Before Facebook there was EZ Boards, AOL Instant Messaging and Chat Rooms. Remember those dinosaurs…. chat rooms? Now Facebook has a place where anyone can hang their hat. Whether you are interested in fishing, hunting, sports, photography, writing, music, dancing to having an issue such as an illness or special life-altering issue that the universe has thrown at you…. there is likely at least one Facebook page devoted to your cause or issue. Big into politics? There are plenty of pages. Are you nuts for a certain band or celebrity? They probably have numerous pages (trust me there!). That is a good thing, right? Well, it can be. Nonetheless, as I have seen (as well as my husband Paul) over the years, when you get a lot of different people from around the world together and mix a lot of different personalities, there can be trouble ahead!
First and foremost I want to make an official disclaimer: I have made some wonderful, true friends all over the world. I would not trade these friendships for anything. Also, there are wonderful and very helpful groups out there. In fact, the majority of groups are just that and I am thankful for the efficiently run groups which I am a member of! I do feel, however, there are groups for which the rules apply to some and are bent and/or do not apply to the ‘select few’. I am going to tell a story about a group that I gave my heart and soul to…. a group that I, at times, sat up all night when I had insomnia, giving ‘newbies’ comfort and advice….giving all that I had. When a new forum was opened for caregivers and those of us that were getting the care were allowed in (something I still do not understand) and a member was allowed to make a rude, degrading remark about me (actually naming me by name), all hell broke loose. Again, this is one group….. most are a great source of support, but this is a post on proceeding with caution when joining a group. The things I witnessed my last one to one and a half years in this group…. well…. let me tell you….
Rumor has it! She said this! I heard you said that! “_____ said you said ______”. Does any of this sound or look familiar? If you have been out of school for more than five minutes then chances are you are working or have worked somewhere with a gossipy group of people. Working in an office with more than five people will set you up for the “GOSSIP MILL”. On the internet it is the same practice only you do not have human contact; you have a machine, wires and space to separate you. This can set one up for a very dangerous scenario, indeed.
First, I want to make this clear, most groups on the internet are great!!!! Most are what they are intended for! They are there to support people that have an illness, a need, a hobby (for instance my husband is a black and white film photography enthusiast!…. talk about a remote hobby!) For those of us with chronic pain…. we are often labeled as ‘whiners’ and ‘complainers’…… we have ‘invisible illnesses’ and often find ourselves having to prove to the world that we are… well, sick. It is a hard enough walk this walk. We need support! So having groups and friends to turn to is paramount. However, within these groups are diverse personalities, political opinion, religious differences and even difference of opinions regarding the care of the very illnesses we all are gathered there for in the first place …. for the reason of a ‘safety net’. Most of the time it all works out. But I am going to tell you a story of one group that has seen drama after drama after drama after drama…. until the last drama found me as its casualty. The sad part? I was victim of a cyber bully breaking the very rules they so adamantly enforced. When I asked two moderators to please enforce the rule and remove the comment, I found myself bounced out of another group…. a separate group, that I did no wrong in! The group they banned me from was a separate entity from the group in which the insulting comment was made. That would be like asking Kroger to fix an issue for you and getting banned from Food Lion! Because I belong to several different groups that are run properly, with integrity, I will not me naming this group in this post, but you all know how to contact me! 😉
I had been a member of a forum on Facebook for four years…. four years I sat up all night at times, giving my time and love…. giving my advice and heart to others who needed a helping hand. This was a forum for those of us with chronic pain. The first two or so years it was great and run fairly and efficiently. There was one or two people that were not what I would call ‘warm and fuzzy’ but you are going to have that anywhere. I have always gotten along well in social media situations…. never having a problem. I was a member of other forums with no problem and still am and I want to make that very clear….. this is a problem I see but it is very *rare*. In any event, the first two years went well but them some people began to join that were ‘trouble makers’ of sorts. I don’t really know another way to put it. I witnessed as people began to talk behind others backs (I know because people personal messaged me about ‘her’ and ‘her’ and ‘him’). I tried to just ‘maintain’ and not get involved.
Then there was this…. well jerk….. who was all about MM. Okay, here is where I stand on pot. Frankly, I think it should be legal. It is no worse (and in a lot of cases less harmful) than booze, it has awesome pain control benefits and to be honest, it is natural. It is made by God and God put it here for a reason: perhaps that reason was so we have a ‘natural pain killer’. For someone like me who is also very anxious, it helps calm nerves, etc. I can also say, I have never used it. Not even as a teen. Never. As a kid I was the ‘brainy nerd’. Though I did attend my share of keg parties, I never dabbled in drugs. I got married and started having my kids young. The rest, as they say, is history. This guy pushed and pushed…. articles, studies, opinions… it was all about MM and down with every other (legal) script. Oh and his ego; it needed its own zip code. Now I don’t disagree with him, but the bottom line is this; it is not legal. If he wants to take the chance and use it fine. Do not, however, push something illegal on me and furthermore suggest I risk losing my pain contract to take part in this (illegal) activity. One thing led to another and he got removed from the forum and things settled down. For a short while. There was, however, the continued talking behind peoples back, that never stopped. I hate talking behind peoples backs…. just hate it. I saw this go on, so I made the decision on my own, with the suggestion of my therapist, to distance myself from the group.
