When Groups Go Horribly Wrong

I have been trying to get over this in my own way, but without talking about it, and it isn’t working. It was only yesterday, although it seems longer ago than that. I suppose because it was so intense.

Tea PartyEveryone has all these warnings about meeting friends online: they could be stalkers, they could be pretending to be someone else, they could be chainsaw wielding mass murderers…they could be “bad people.”

What if something happens, and a little of the above is true, say, they could be pretending to be someone else, but they have a reason for it, one they can’t control. Say, a mental illness, possibly on top of a lot of other confusions in their life, which triggered a massive breakdown.

I was in a group that I absolutely loved. I could be myself, it was a small group, and it felt like a little family in a sense. I felt at home there. Then, one night, the moderator, who we all loved, disappeared. Just simply vanished without a trace, without an explanation, nothing. Disturbing is the least shocking feeling many of us felt. Among betrayal, shock, sadness… One of the now co-moderators said that we were basically ungrateful, that he had left without saying anything because he cared too much to say goodbye. I didn’t really think much of it at the time. That was on June 11th. A couple of days later a new moderator appeared, a mystery moderator, dressed in a suit with a question mark face. I think I can say with relative certainty that this unsettled many of us. Everything started to slowly break apart–there were rumors that it was the previous moderator who had come back–who had never left, and the two co-moderators were entirely fictitious characters he had started. There had been an outbreak of sock puppet one star raters earlier, so that was another consideration. The fact was that no one knew, and people were becoming distrustful. This distrust was sharply rebuffed by the co-moderators, who said they were real.

Yesterday everything came to a head. There was a group, the one that I agreed with, who didn’t care what the new moderator looked like, we just wanted to know what kind of person he was. He had already changed the rules: it had been, “No criticizing other members.” Now it was “No criticizing other members or the moderator.” He kept deflecting the issue and questions about his personality into whether or not people wanted him with or without a face. Finally he was called on it in such a manner that he had to reveal himself. Our group was mostly gay man and straight women. He was straight and married, so he said. He was rude and lascivious in his greeting to me–all three of the men, all gay, had made comments about me in one way or another. I didn’t really think of it at the time, that all three had said something. After all, what are the chances of that happening? Upon reflection, not very high. The possible reasons

for that I’m not going to go into here. Upon further questions, he started to break a little at a time, someone who knew him well tried to talk to him, someone who knew who he was and his past. The moderator proceeded to ban a couple of people from the group. We knew something was really wrong, and told him he could contact any of us who was there–I sent him a private message–he was already somewhat delusional and accused me of something to do with one of the co-moderators which wasn’t true, told me he was blocking me because he didn’t want to play that game, and was going to advice that specific co-moderator to do the same. I tried to reach them repeatedly. One blocked me immediately, the other said he was sick of conspiracy theories and then blocked me. They still aren’t receiving messages today.

The new moderator, who is the old moderator, is still there. He might stay now, when he was threatening to leave yesterday. Who knows. I left the group. There seemed to be something specific against me, although I’m not entirely sure what. I had gotten along fine with the old moderator and both of the co-moderators. But that isn’t the most important thing I have to say.

The most important thing I have to say is that yes, sometimes group moderators are bad people, creepy people, people who otherwise couldn’t get anyone to talk to them, slimy people you’d never approach if you were walking down the street.

Our moderator was NOT one of those people, Even now, he’s NOT one of those people. He’s mentally ill and needs help. I’m mentally ill too, I can empathize with him. Going into a full-blown episode on line is not something I would want to happen to me, and I wish he had professional help. He needs it, because he’s a loving, caring, sweet and kind man. He did things I know he wouldn’t like knowing he did. Things I know I would forgive him for because they were said while he was in a manic state and he can’t really be held responsible for that, I believe. Whether or not the other people he hurt forgive him, that’s a personal decision on their part, and I couldn’t blame them for going either way. It was hurtful.

As for the co-moderators, you did a fine job of not co-moderating, which leads me to believe you are constructs. If you’re not, you should be ashamed of yourselves. All you had to do was read what was happening on the board to see the truth. There is no excuse for not intervening if you are real. If you want people to believe you, make them believe you. If you are real, try to talk your new “Co-Moderator” into getting some help instead of running roughshod over everyone, including the two of you. Setting your profiles to private and not receiving messages doesn’t really engender faith in the truthfulness of your identities.

Just remember that sometimes there are people in groups who are not “bad,” they just need help. Mental illness isn’t contagious, you won’t get cooties from it, or if someone sneezes on you. Have empathy for the person, let them know you care, even if they tell you you’re lying. What you’re saying is getting into some niche in there. Don’t write them off as a bad person, though, because they’re not. They just need help.

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