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FINANCIAL CHRONICLE™ » FINANCIAL CHRONICLE™ » The Psychology of Online Forums

The Psychology of Online Forums

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1The Psychology of Online Forums Empty The Psychology of Online Forums Thu Nov 28, 2013 3:48 pm

The Alchemist


Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
Online forums have risen in popularity over the years and have provided the general public with a means of gathering together to discuss everything from recreational hobbies to medical conditions to Hollywood celebrities. Rich and poor, high school dropout to Ph.D., these discussion boards provide an unusual gathering of the minds where everyone has an equal voice. From Usenet in the 80's to the development of modern-day message boards, the Internet effectively lowered the inhibitions of millions of people around the world and changed sociology as we know it.

A few years ago I stumbled into my first online fan forum. Never having stepped foot into this sort of online social scene, I laid low for a while to get the hang of it and to catch up on the posts. I was shocked to see fan-friendly banter packed with power trips, trolls, flame wars and sense of entitlement issues. It was the cyber-equivalent of a lion's den and it introduced me to an unattractive yet intriguing side of human nature.

For better or worse my curiosity was peaked. I felt like I was smack-dab in the middle of some twisted social experiment. I was drawn to the chaos and couldn't help but tune in for the train wreck night after night until I could no longer stand the ridiculousness of it all. For a while I was truly mesmerized and almost felt ashamed to be amused by this classic yet modern example of ethnomethodology.

Ethnomethodology is a sociology theory that describes how people in certain situations, such as online environments, create the false impression of a collective social order when they don't understand, or perhaps don't care to understand each other fully. Inevitably, the different points of view within this forged community can lead to total anarchy if not intensely moderated by an unbiased member.

Within these online communities, notions of hierarchy are quickly established by the more seasoned posters who exhibit a rather skewed sense of importance and authority. Cliques are formed and mimic real life by picking on weaker or less popular individuals within the group.

In forums saturated with women, passion and possessiveness trumps kindness and rationality. In male-oriented groups testosterone takes over as insults fly, everyone suddenly belongs to Mensa and the discussion can turn into something along the lines of locker room bullying. Above it all, sarcasm reigns supreme, of course sarcasm doesn't easily translate online.

Anonymity allows people to toss their reservations out the window resulting in all sorts of embarrassing behavior. Fan forums can turn into a virtual soap opera where drama reigns and passions fly and crash just as quickly. Admiration for a celebrity can vary from innocent appreciation to awe, unbridled lust, "love" and virtual stalking.

In many fan forums, members equate their seniority or number of posts to a personal, real-life bond with their celebrity of choice. In one forum, every few months, the celebrity would pop in and say hello and give everyone an update about the happenings in his life.

Despite this outreach a couple posters turned against the celebrity for not properly acknowledging his or her existence while engaging other members' questions. Their admiration quickly turned into brutal malice overnight with brutal verbal attacks on the celebrity and the "sheep" who worshiped him.

Over the years, I've encountered more extreme examples of hostility and especially racial intolerance in forums and comment sections on YouTube and interactive news articles. If anyone thinks we've come a long way regarding racism, I dare you to spend one minute reading the comments under any of rapper Pimp C's articles of his recent passing over at TMZ. The racial hatred is a disturbing reminder of how online anonymity brings out the worst in people.

Children's forums are impervious to the absurdity as well. Some of the most embarrassing online behavior came from the old official Wiggles forum where some adult participants would harass other members for being dyslexic or for having general articulation deficiencies. What was particularly disturbing was how children would visit the message board and had to encounter the very same behavior their parents would discourage.

After writing hour's worth of illegible posts and being ridiculed for it, one poster admitted to having a severe learning disability but the teasing didn't stop. She loved the Wiggles and wanted to have innocent conversations with others who loved them just as much. The moderator even deleted her account several times assuming it would be easier to send her away than tame the masses. Every time she came back (poor thing was confused as to why she couldn't log into her old account) the mockery gained momentum until she finally left.

More recently, a friend of mine suggested I check out Discovery Health's Jon and Kate Plus 8 fan forum. I was shocked at how scrutinizing this couple's "doomed" marriage had turned into a virtual sport. Even Jon and Kate's children weren't immune from the public's contempt. Three-quarters of that forum is filled with negativity and in this case the moderator hardly steps in unless the messages go off topic. Jon and Kate are a real-life family and should be protected just as much as the forum users should be protected from personal slams.

