the site owners. They say misleading statements and take words out of context to carefully construct a story that appears that we’re evil people trying to destroy them and that they’re just poor innocent victims of this random aggression. I’m not sure what they think that will accomplish. Maybe they think a coup d’etat will give them ownership of the site? I do think that there are lots of people who think that sites are not owned or controlled by people because “it’s the internet”. They don’t realize that people actually own the hardware and software that runs the sites — they think the sites just live on the internet and are as controllable as oxygen or something. I think it’s similar to a friend’s mother who thought that software wasn’t made by humans but was just “part of a computer”, as if there’s a computer tree that grows computers and the software is just part of it. It’s interesting. I’d love to understand this line of thinking more.

So this person attempts their coup d’etat. And within minutes, our cell phones are buzzing with alerts that people are complaining about a post on the site. We investigate and find this long post from this person just filled with sarcasm, hatred, misleading facts, etc. This thing was so carefully constructed that it must’ve taken a few hours for her to write and rewrite. Time for Warning #2 email. This time, we presented her with quotes from some of the complaints we got so she could see that there are people who see through her sham.

Within an hour, she edited out the entire post. I guess she realized that she made a fool of herself and wanted to cover up the evidence of her true personality in the event that she actually does stay on the site. Little do these people know that just because no one replies to them publicly, it doesn’t mean that no one read it. She’s made her bed….

All in a day in the life of a web site.

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