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  1. #1
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Default The psychology of forum and online dynamics

    How about a discussion on some of the interesting, and to an extent unique, concepts that hallmark the world of forum dynamics and populations? This thread is inspired by some interesting thoughts and discussion on Dana's blog....

    Here's some thoughts... or initial aspects raised for discussion :

    -Forums provide a unique opportunity to level the playing field

    Many real life factors largely disappear in a forum situation. Age, looks, prior contacts/experience and real life social set. Gender is oddly persistent.. perhaps it is the ultimate distinguishing factor between people that is the last to disappear. So, with the exception of expressed (doesn't have to be real) gender, it is a level playing field.

    -The forum is like a stage, but a safe one, with an unseen audience as well as an active one.

    People seem to see the forum life as one that includes the opportunity to play-test personae and actions. Some see it as themselves, but one freed from (some) social conventions. Whether we remain consciously aware of it or not, there is a large "read only" audience, who browse as guests. So, we become players on a stage. The audience is like the Oort cloud, floating way outside and around the solar system, but there nevertheless and in large numbers.

    An important aspect is the lack of privacy. While there are PMs, many normally private matters (private if outside of forum life) are there in the public domain. People can watch, almost voyeur, "private" discussions on emotionally charged aspects, in a public domain.. that we pretend is like a closed family group.

    -Tribalism

    Like all social groupings, tribalism is rampant on forums. Cliques (perceived or real, the effect is largely the same), unofficial hierarchies, mating games... it is all there to be seen. In this aspect, the forum life is much like the real life one, but with the exception that this is transitory and not grounded in a real location. The breaking down of worldwide borders (with the exception usually of the prime language - often English) gives a unique opportunity to watch human interaction without the overlays of national identity. Or at least, to see how national identities, upbringings and culture clash, and counter clash in a large scale setting. This aspect is probably my favourite.

    -Growth and change

    Forum life grows in scale, ebbs and flows... far more rapidly than the real world. People will state that they have (and this is a real quote from a mod at another site) been a moderator for a very very long time at a site - when this in fact is less than a year. Isn't that mind boggling?

    Secondly the dynamics, the wars, the relationships flow very rapidly.. becoming prehistory in mere months, and recent but near forgotten history in hours.

    For those who have experienced it a long time, there presents recognisable patterns to the ebb and flow, like a sea of humanity caught in the swell.

    -Typical personality type and a voice to the unspoken

    Forum life tends on the whole to attract the least outspoken real world types. Extraverted sensors are replaced by introverted intuitives. That's odd and a bit scary..... often, people are able to gain a voice that in the real world is drowned by their demeanour and the way they are treated by their outgoing peers. This is a key factor in influencing the relationships on a forum. It colours every aspect of the life, and also.. the cause of its biggest "problem". Those who gain a voice, crave more, and attention seeking and validation run rife... Couple this with growth, when a found voice starts to disappear in a sea of new members, and that voice can turn to ever more extreme calls for attention... a reasonable human being becomes a troll!

    Ok.. that's enough for now. Plenty here to discuss, guys, and should be interesting. Here's some more headings we could flesh out..

    -Flame wars because there is no "safe haven" or forced "time outs" like real life

    -Mods are not trained, or paid, or older, or need qualifications than members

    -Communication format is text, which influences communication - different members view it as live vs correspondence
    Likes Kho liked this post

  2. #2
    RETIRED CzeCze's Avatar
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    Interesting Geoff, I didn't know this was on your mind. I'll have to ruminate these (and let others fire their initial volleys). I honestly didn't think so formally about forum dynamics, specifically for MBTIc.

    Just a few quick things

    1) Unlike RL, every 'action' is documented. Makes things a lot more interesting when you can track down that quote or post someone denies ever writing. Kinda like being on reality TV except a lot more relaxed.

    2) I'm a trained moderator. :rofl: I know, it probably seems hysterical. I didn't say it's my modus operandi, just that I'm trained. You can pay me if you want. x 2 Oh wait [reading part about madmins being unpaid] Nevermind. Plus being a formal moderator or facilitator is basically putting your own personal experience and opinions on the backburner, or really making 'dialogue' your priority and what you are essentially serving...I like being a loudmouth way too much to faciliate much these days.