Forums have become widely-known for their hostility and major corporations have begun to take notice. David Benady of Marketing Week points out how corporations often use forum hostility and social structure to their advantage. Benady discussed the advertising tactics of BMW marketing executives:

""They have their own blogger IDs such as Scott 26. They certainly come on forums around new model launches. They are not high-posting users, they just come on and say this is coming soon. BMW deliberately tries not to sound as intelligent as you would expect a marketer to." [Steve] Davies argues that brands need to understand the psychology of online forums, where people crave self-esteem and status, both as individuals and for the whole community. By giving advocates exclusive pieces of information that they can then disseminate to a forum, it creates goodwill. Potential brand advocates can be identified on forums from users with the highest post counts or the ones starting the most widely read threads. But Davies says it is important the brand owner doesn't put any spin on the information it contributes to a discussion. Instead, it should simply give data and information and hope the advocates spin it themselves."(Benady, 2007)"

One could say an online forum is a microcosm of society; however, a true microcosm would be comprised of unique individuals with a full range of interests and backgrounds. In an online setting such as a writers' forum, or an online classroom message board we find many people with varied backgrounds who share a specific interest. Despite differing opinions, there should be a blanket element of solidarity within the group and ironically, this does not seem to hold true.

Different personalities play a role in the hostility as well. People might suffer from low self-esteem, shyness, or a physical disability that prevents them from feeling comfortable enough to socialize with others in real life. For these people forums can be greatly therapeutic and fulfilling. Some people are passive-aggressive or have other control issues and find themselves in an environment where they are free to assert their aggressive nature in full force with no repercussions. Others can be tremendously passive in real life yet anonymously they are finally given a voice in a place where their opinions mean something to a captive audience. Also present are "trolls" that are just itching to start flame wars no matter that the topic is about and live to argue.

Class consciousness is brought into the mix by individuals who suffer from inadequacy or lack of validation and feel compelled to flaunt their real life social status, education, Mensa affiliation, employment or monetary status (whether genuine or fabricated) in an attempt to make others feel insignificant or to catapult themselves into the stratosphere of the forum's rank structure.

No matter what the individual's agenda or personality happen to be, people become intertwined in the drama of forums find it addicting and empowering to behave antisocially. One of the aggressors in a show's forum was a married mother of three who accumulated over 30,000 posts over a year and a half. That equals out to an average of 54 posts a day, seven says a week. The addiction can be very real and staying angry for that period of time can't possibly be good one's health.

Online forums can be a safe haven for people with addictions. They can use these forums to find support and better themselves. More specifically to the uniqueness of online sociology, others are allowed to voice their addictions with no repercussions or nagging. For instance, people with addictions to food or those who suffer from anorexia will seek each other out and talk about what they have (or haven't) eaten so far that day as if they are in a friendly competition, while alcoholics will compare how many drinks they have had before noon that day. I've seen others who according to their own dialog, are online all day playing games and complain when their children are hungry or that they want attention period.

Certainly not everyone who steps foot into these forums are monsters or addicts, it's just that the monsters have a habit of taking over. Why can some people cope with these unnatural interactions as if they were engaging with people in real life and why do others take on sanctimonious or belligerent attitudes?

There's a difference between healthy debating and blatant antagonizing. In an online setting where you can't see facial expressions or always sniff out witty sarcasm, people can easily misconstrue others' intended words. Next time you find yourself in a hostile thread, try to take the high ground and shrug off offending comments. Users should also try to gracefully respect comments that differ in opinion even if they are unpopular statements about highly controversial topics. Always report any obvious attempts of flaming to the moderator before it gets out of hand. That's what they're there for.

If you are the offender, and are going off for the gratification of starting chaos or inflating your own self-esteem, perhaps seeking therapy might be in order or at least ask yourself why you harbor so much animosity towards the world. It is never okay to rationalize personal attacks with anonymity. Respect the person's rights, regardless of viewpoint. I'm just waiting for the day when someone turns around and sues a forum's host for damages caused by anxiety, high blood pressure or a heart attack. The way forums are going these days it's bound to happen sooner than later.

