Admin-ing. Many of us Sci Fi fans who are on social media and message boards have, at one time or another, risen to or been cherry-picked for this position; if you are not exactly the most laid-back, quiet-natured, unassuming person, this can prove to be quite taxing. How do you remain impartial when you have strong opinions on certain topics? How does one maintain fairness, but keep their slightly snarky edge in a moderating position? What is the best way to handle a troll when frankly they are riding on your last nerve and you would just love to catch them out and send them packing? Being a member of Sci Fi groups while simultaneously an administrator poses unique challenges and at times a mental and emotional high wire act to rival any Ringling Bros aerial offering.
I am terrible at being an admin. There I said it. I am good in the sense that I want to be fair and impartial and I can make level-headed decisions, but I am terrible in that I can sometimes get easily triggered by a troll (an antagonistic member quite possibly with an aggressive agenda) and pulled into their traps even while trying to diffuse their post “bombs” set to flame the entire group. I fail when it comes to not stepping on toes, too. I help to moderate a Doctor Who group. It’s small and a bit secret in that it is locked down and not easily visible to outsiders, and is meant to be that way to try to avoid any group members prone to verbal abuse and troll behavior such as often exists on the larger groups. But I am mostly a New Who fan and although I am not against the Classics, I don’t really enjoy watching them. I have tried. I started with Unearthly Child, the very first episode from 1963 and made it through the first episode of the serial and then lost interest right at the point they were time traveling. Usually this is when the action really gets started, but they lost me. Same with The Talons of Weng Chiang, same with The Curse of Fenric, and on and on and on. I will keep trying, but for now, I can’t get past the slower pace, low production values, and what I view to be rather stilted dialogue. Sorry, I prefer the faster pace of the New Who’s plots, visual effects, and the snappy and clever dialogue. I respect what came before, I just don’t necessarily want to watch it. This upsets many a fan, let me tell you. Some of you may be reading this now and are already compiling a list of episodes to send to me recommending certain episodes in an effort to set me straight and get me on the path to what many a Whovian considers the true one.
So, sometimes, being a member of the group and being a bit sarcastic in my humor and snarky or just flat out opinionated, I forget I am an admin (or mod) and state my real opinion about Classic Who. And this is where I sometimes get into trouble. Then I am labeled by some sensitive Classics lovers as the Classics Hater mod. Now I have made an enemy, if even on a small scale, when I hadn’t intended to create one. Sometimes, a jackhole with some axe to grind IRL (in real life) makes it into our group anyway, and they are a Classic Who fan itching to prove their superiority, and now I have a more intense enemy, at least from their perspective. And now I have to make a choice of how to serve in my role of protecting the group from bullies, while occasionally letting my opinionated beast out to play (she’s very demanding and I can’t seem to kill her unfortunately). In this way, I am probably not good admin material. I, can on emotional days, be prone to getting stuck in traps where I keep sparring with a troll in a civil way, which while not really fully feeding the needs of the troll in a satisfying manner, fortifies them enough to keep heated debate going for long enough that someone is bound to snap (probably me, worn out from trying to stay on an even keel) and finally give them the pay off they were so fervently seeking.
And so, I have made mistakes and have occasionally, in a fit of panic on par with Harriet Jones torchwooding the Sycorax, removed people whose absence creates a wake of boat jumping in the group and we are left trying to maintain group integrity and minimize the damage. I am new to this job and learning and, unfortunately, those growing pains are showing to a group that sometimes feels like family, but who aren’t actually related to me in any way, so they have no unconditional love with which to endear me to them every time I screw up. Although I am no stranger to the internet or to message boards, I am pretty new to social media groups and in some ways I am a bit naive about troll behavior. I am catching up to speed, though. And I am learning about myself and my own petty ways of dealing with people. I think, overall, it is improving my character being an admin. When I make these idiotic mistakes or succumb to internet pitfalls and the limitations of a purely textual conversation medium (not allowing for tone or inflection), I try to make adjustments in how I interact with people in general and that has to be a good thing for anyone. Learning how to more effectively communicate is a part of maturing and becoming the best version of ourselves we can be. And I believe the Doctor would approve of that.
–photo courtesy of John Hancock, who was there.