I am here today to present an instructional discourse on how best to avoid being petty, divisive and annoying to other people when enjoying an online role-playing game of any sort. For I have grown tired and weary of seeing people I like behave like unpleasant high-schoolers, and I am also weary of trying to stop foolish misconceptions from growing into utterly inane enmities.
So without further ado:
INTERNET DRAMA AND YOU
What is Internet Drama?
Internet Drama, as defined here, refers to irrational overreaction to trivial matters on the Interweb.
The Internets are a series of tubes that carry pornography and egregious grammatical travesties to every home in the world.
Fig. 1: A typical user of Internets.
While users, mainly passive-aggressive pseudo-shut-ins, submit pornography and travesties for each other's perusal, they lack the benefit of interpersonal communication, and thus, many users can be entirely oblivious to standard social cues or slightly hurt feelings. Many users are aware of this, and take steps to compensate for these drawbacks, sometimes with the overuse of emoticons, (i.e. , or ) to the point where they indicate insincerity rather than the intended connotation, other times with the use of proper perspective, which we will discuss in more detail later.
It is when users do not take these things into account and allow their initial negative reactions to metastasize into silent grudges, sworn vendettas or pathetic histrionics that we enter the realm of Internet Drama.
Fig. 2: Recommended cure for causes of Internet Drama, non-gender-specific.
How do you combat the dreaded scourge of Internet Drama?
If you wish to stop misunderstandings, misconceptions and miscommunications from festering until they explode into Internet Drama, which no one intelligent enjoys, it is important to remember The 3 Ps.
Perspective, as used here, is defined as the choice of a context or a reference from which to sense, categorize, measure or codify experience. In other words, the filter through which you will view a person, place, thing, idea or event.
Many users of the internets tend to make the mistake of viewing each particular questionable incidence within the series of tubes through only one perspective - their own initial perspective. If left unchecked and unmitigated, this initial perspective, if negative, can build upon itself until it becomes a full-blown irrational response.
Most children's television and common sense will tell you to consider more than that - the perspectives of the other people involved. You may feel wronged, but they may feel just as wronged, or may just perhaps be unaware that you would feel wronged by something they did.
And so on.
These are important to take note of, these other perspectives on what has galled you. However, the perspective I speak of is a grander scheme.
Things To Take Into Account Before Whining And Bitching About Online Role Playing:
1. You do not live in Darfur.
2. Your genitals are not ritually mutilated for religious or cultural reasons.
3. You have access to food.
In fact, whenever you feel insulted or aggravated about Online Role Playing, immediately think of this image. Or perform a Google image search for "starving children." Form a Pavlovian association in this regard. This should serve to correctly alter your perspective on the subject of who Rogue is currently romantically involved with, or receiving insufficent credit for plotting 'The Curse of Tawky Tawny.'
Another issue to be on guard for when considering perspective is the commiseration spiral. A commiseration spiral occurs when two or more people who have been mildly put-out by a certain person's actions realize they share the same feelings, and rather than speaking to the offending person to try to resolve their differences, they instead proceed to complain to each other and reinforce their negative reactions until their opinion of that person is radically altered and exaggerated.
Harland is playing Captain Humongous, Penelope is playing Rocket Tits, and Squeeb is playing Farnokk The Thrusting. Squeeb has been plotting an epic Farnokk The Thrusting saga for quite some time, and Squeeb is very excited about playing it through, as there are parts for both Captain Humongous and Rocket Tits. So excited, in fact, that he commits a hasty error of omission, and continues Farnokk's Mighty Thrusting attack on the Sinister Space Trolls without realizing that Rocket Tits has called for his help with fighting Captain Humongous.
Penelope is struck with the impression that Squeeb is ignoring her, and says as much to Harland, tentatively. The exchange may go something like this.
Penelope: "Hey, I think Squeeb didn't even read my pose."
Harland: "Maybe not. Huh. Maybe he just skimmed it."
Penelope: "Or maybe he doesn't really like me."
Harland: "Or maybe he doesn't like ME."
Penelope: "You know, I bet he's pissed about that time Captain Humongous kissed Rocket Tits outside of the laundromat."
Harland: "Nobody understands our love."
Penelope: "I can't BELIEVE he'd be this petty about something like that! It was our choice to make with the characters, and who is he to throw it in our faces, like he's some RP god who doesn't even read poses?
Harland: "I'm so sick of this kind of bullshit! It's hurting the game, it is, and it's driving players away!"
Penelope: "I bet Johnny Chundernuts quit because of that crap, too!"
Harland: "Son of a bitch! He probably sits around at home, masturbating to poultry porn and trying to increase his power on the game! You can't even talk to him anymore!"