Around the first of the year was a very dark and difficult time for me. I hit a very low spot. It got even lower when someone in the group whom had gotten very close to me, well, bailed on me. Yep, when I needed friends the most, when I supported her (when she had gone through really tough times parenting a special needs child who was being bullied), I had listened, stood by her, gave her advice and told her to stand her ground! I told her how beautiful and wonderful she and her daughter were. I told her not to let that school turn a blind eye to the injustice that was taking place. I listened and supported. I was a friend as a friend should be. When I needed a friend in my hour of need? She split. Left. She could not take it. No, she decided it was ‘all too much’ and just ‘could not handle it’. She wanted all I could give her, but when I needed someone to lean on, the road did not go the other way. In a nutshell? She broke my heart. As a woman with trust issues who spent the first 1/2 of my life being told I was a ‘mistake’, ‘stupid’ and ‘unworthy’, the last thing I needed was someone to pull a stunt like this. I did, however, survive. It taught me to be very careful of the friends I made online and when I did make a friend online to proceed with caution and to not give too much of my heart at a time. B*E*W*A*R*E!!!!!!
Recently, a group was started for ‘caregivers’ of , well, us with chronic health issues. Great idea, right? Only, the ones with the medical issues were allowed in the group. Now I know my hubby….. he is not going to open up about something about me and my illness (that might hurt me) if he thinks I might see it. He also had seen the dodgy moderating over the years (the way the rules were not enforced for some and so strictly enforced for others). So Paul really did not participate. There was husband of a woman who was very melodramatic from the time she joined about 2 years ago (she was also BFF’s with the forum’s owner so it seems they could get away with talking politics, etc. breaking the rules when they wanted), who always seemed to be going through ‘so much more’ than everyone else. I HELPED him out a LOT at first. I took a LOT of my TIME to give him advice on issues he was having. It seems he had free access to speak politics and gun control (a huge NO NO! in both forums!). Why? Because 1. he and his wife were going through an ‘extra rough’ time (but we all are going through a rough time in one way or another!) and 2. his wife and the owner of the forum are BFF’s! So lets see, it was like this….. he could run his mouth till the cows come home about these subjects, but God forbid any of the rest of us even say as much as, “AMEN”! Seriously! A lady got fussed at for saying Amen! No joke! So a few days ago I read a post where he was apologizing if he ‘offended anyone’ (I guess someone … NOT ME….complained about him talking politics/guns). And then instead of just zipping it up like he should, he stated, “But if I ‘enlightened’ anyone……”. As my husband says, “That is like saying, ‘I am sorry, but I am still right’.” The funny thing? He and I don’t really differ on our opinions on the 2nd amendment. I would die to uphold the right to bear arms! I just don’t think any civilian has any business owning a machine gun! I also do not think a forum on chronic pain… that states in the rules, “No talking politics or political agendas” should have that allowed. Period. I stated to him, “D. That enlightenment statement does offend me. This is not the place to talk politics or guns. There are plenty of forums if you want to talk those subjects. We are here to 100% support you for what you are going through. But this is not the place for political discussions.” I do not think what I said was mean and I think it was mature and to the point… along with, well, being right. It was in the rules…. rules “marked” to the top of the page on both the regular and the caregiver forum marked by “Mary” one of the mods, to “READ, READ, READ!!!!!!” so we would be sure and follow the rules. I was not prepared for what was about to follow!
Yes, this was part of a message and while the writer could do with going back and taking a basic English class, the more glaring, clear problem was that the rules did apply to everyone else, but not him and certainly not his wife….. BFF of the forum owner. Seeing that I simply had (gently) reminded him this was a forum for caretakers of people with chronic pain and not a political forum, this gave him carte blanche to rip me up! What was more disturbing…. knowing the owner of the forum would do nothing…. I and my husband (a them member of this forum) took to sending two of the moderators messages. We just wanted this one sentence removed. Knowing this family was going through extra rough times, we did not see any sense in tearing down the whole post…. something Facebook would do if it was reported to them. I picked two of what I considered to be the most efficient… and trustworthy moderators. I was half right. One, a good friend, did what she could. When you are, however, standing up against a wave of abuse, there is little you can do. The other? He had been what I thought was a ‘real good guy’. Someone who told the newbies of the other forum… the one for those in crisis and pain that this was an ‘non-judgmental’ place. He always said this was a safe and caring place….. not! He ended up just being one of ‘the boys’ and did nothing! A hero of mine died, right then and right there. I asked nothing more of him. I did, all the same, write him one last message, asking him not to lie to people and tell them it was a safe, place that did not judge people because that was the farthest thing from the truth! The bully won the battle… but not the war.
In the end, with no one to help me or back me up, I had to report the post to Facebook. It was a hateful, unjustifiable comment. It did not take but a few hours for someone at Facebook…. someone with unclouded eyes to see this post was wrong. Sadly, the entire post was pulled…. not what we wanted or asked for. If the owner and/or moderators had just run the forum as it was supposed to be run in the first place following the rules this would have never been allowed to stay and none of this would have ever happened. It gets worse! I got booted from BOTH groups! My crime? I was just trying to follow the rules and defend myself against a comment. I was bullied! And it was allowed! This is like some sick and crazy ‘house of horrors’ with all its ridiculous smoke and mirrors and no one can be trusted! It is like a crazy nightmare you cannot get out of! When you do show it to a neutral set of eyes, it does not take them long to see that it is wrong!
Most groups are fine. Most groups on social media set forth rules and the members follow them. Sure, dramas erupt here and there and are efficiently put out. All the same, when a blind eye is turned to outright insulting and worse….. when it is brought to the attention of those in charge, and nothing is done to correct what is wrong…… well, the person in charge needs to take a long, hard look at their motives and really search their soul: “Am I doing this for the greater good or should I perhaps have a smaller private group?” I think the answer is crystal clear!
Until next time, when I will resume with the top ten songs!, K.