    3) Actually IRL, when people have altercations, they often turn to the internet to air grievances and 'vent' and now more than ever turn to psychological warfare via social networking sites and blogging. It can get pretty bad and school are trying to figure out how to handle it in the states.

    4) I never "get" text. I don't take it as seriously as RL speech way which is a potential pitfall (and draw) of foruming. I think I text very much how I speak and 'am' IRL but even that's a poor substitute, and frankly I have no RL template to judge people via their text on. Text can (and does?) bring out different aspects of people or different ways of relating. I love the arena for ideas empty text boxes give you but...I think eventually you may find it limiting. Then again, the self-contained and physically detached nature of such forums might be exactly what you're looking for.

    Alright, just some points. I just wanted to be first in line and get the party started.

    Seriously though, feel free to ignore this post folks, I just want to see what others have to say about the OP.

    “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you.” ― Oscar Wilde

    "I'm outtie 5000" ― Romulux

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  3. #3
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    I wonder how the dynamics and content of discussion would play out if only members of a board could see the forum. This would not be an invite-only or "get permission from admin" first type forum, but just taking the effort to actually join up. I wonder what causes many lurking guests to eventually create an "identity."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    -Typical personality type and a voice to the unspoken

    Forum life tends on the whole to attract the least outspoken real world types. Extraverted sensors are replaced by introverted intuitives. That's odd and a bit scary..... often, people are able to gain a voice that in the real world is drowned by their demeanour and the way they are treated by their outgoing peers.
    I liked all that you wrote but I have a bone to pick with this point. Not all Introverts or Dom Ni's (which would be INFJs/INTJs) are the least outspoken or have a demeanour of the kind you speak of. For some reason most people attribute Introverion as being shy/unassuming/incapable of speaking out or being heard (not saying you entirely think so but it appears so ) Certaintly not INFJs pumping out Fe as their sword to organise others and INTJs who will Te-up anyone if they find them lacking logic. Both will be heard or they'll make themselves heard. I wonder if you misused Introverted Intuition though, hmmm? Also, sometimes you have Introverts who don't care to speak out, not because they are incapable, but because they find it pointless or meaningless. But it doesn't necessarily mean they won't or that they aren't selective with whom they choose or that it isn't perfectly acceptable to them.

    You can have Extroverts who are outspoken as well as Introverts. There are many variables, upbringing/social conditioning/etc, which influences us, positivley or negatively. Having the opportunity to be surrounded by people we like will give both Is/Es more freedom into extraverting more or can influence both into introverting more. Hell, even being surrounded by negative people can influence to be more E(bitter or angry INFJs/INTJs will Fe/Te people down and out! ) or even more I.

    But yes, there are people who come on forums or OL who may not have as transparent a presence as others who do. Can you elaborate as to what's so odd and a bit scary?

  5. #5
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeliriousDisposition View Post
    I liked all that you wrote but I have a bone to pick with this point. Not all Introverts or Dom Ni's (which would be INFJs/INTJs) are the least outspoken or have a demeanour of the kind you speak of. For some reason most people attribute Introverion as being shy/unassuming/incapable of speaking out or being heard (not saying you entirely think so but it appears so ) Certaintly not INFJs pumping out Fe as their sword to organise others and INTJs who will Te-up anyone if they find them lacking logic. Both will be heard or they'll make themselves heard. I wonder if you misused Introverted Intuition though, hmmm? Also, sometimes you have Introverts who don't care to speak out, not because they are incapable, but because they find it pointless or meaningless. But it doesn't necessarily mean they won't or that they aren't selective with whom they choose or that it isn't perfectly acceptable to them.

    You can have Extroverts who are outspoken as well as Introverts. There are many variables, upbringing/social conditioning/etc, which influences us, positivley or negatively. Having the opportunity to be surrounded by people we like will give both Is/Es more freedom into extraverting more or can influence both into introverting more. Hell, even being surrounded by negative people can influence to be more E(bitter or angry INFJs/INTJs will Fe/Te people down and out! ) or even more I.

