I am writing this post in the hopes of drawing a line under some recent unpleasantness on the site, but I hope you will understand why I have turned off commenting on this post, as I do not want to cause any arguments.
There are a few things I would like to raise, which have come up lately:
We have never had to do anything about the ‘off-topic’ posts before, as people have tended to self-moderate and they have not been seen as frequent enough to cause a problem or appear to over-run the forum. The simplest solution to ensuring that the primary goal of the forum, which is a health-related forum, where people can discuss any concerns they have about their RA and share their experiences would be to ban off-topic posts all-together. I would hate to have to do that, as I know that many people enjoy them, and find the occasional off-topic post can be quite uplifting. However, there have been times lately when the primary focus has been a bit lost. I have therefore contacted HealthUnlocked with some suggestions to how this might be resolved, but it will depend on what they are able to do and what their plans are for the site.
2.The photo sharing posts
I think in future, if people want to call on other members to do something like share photos, it might be better, in hindsight, to contact the admins and ask us first, so that we can decide if this is something we want on the forum, and will be prepared to manage it properly. Having said that, I and the other admins really enjoyed seeing the photos and reading more about some familiar and some new faces on the forum, and it was nice to get to know people better. I completely understood the concerns that this was flooding the newsfeeds, but I did feel that it was ‘on-topic’ this time, as I would say that most people shared their experiences with RA along with their photo. As others have said, if there had been a way to share these all on one thread, this would have been great, as it would not have impacted so much on the newsfeed. I have gone to HealthUnlocked with this suggestion, but they obviously have their own plans for the platform, and the priorities of the other forums on here to consider, so for the meantime we have to do the best we can with how the site is now.
Please do not bring in other people’s names, or reference private messages and discussions with other members or the admins to strengthen any points you raise. Your comments should be based on your own experiences and should not bring in other people’s.
No matter how you feel about another forum user, and even if you feel they have said something abusive first, we do not tolerate abusive or in any way negative remarks that are directed towards another forum user. If you feel someone has done this to you, or see them doing it to someone else, please report the comment, rather than retaliating.
5.Posts referring to previous issues on the forum
I have asked people not to do this before, but on several occasions recently this has been ignored or at least a reminder has been needed. If a problem breaks out on a post, as admins we will often delete the post, delete some of the responses and/or turn of replies to that post, in order to stop arguments from continuing and getting out of hand. If you then create a new post along the lines of ‘I can’t believe all the arguing that went on on that last post’ this will only give a new platform for arguments to continue. The longer arguments go on, the more chance there is that people say things they don’t mean and can’t easily take back.
6.Respect the admins
Believe it or not, all the admins at NRAS really care about this forum and all the lovely people on it. We hate it when arguments break out, but we deal with it as professionally and objectively as we can. We cannot please everyone, and not everyone will agree with the decisions we make, but what makes these issues really hard to deal with is people demanding that we respond a certain way (i.e. calling for us to ban someone, which will always be a last resort) or sending us abusive messages if they disagree with our decision. We put a lot of effort into the running of this forum behind the scenes and have even given up our spare time on numerous occasions to deal with situations on the site, because we care. We are only human, so offloading your frustrations by sending abusive messages to admins takes its toll on us. Please also remember that we are not full-time admins for HealthUnlocked, and we do this work alongside our other roles at NRAS. I don’t say that to in any way diminish the importance of the forum, but to remind you that even a single, throw away comment on the site can lead to hours of our time being taken up in sorting it out, which does pull us away from vital work for people with RA.
The last point I would like to make is this. I have worked with NRAS for over 10 years now. For much of that time, we have had HealthUnlocked and I have seen it from its very beginnings. There will always be strong opinions, strong personalities and occasional disputes, but we can all play a part in minimizing this by being conscious of what we post. You are not in control of what other people say, but you can control what you say, and you can alert admins if you have any concerns. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this forum most of the time is a supportive, helpful environment, where people are genuinely helped by quick responses, support and friendship when they need it most.