That’s a (heavily paraphrased) quote from entirely too many threads I’ve seen, not a personal question. I know why people don’t like me, I’m a jerk 🙂 And yes, that does make it pretty ironic that I of all people am giving out advice on how to be more likable, but at least I’m a jerk on purpose.
It’s far, far too common to see people post like total assholes online and then act surprised that nobody likes them. People (mostly men, let’s be honest, but I’ve seen women do it too), can you please think about what the common denominator there could possibly be for like five goddamn seconds? If everyone “just doesn’t understand” and “totally missed the point” of your post/reply/comment/whatever, consider the possibility you did a shitty job of explaining yourself, or that the description that you thought was neutral was really, really not, or that you have profoundly misunderstood something.
Now, there is an argument to be made that people refusing to read the goddamn docs (or stickies, in the case of Fetlife groups) is simply a fact of life and that people should be nicer to the massive number of newbies who all ask the same questions over and over again. However, while groups specifically for newbies are valuable, it is simply not necessary that every group (Fetlife, random forum, or otherwise), cater to newbies who can’t be bothered to do their own research. You may have gathered that I’m not super interested in people who want their answers spoon fed to them 🙂 Google is your friend, people.
Yes, it’s not possible to search inside Fetlife groups yet, but that’s what the stickies are for. If absolutely none of the stickies interest you, maybe that group is just not for you. Think about it for a second – somebody chose to make those particular threads into stickies for a reason. If you totally disagree with the mods’ decisions about what threads are interesting or valuable enough to be stickies, then you know that group isn’t for you. Whether you can search for your answers or have to actually read (or at least skim) a bunch of stickies, there’s simply no excuse for not even trying to find anything out on your own. Laziness is unattractive no matter which side of the slash you’re on.
Just doing the tiniest bit of research can seriously endear you to a group. If you take nothing else away from this post, take this: the smallest effort to meet people halfway will make them want to like you.
So let’s assume you’ve done a little reading and have a question that hasn’t been answered recently or at least a variation on a common question. Now you need to think about how to phrase that question. Yes, the way you ask a question matters. It should not be news that there’s a difference between “That’s a stupid idea, we should do x instead” and “I’m worried about y, I think we should do x because …” Basically, if you can get along with people at work, you can get along with people online. Sure, anywhere you’re discussing kink online is very likely to be a lot less formal than your job, but the basic lessons of not flipping your shit if somebody says something you don’t like still apply. Forums like Fetlife are not a free for all where you can check your social skills at the door just because they’re focused on kink.
If you do need pointers on basic social skills, try realsocialskills.org. They have a tag especially for social skills they didn’t teach us. If that site doesn’t work for you, there are tons more out there, just google “learn social skills.” I bring this up because some not everybody gets to just easily pick up social skills when they’re a kid. It’s not my area of expertise or the focus of this blog, but I wanted to share those resources so that any readers who are honestly not sure what keeps going wrong when they try to participate in a discussion online at least have a shot at find something helpful there.
That said, I think most people who get themselves into trouble online screw up not because they honestly don’t know how to have a civil conversation but because they showed up with the false assumption that a site being focused on kink somehow magically means that anything goes and there’s no wrong way to talk to people and everyone magically accepts any kind of behaviour because… I don’t even know. Your Kink Is Not My Kink But Your Kink Is OK doesn’t mean you get to be rude to people with no consequences.
It also doesn’t mean people are obligated to be nice to you if they honestly answer your question and you freak out because you don’t like their answers. For shit’s sake guys, if people give you advice, either take it or admit this is the wrong place for you and leave! Why would you hang around with people who you think are stupid and wrong about everything, anyway?
If you get answers you don’t like, there are two things you should do and one thing you should do before you ask a question. The one thing is to remember that if you ask a question, you might get answers you don’t like. If you can’t stand to have people disagree with you, don’t fucking ask the question. Make a cup of tea, play some video games, and don’t waste everyone’s time by asking a question you don’t actually want answered.
The two things you should do after you ask a question and get answers you don’t like are to think back to the point I made above about common denominators and to walk away from the computer and chill the fuck out. If it feels like everyone misunderstood you, the common denominator is you. Accept that you didn’t explain yourself well and stop blaming other people for not magically figuring out what you really meant.
A lot of the threads I’ve seen go completely off the rails went that way because the OP freaked out when people disagreed with them and kept arguing that everyone who disagreed was wrong, stupid, and ignorant. If they had just closed the damned browser tab and come back the next day, they could have (well maybe) had a productive discussion about how to phrase what they actually meant, but because they had to keep posting in the heat of the moment the thread devolved into personal attacks and got closed by the mods.
I’ve talked a lot about phrasing things such that you don’t look like a total douchebag. If you’re new to kink and don’t know the right words yet, how do you figure them out? Lurk! For the love of god, lurk! Reading is good for you!
Not only that, but why would you just randomly post in a random group without reading any of it to see if you even want to talk with those people? They could be total jerks! They could have ideas about d/s that are totally at odds with yours! They could be all about the newbie questions when you want to have a more nuanced discussion! They could be all about the nuanced discussions when you just want a simple newbie question answered!
But seriously, not looking like an asshole online is mostly about understanding the culture of the place you’re posting in and making a token effort to blend with it. For example, in the Submissive men and women who love them group on Fetlife, describing yourself as an “alpha” will end in practically everyone telling you that the vast majority of submissive men are not sniveling doormats in their daily lives either, you’re not a special snowflake, and that no one is impressed by how “alpha” you think you are (protip: if you were actually that socially dominant, you wouldn’t have to tell me all about it). If you lurk for a bit, you’ll learn that about the group and realize you should phrase your question in a way that doesn’t use that word.
If you’re going to act like a jerk, at least do it on purpose 🙂