Penelope: "I know! It's got to STOP, I'm TIRED of this kind of treatment!"
Squeeb: "Hey, Harland, it's your turn."
Penelope & Harland: "YOU RAPE DOGS AND STAB THE ELDERLY WITH RUSTY PIRATE SHIP ANCHORS!"
Squeeb: "... wh-what?"
And so on.
A simple mistake that could have been rectified by a gentle prod turns into a massive conspiracy theory about power plays and personal invectives. The commiseration spiral is a slippery slope indeed.
Fig. 3: A result of a commiseration spiral.
P2.) Passive Aggression (Don't Do It)
Passive aggression, as defined here, is the highly annoying and frustrating tactic of saying the opposite of what you mean in order to keep discussions peaceful and not appearing to be a troublemaker or to cause conflict, but implying heavily what you really mean through dissembling, indirect speech and the spreading of guilt to others for having opinions that differ from yours. This isn't necessarily a conscious behavior, as those exhibiting it may honestly be trying to keep the peace rather than being deceptive, but one must be on guard for this.
At least three quarters of every tube within the Internets is stuffed full of passive aggressive people, because the Internets allow the aggression of interacting with people while also necessitating the passivity of not having to look at or hear the people you are interacting with. People who spend a lot of time on the Internets are, in a general sense, not good at and don't entirely grasp the workings of interpersonal relationships. It helps to remember this, and respond accordingly when confronted with these situations.
Honesty and flexibility are required to combat this problem. You have to be able to be honest without being a self-righteous dick about it. It may rankle one's sense of justice, but there's a difference between coddling someone and just being polite and disarming. Couching your statements in language that indicates you're not being insulting or goading goes a long way towards keeping emotions at an even keel. Sometimes it's a subtle thing, other times, it's obvious.
Which would you rather see in response to something you've written?
"Sorry, let me clarify, I actually meant that I find melted cheese to be a delicious substitute for personal lubricants."
"You misunderstand. I clearly meant that melted cheese is great lube, but you've misconstrued what I said."
Both statements saying the same thing, but the former is not assigning blame or being condescending, and is a polite way to defuse a potential annoyance while furthering a calm debate.
Those exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior have trouble adhering to this notion, as well as the rule of keeping a proper perspective. If an argumentative and mildly condescending post like the latter example above does manage to get through someone's personal manners-filter, perhaps defensive in tone but clearly on a relatively insignificant and harmless topic, the passive-aggressive person will often overreact to this terrifying threat of confrontation, retreating with over-concession and massive abuse of the smiley emoticon until it reeks of insincerity.
"I'm sorry, you're right. :)"
"Really, it's okay. :) Cheese is probably much better than what I was thinking. :)"
"In fact, maybe I'll go get some cheese :) Try it out :) Prove you right :) Never mind what I said :)"
This would be the passive part. They will not go get cheese or try it out.
This is followed later by statements like:
"Wow, this cheese is... never mind. :) No, whatever people want is fine. :) No, it's just... it's fine. Whatever, it's fine. :) I mean, I've never used it and won't so I don't really feel like I'm... but whatever, it's fine. :) I thought we were going to use the other thing, but it's fine. :) Just tell me what you want me to do. :)"
Repeated occurrences of this sort of thing have the effect of spreading guilt for disagreeing with the person, while at the same time serving to derail and drag down the cheese lubricant scene until it's no fun for anyone involved, even the people that enjoy cheese, because it can eventually come to feel like pulling teeth to get a solid, unequivocal response. The PA person may feel as though they're being peaceful and mitigating and a good sport, and on the surface, that's what the words mean, but in actuality, it serves to frustrate the people trying to work with them because this is actually the PA person constantly waving the "I AM NOT ENJOYING MYSELF" flag, which tends to destroy fun.
There are ways to have a civil debate without tempers flaring, but it requires honesty - the polite sort of honesty discussed above (as well as perhaps some cooling-off time before the debate, to vent negative emotions). If an honest impasse is reached after such a thing, well, this is where flexibility comes in. Perspective helps to realize any big impasse about a role-playing game on the Internets is really not THAT important to be stubborn about, and being flexible enough to find a workable compromise helps to legitimately keep the peace. It also requires that you do not then proceed to start whining, however subtly, about not getting your way. This is key. This is called being an adult.
The Wiki definition of passive aggression is "passive, sometimes obstructionist resistance to authoritative instructions in interpersonal or occupational situations. Sometimes a method of dealing with stress or frustration, it results in the person attacking other people in subtle, indirect, and seemingly passive ways." It's as though the PA person is subtly, passively, indirectly punishing people for not agreeing with them, and hoping that will make the punished change their minds over to the PA person's point of view. But even if the PA person is successful in getting their own way, it's often not because the argument was convincing, but rather the others are just trying to get the PA person to shut the hell up and stop the whining so they can move forward.