    But yes, there are people who come on forums or OL who may not have as transparent a presence as others who do. Can you elaborate as to what's so odd and a bit scary?
    Of course, I am generalising. Not all introverted/intuitives are quiet in real life, and louder on line. Just that it is a factor. 'tis why I said "often" not always! I know introversion does not equate to shy/quiet but it does tend to fit the trend of being in smaller social groupings, more tired by large scale social activity, and more reluctant to speak first, or loudly. Indeed, one of the tests for introversion is whether you tend to hold back before you speak in a social situation. My point being that the forum life removes this as a factor, to an extent.

    (Again, I am generalising, I *know* there are exceptions to this.)

    I don't think I misused introverted intuitives. I wasn't referring to Ni, I just mean I+N pairings. Terminology can be a difficult thing, sometimes. Many of us read these things slightly differently.

    Anyway, thank you for the opportunity to clarify what I meant, and I am glad you enjoyed the opening post. Any thoughts on other aspects?

  6. #6
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CzeCze View Post
    Interesting Geoff, I didn't know this was on your mind. I'll have to ruminate these (and let others fire their initial volleys). I honestly didn't think so formally about forum dynamics, specifically for MBTIc.

    Just a few quick things

    1) Unlike RL, every 'action' is documented. Makes things a lot more interesting when you can track down that quote or post someone denies ever writing. Kinda like being on reality TV except a lot more relaxed.
    Oh, gosh.. yes! I never thought about this. I think many of us forget that, or choose to turn a blind eye, pretending none of this is permanent. I wonder how many will come to rue this when their next employer finds them on a forum with a search. What an interesting phenomenon it is... (and I exhibited it by forgetting)

    Quote Originally Posted by CzeCze
    2) I'm a trained moderator. :rofl: I know, it probably seems hysterical. I didn't say it's my modus operandi, just that I'm trained. You can pay me if you want. x 2 Oh wait [reading part about madmins being unpaid] Nevermind. Plus being a formal moderator or facilitator is basically putting your own personal experience and opinions on the backburner, or really making 'dialogue' your priority and what you are essentially serving...I like being a loudmouth way too much to faciliate much these days.

    3) Actually IRL, when people have altercations, they often turn to the internet to air grievances and 'vent' and now more than ever turn to psychological warfare via social networking sites and blogging. It can get pretty bad and school are trying to figure out how to handle it in the states.

    4) I never "get" text. I don't take it as seriously as RL speech way which is a potential pitfall (and draw) of foruming. I think I text very much how I speak and 'am' IRL but even that's a poor substitute, and frankly I have no RL template to judge people via their text on. Text can (and does?) bring out different aspects of people or different ways of relating. I love the arena for ideas empty text boxes give you but...I think eventually you may find it limiting. Then again, the self-contained and physically detached nature of such forums might be exactly what you're looking for.

    Alright, just some points. I just wanted to be first in line and get the party started.

    Seriously though, feel free to ignore this post folks, I just want to see what others have to say about the OP.

    All good, thankyou. I am not surprised there is a clash between real life administrations like universities and the "problems" of forum life as an opportunity to slander, to vent difficulties, and to counter-culture the administration.

  7. #7
    Senior Member ThatsWhatHeSaid's Avatar
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    The role of humor here is very interesting. It's a signal of intelligence, for one thing, which establishes dominance hierarchies. Those hierarchies, as I see it, are based on aggression, access, perceived authority, assertiveness/confidence, social skills, and other factors, I'm sure (like post count and even type). Aggression comes out in humor, debate, and isolation-techniques, which can either be done behind someone's back by gathering peer support (gossip -- traditionally female aggression) or by humiliating them in front of their peers. Then of course humor can bond people together and settle their differences. Sometimes this can be done assertively, sometimes submissively. I have some people in mind for both.

    Also, I think this should be a subforum in Gen Psych.

  8. #8
    you are right mippus's Avatar
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    Fascinating subject, Geoff!
    I'll mostly observe what will be said here, and feel I don't have too much to add. Still, 2 reactions:

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    1 Forums provide a unique opportunity to level the playing field

    2 Communication format is text, which influences communication - different members view it as live vs correspondence
    On 1: I do feel the leveling is less complete as you put it. There is the gender difference, but I also strongly recognize an age element. In many cases the difference between people in their teens/ early 20's and the elder is felt and this brings about a different type of dynamics.