Source
http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/item/58824

2The Psychology of Online Forums Empty Re: The Psychology of Online Forums Thu Nov 28, 2013 3:52 pm

sriranga

sriranga
Co-Admin
Timely one. Thanks a lot.

http://sharemarket-srilanka.blogspot.co.uk/

3The Psychology of Online Forums Empty Re: The Psychology of Online Forums Thu Nov 28, 2013 4:28 pm

Aubrey Perera


Vice President - Equity Analytics
Vice President - Equity Analytics
Brilliant Mate !!! Not pointing fingers. But I myself made some similar comments about happenings in this forum as well not too long ago Wink

4The Psychology of Online Forums Empty Re: The Psychology of Online Forums Sat Nov 30, 2013 9:01 pm

The Alchemist


Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
9 Types of Entitlement Tendencies and How to Overcome Them


Source (internet) - Working on entitlement tendencies is likely to improve your relationships.
Published on March 4, 2013 by Alice Boyes, Ph.D. in In Practice

If you have entitlement tendencies, choosing to work on them is likely to improve your relationships.

See if you can identify any of the following entitlement tendencies in yourself. Then, try some of the suggestions that follow.

Examples of Entitlement Tendencies

1. You expect the same rules that apply to others shouldn’t apply to you. For example, other people might need to start at the bottom and work their way up but you shouldn’t have to.

2. You feel massively put upon when other people ask you for small favors but expect that when you ask people for favors it’s no big effort.

3. You expect other people to be more interested in you and what’s on your agenda than you're interested in them and what’s on their agenda. You see your own interests as more interesting than other people’s, and see your goals/dreams as more valid or important than other people’s.

4. You disregard rules that are intended for everyone’s comfort. For example, you ignore signs to please not put your feet on the chairs at the movies.

5. You freeload. For example, you use bittorrent programs to download movies rather than paying for them. Or, you listen to public radio all the time but never donate during donation drives.

6. You inconvenience others without thinking. For example, you cancel appointments or reservations repeatedly. Or, you make plans with friends and then bail on those plans without considering that your friend may have organized other plans around fitting you in. Or, you run into a store 1 minute before closing without thinking about the fact you’ll be delaying the shop assistant from getting home on time. You think “it’s only 5 minutes” without considering that the assistant may have somewhere they need to be.

7. You think it’s ok to upset or offend other people. You see people who like to keep the peace as weak.

8. You cheat in environments that are based on reciprocity. For example, you ask loads of questions in your favorite internet forum, but you don’t spend the same amount of time answering other’s questions.

9. When working in groups, you think you should be the leader or get the most credit.



5 Ways to Work on Entitlement Tendencies

1. Practice perspective taking.
Take a recent example of a time you got mildly annoyed with someone and spend 3 minutes writing about the situation from the other person’s perspective. Practice understanding what their agenda was.

2. Sensitize yourself to how good it feels to promote other people’s successes.

There is an area of social psychology research called capitalization research that shows that promoting other people’s successes has a positive effect on the sharer. To make a project out of it, try promoting someone else other than yourself at least once a day for 30 days.

3. Use cognitive restructuring.

Take any of the entitlement tendencies you can relate to and consider alternative evidence and perspectives. For example, what are some reasons the same rules that apply to everyone else should also apply to you? What are some reasons why keeping the peace and avoiding upsetting/offending people (unless absolutely necessary) is a virtue? What are some examples of how people are generally more generous to you than you are to them?

4. Observe what happens when you curb your entitlement tendencies.

Do relationships run smoother? Do you find it's easier for you to sustain relationships without you burning other people out? Do you end up feeling less annoyance? Do people end up supporting you more because you’re supporting them?

Understanding when curbing your entitlement tendencies actually benefits you is a great way to reinforce making changes.

5. Catch yourself if you fall into the moral licensing trap.

Moral licensing is a cognitive distortion in which people internally justify things they do that are wrong. It’s a common tendency. See if you can catch yourself doing it. For example, develop mindful awareness of thoughts like “It’s okay to take more than I give in X situation because....”

Notes

People with entitlement tendencies come in two types - (1) those who feel ashamed of their tendencies and feel motivated to change, and (2) those who see no reason to change.

If you fit in the former category, don’t be too hard on yourself. Expect yourself to put in consistent effort to change your ways, but don’t load up on self-criticism (harsh self-criticism is likely to result in less positive change rather than more).

