For the past few years, Gaia's community has been toxic.
I feel very strongly that the chatterbox and even more specific forums such as the Gaia Community Discussion and Site Feedback forums share in a good deal of 'strangers' who find enjoyment in creating a hurtful narrative of others. There are people who feed on hurtful commentary of anyone but themselves. Some people call it a problem with "trolling" and leave it at that. I think it's much more indicative of systemic failures to properly moderate and administrative failure in showing empathy toward users.
But here's a unique case where you can see Bonanza86 sharing genuine empathy with a friend. A friend who, despite his recommendation to stop posting in a destructive way, continued later unfriending and blocking him for trying to help her.
It would be so easy for Bonanza86 to just totally lay into his friend. In his full video he does express feelings of being let down because she unfriends him right as he's trying to deliver a message of tough love. But instead he expresses geniune care for his friend as she heads down a destructive path.
Too often, our administrative staff, our moderators, our "friends" and close counterparts find the destructive things we do as markers for condemnation. Unfortunately, rather than recognizing an opportunity to pur into one another in one another's weakness, we try to assert our strength of character in a narrative that best fits our agendas.
For example, in most every thread a banned user makes an appeal for in Site Feedback, the thread is absolutely lambasted by negative messaging from the community towards users attempting to make an appeal. Once a moderator openly discusses the reason why a user is banned, the herd mentality only intensifies and regardless of the reason for the appeal, banned users get trampled from all sides when trying to make a public appeal.
As another example, moderators rarely respond to users ToS violations without mentioning a distinct possibility of a ban if 'behavior' continues. And this warning often serves as nothing more than a condescending reminder that procedures are valued at a much higher standard than people. If people were truly put first, moderation, particularly when dealing with dramatic incidents, would take place in a much more mediative form.
But despite the toxicity, there's an unescapable truth that Bonanza86 quickly made clear:
Stop putting yourself in situations where the community will hurt you.
This is the message that struck me the hardest. Not only because of my personal history with trolls, doxxers, outrageous administrative ignorance, etc. It struck me because my whole concept up to this point has been that ignorance is alive and well on Gaia Online. Ignorance to one another's needs. Ignorance toward building one another up. Ignorance of the abuse and neglect happening all around us.
But in truth, people are looking out for one another by encouraging one another to not get sucked into the narrative that other people have of them. Rather than trying to prove to others that they are, indeed, a good person by posting and getting in front of the narrative... users are almost heroic in their absence from defending one another on Gaia's forums.
So the lesson I learned from watching this video and really the lesson I feel Gaia needs to embrace and understand is this:
Gaia's community will be hurtful. No ifs, ands or buts about it. They will try to hurt you when you put yourself in a defensive mindset.
With confidence in who you are and trusting friends who are telling you to stay out of the fray on these toxic forums, you are so much better off than believing any other narrative.
Feel free to join this discussion with your thoughts by commenting on our facebook post or mentioning us on twitter @gaiansunited.
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