Another form of passive aggression is claiming you're not doing exactly what you're doing. Bill O'Reilly specializes in this.
"Have you ever heard of this obscure little factoid that I know? You haven't. Of course you haven't. But I'm not being condescending here."
1.) He is absolutely being condescending.
2.) If the factoid is obscure enough, it's indistinguishable from the truth, which gives him the imaginary leverage to argue his point. When you lie, make it something that won't be proven wrong unless someone goes out and actually does research on it. The proof of the lie will never find a public forum after the initial confrontation anyway, because everyone's attention span is too short for it.
(Another thing Bill O'Reilly does is that 'I am speaking with truth and knowledge' voice, when saying even the most inane things. Like he was talking about Al Franken's book and calling him "vicious, and that's with a capital V." In that same "I know all" tone of voice, and that's the lamest adjective-modifying phrase ever when defending yourself from someone who's just called you an out-and-out liar, but I digress).
Saying you're doing the opposite of what you're doing. As if acknowledging the bad impression someone might be getting from you excuses you from making that impression.
"I know I'm partially to blame here, but you caused this yourself."
You are not actually taking any blame.
"I know you want to do this with that other player. It's okay, I don't mind."
You are implying that you should get to approve how other people spend their time.
"I know I have made mistakes, but you people are all ratpacking on me by telling me I've made them."
The problem is the mistakes, not the people pointing them out.
"Oh, I don't care. You decide."
You had really better not care, and you can't complain if you don't like the decision. Putting the choice in someone else's hands does not give you the right to bitch at them if you don't like what they choose.
Passive aggression is essentially dishonesty. Dishonesty contributes to drama.
Be honest and direct, but don't be a jerk about it. Be polite. Don't be intractable. Flexibility and the ability to let things roll off your back are crucial. Save the strong, self-righteous stances for actual important real-life issues. Is this really so hard?
P3.) PRETENDY FUN TIME GAMES.
You are playing a game where you use the impersonal magic of the Internets to pretend to be superheroes or fantasy characters or characters on a television show or goofy anime movie. YOU CANNOT TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY.
"I can't believe she said that, she's attacking me for no reason!"
"Pretendy fun time games."
"I know, but seriously, she's undermining me in front of other people!"
"Pretendy Fun Time Games."
"I know, I know, but she's trying to sabotage me and seize power over -"
"PRETENDY FUN TIME GAMES."
"Come on, I'm serious!"
"PRETENDY FUCKING FUN TIME GAMES. THAT MEANS YOU SHOULD NOT BE SERIOUS."
You cannot make a situation more than it is. No one is out to GET you, no one is constructing elaborate schemes to muscle you out, no one is fostering a conspiracy to turn the entire game against you, and there is no power of any sort to be seized. Do not completely devalue the word power by assigning it to someone who decides whether or not Rotundus The Lard Sloth is allowed to steal the Wand of Watoomb. Don't devalue the word attack by assigning it to someone who doesn't like the way you play Flabalanche The Goober-Grape Monster. Don't devalue the word sabotage by assigning it to people who pretend to be The Norwegian Sweatmonger Brigade saying negative things behind your back about how you managed to get the character of The Navel Master. The worst things they could possibly say about that are still not important at all, because it's about pretendy fun time games.
No matter how upset you get, no matter how irrational the initial reaction to getting your nose a little out of joint is, you are not allowed to lose sight of the fact that there is no possible way anything that happens in pretendy fun time games can actually be important. It is not, nor will it ever be, a big deal.
The moment you put a 'but' after 'pretendy fun time games,' you've missed the point.
"I know it's pretendy fun-time games, but - "
That's all it is.
Control your emotions, or wait until they're under control before you start debates or discussions. Hurt feelings can happen, but you have to realize what they're hurting over. It may help to say the things you're upset about out loud.
"I am angry because the guy pretending to be Snapper Carr on the Internet is being too flippant."
"I am angry because the girl pretending to be Rocket Tits told me I rape dogs."
"I am hurt because the person pretending to be Snatchella The Fetching thinks I don't pretend to be The Galloping Gremlin correctly."
You cannot take things on a pretendy fun time game seriously if you actually say them aloud.
I could say "it's only a game," but people start riots over Detroit Tigers games, so that's not enough. It's one of the 3 Ps, so you have to say 'Pretendy Fun Time Game.' Aloud, if necessary. You cannot take something seriously when the word 'pretendy' is in it.
PERSPECTIVE. Keep it properly. It will serve you well in the long run.
This has been Internet Drama And You. You will be tested on this.
Thanks to terry_cassidy for the icon