5The Psychology of Online Forums Empty Re: The Psychology of Online Forums Sat Nov 30, 2013 11:45 pm

Monster

Monster
Senior Vice President - Equity Analytics
Senior Vice President - Equity Analytics
Good one, and timely

6The Psychology of Online Forums Empty Re: The Psychology of Online Forums Sun Dec 01, 2013 7:49 am

smallville

smallville
Associate Director - Equity Analytics
Associate Director - Equity Analytics
There are very few nut heads in this forum who need to read this Wink

Good one Alchimi.. Cool 

7The Psychology of Online Forums Empty Re: The Psychology of Online Forums Sun Dec 01, 2013 2:29 pm

The Alchemist


Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
Flame trolling

Flame trolling is the posting of a provocative or offensive message, known as "flamebait",to a public Internet discussion group, such as a forum, newsgroup or mailing list, with the intent of provoking an angry response (a "flame") or argument over a topic the poster often has no real interest in. While flaming can occur as a result of legitimate debates or grievances, flame trolling implies the intentional posting of inflammatory, grossly offensive or menacing rhetoric or images for the fun of it in order to cause others harm.

As stated, flame trolling can stem from a variety of issues, including misunderstandings, frustration, and perceptions of unfairness. One motive (from trolls especially) is the desire for attention and for entertainment derived at the expense of others. Posted flamebait can provide the poster with a controlled trigger-and-response setting in which to anonymously engage in conflicts and indulge in aggressive behavior without facing the consequences that such behavior might bring in a face-to-face encounter, a fact parodied in a YouTube video by Isabel Fay. In other instances, flamebait may be used to reduce a forum's use by angering the forum users. In 2012 it was announced that the US State Department would start flame trolling Jihadists as part of Operation Viral Peace

Flame War

A flame war results when multiple users engage in provocative responses to an original post - while the original post is usually flamebait, this is not always the case. Flame wars often draw in many users (including those trying to defuse the flame war) and can overshadow regular forum discussion if left unchecked.

Resolving a flame war can be difficult, as it is often hard to determine who is really responsible for the degradation of a reasonable discussion into flame war. Someone who posts a contrary opinion in a strongly focused discussion forum may be easily labeled a "baiter", "flamer", or "troll".

An approach to resolving a flame war or responding to flaming is to communicate openly with the offending users. Acknowledging mistakes, offering to help resolve the disagreement, making clear, reasoned arguments, and even self-deprecation have all been noted as worthwhile strategies to end such disputes. However, others prefer to simply ignore flaming, noting that, in many cases, if the flamebait receives no attention, it will quickly be forgotten as forum discussions carry on. Unfortunately, this can motivate trolls to intensify their activities, creating additional distractions.

"Taking the bait" or "feeding the troll" refers to someone who responds to the original message regardless of whether they are aware the original message was intended to provoke a response. Often when someone takes the bait, others will point this out to them with the acronym "YHBT", which is short for "You have been trolled", or reply with "don't feed the trolls." Forum users will usually not give the troll acknowledgement; that just "feeds the troll".

Orthography and grammar

Incorrect spelling and grammatical mistakes are also very frequently the subject of flames, particularly if a flame war has already started. In such a situation, the flamers may try to impugn their opponents' intelligence by highlighting any errors in their adversaries' grammar or spelling. This has given rise to the term spelling flame for a flame that excoriates an earlier poster over their spelling errors. Posters who censure the grammar of others are often called Grammar Nazis – this may cause great offence due to the association with Nazism, but this label is also used ironically and is proudly self-applied by many Grammar Nazis.

Cyberbullying

is the use of Information Technology to harm or harass other people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner. According to U.S. Legal Definitions, Cyber-bullying could be limited to posting rumors or gossips about a person in the internet bringing about hatred in other’s minds; or it may go to the extent of personally identifying victims and publishing materials severely defaming and humiliating them.

Cyberbullying is defined in legal glossaries as

1. actions that use information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm another or others.

2. use of communication technologies for the intention of harming another person

3. use of internet service and mobile technologies such as web pages and discussion groups as well as instant messaging or SMS text messaging with the intention of harming another person.

Examples of what constitutes cyberbullying include communications that seek to intimidate, control, manipulate, put down, falsely discredit, or humiliate the recipient. The actions are deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior intended to harm another. Cyberbullying has been defined by The National Crime Prevention Council: “When the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.

A cyberbully may be a person whom the target knows or an online stranger. A cyberbully may be anonymous and may solicit involvement of other people online who do not even know the target. This is known as a 'digital pile-on.

Source - Wikipedia

8The Psychology of Online Forums Empty Re: The Psychology of Online Forums Sun Dec 01, 2013 2:45 pm

The Alchemist


Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
Senior Manager - Equity Analytics
Question: What Is an Internet 'Troll'? How Should I Deal With Trolls?

Answer: An internet 'troll' is an abusive or obnoxious user who uses shock value to promote arguments and disharmony in online communities. Named after the wicked troll creatures of children's tales, an internet troll is someone who stirs up drama and abuses their online anonymity by purposely sowing hatred, bigotry, racism, mysogyny, or just simple bickering between others. Trolls like a big audience, so they frequent blog sites, news sites, discussion forums, and game chat. Trolls thrive in any environment where they are allowed to make public comments.

At the lighter end of the troll spectrum, trolls can be personal friends who like to goad and joke with their buddies online. In this case, 'trolling' will mean 'stop hassling me, or I won't invite you to my birthday party'.

At the harsher end of the troll spectrum, trolls are cruel and malicious users who want to set an online community on fire with hate and discord.

The Sad Truths of Internet Trolls:

1. Trolls are immune to criticism and logical arguments. True trolls cannot be reasoned with, regardless of how sound your logical argument is.

2. Trolls do not feel remorse like you and me. They have sociopathic tendencies, and accordingly, they delight in other people having hurt feelings.

3. Trolls consider themselves separate from the social order.

4. Trolls do not abide by etiquette or the rules of common courtesy.

5. Trolls consider themselves above social responsibility.

6. Trolls gain energy by you insulting them.

7. Trolls gain energy when you get angry.

8. The only way to deal with a troll is to ignore him, or take away his ability to post online.


How Should I Deal With Internet Trolls?

You cannot win with a troll. Publicly retaliating against them just fuels their childish need for attention. There are only 3 reliable ways to deal with trolls, all of which focus on removing their audience, removing their power, and depriving them of the attention they seek.

1. For a casual or emergent troll: completely ignore the person's postings. While it is difficult for most users to to let a troll have the last word, this tactic successfully takes the wind out of a casual troll's sails.

2. For repeating troll offenders: report them to the moderators of the system. If enough people report the toll, this will often prompt the moderators to take action (see number 3 below)

3. Have the moderators take away the troll's ability to post online. This will commonly mean that the troll is kicked from the system, or blocked by IP address. Even better is when the troll is allowed to continue posting, but unbeknownst to him: all of his postings are deleted from everyone else's view. This will lure the troll into wasting his efforts while still feeling proud of his childish antics. This moderator move is sometimes called 'muting' or 'bonzo-ing' the offender.


What Are Some Examples of Internet Trolling?

Ans: here are two examples of trolls abusing other people and their online communities:

Example: a troll named 'Nimrod Severn' trolls Facebook and spreads hateful messages on memorium pages.

Example: a troll named 'C. Fang' incites forum arguments over anti-diversity and anti-multiculturalism


Where Do You Find Internet Trolls?

Ans: internet trolls are sadly common. They can be found wherever online users interact with each other. Trolls will abuse others in news blogs, political discussion forums, hobbyist communities online, Facebook pages, torrent search engine conversations, and in online game chat. Trolls have become very common in news sites. Many online news sources now avoid using open comment features because so many internet trolls will use this venue to post abusive comments as responses to news articles.

How Exactly Do Internet Trolls Abuse Others?

Ans: internet trolls seek to be disruptive and hurtful by using any of the following techniques:

1. Trolls will post abusive and hurtful comments directed at a specific person (aka "flaming" another person)

2. Trolls will incite broad arguments and provoke angry responses by making controversial statements. (e.g. racism, religious intolerance, bigoted or elitist views, mysogyny, extreme political views)

3. Trolls will narcissistically dominate conversations, trying to make themselves the center of attention. (e.g. nonstop comments about themselves and their accomplishments; repeated self-centered statements and bragging)

4. Trolls will start many off-topic threads, seeking to derail users from the focus of an online community.


Why Do People Enjoy Being Internet Trolls?

Ans: it is a kind of power rush or ego trip to be a troll. Being online is a place that is largely free of perceived consequences... an insecure person can get a sense of power online, without ever having to face someone directly. With the Internet being a world of imagination and fantasy for some, cowardly users can forge an alter ego for themselves, and act out their feelings of anger and inadequacy. It's sad and unfortunate that our advanced communications also brings out the darker side of many people.

Source - What Is an Internet 'Troll'? How Should I Deal With Trolls? By Paul Gil (Internet)

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