    On 2: many people don't seem to grasp the effect of irony in writing. Some people never see it, others assume everyone will or should notice. It is annoying then that people refuse to use smileys, because if there is one good application for those "funny faces" it is in the field of emotion and irony (hence "emoticons")

    And something else: the effect of polarisation, be it on the individual level or in groups. Edahn pointed this out earlier on, but I can't remember where
    Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    Of course, I am generalising. Not all introverted/intuitives are quiet in real life, and louder on line. Just that it is a factor. 'tis why I said "often" not always! I know introversion does not equate to shy/quiet but it does tend to fit the trend of being in smaller social groupings, more tired by large scale social activity, and more reluctant to speak first, or loudly. Indeed, one of the tests for introversion is whether you tend to hold back before you speak in a social situation. My point being that the forum life removes this as a factor, to an extent.
    But your "often" was phrased in a way that could imply otherwise. It appeared to me as: people are often able to gain a voice that otherwise isn't capable in RL due to their demeanour or how they are treated etc. Ah, I wish I could be more eloquent!

    (Again, I am generalising, I *know* there are exceptions to this.)

    I don't think I misused introverted intuitives. I wasn't referring to Ni, I just mean I+N pairings. Terminology can be a difficult thing, sometimes. Many of us read these things slightly differently.
    But that's just it... I+N pairings would be INTJ/INFJ. There are Introverted Thinkers, Introverted Feelers and Introverted Sensors as well. And then you know, all the different Extroverts as well (though you only named Extroverted Sensors).

    Anyway, thank you for the opportunity to clarify what I meant, and I am glad you enjoyed the opening post. Any thoughts on other aspects?
    CzeCze mentioned in RL that people can use forums/OL to vent. I also think that people who are Extroverted as well can be found exerting themselves a lot but perhaps not for long over a period of time as an Introvert might. Going on forums may seem much more appealing to Introverts but one still discusses/chats, still exerts their being into OL, and so it is a form of Extroverting as well. And Extroverts might think it's not the same as exerting their energy outside more, so it may be considered as Introverting to them. (Mostly shooting off on this one heh. But eh, maybe! )

    Communication format is text, which influences communication - different members view it as live vs correspondence
    Text can be like thoughts. I wonder how many people speak and type? I don't think it very high... Our thoughts influence who we are, reaffirms who we are and so we translate it into text as well to reaffirm who we are to others using text. It can also be hard discerning the meaning or subtext of what was intended from others or even viewing our own writing as presenting problems if we aren't used to it. It's hard enough for some people in RL but there is at least differing levels that one can try to figure another out. Observing body language, inflection of tone, etc and there are various differences as to how one comes across in RL which can be stereotyped. We can try to check the tone of text but we can become subjective if we think someone's writing is *cold* or *warm* and so we mold people (through text) into how we perceive them. We also use emoticons (I used to hate/fear them...) and some people who use them often may be associated by them, even when they don't use it for particular posts or stop using it--We become accustomed to what 'we know' of the person 'we've created' as opposed to how 'they feel/think' they've created themselves. I recall whatever being upset once but she wasn't taken seriously because she had used emoticons and that, from what I assume as well, is she always seems so "carefree" to people so it may be hard knowing she can be serious or have serious issues to discuss unless one knows her fairly better or even then, still hard to grasp for some-- Some RL stereotypes can be broken, only to present different ones which might not be used for some similarly or OL. Who is more fluent a writer? Who seems immature by comparison to those who seem mature? Who appears to be intelligent because they've written better, have said things *clearly* understood by most? Sometimes, we perceive those who write similarly as being similar to us, perhaps. I don't know but you've got me thinking!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    -Tribalism

    Like all social groupings, tribalism is rampant on forums. Cliques (perceived or real, the effect is largely the same), unofficial hierarchies, mating games... it is all there to be seen. In this aspect, the forum life is much like the real life one, but with the exception that this is transitory and not grounded in a real location. The breaking down of worldwide borders (with the exception usually of the prime language - often English) gives a unique opportunity to watch human interaction without the overlays of national identity. Or at least, to see how national identities, upbringings and culture clash, and counter clash in a large scale setting. This aspect is probably my favourite.
    I think what separates this forum from countless others is that there is an underlying psychological tool that people accept, with differing degrees, when they board. It's not just a forum which discusses Types, it's been created for Types to discuss on MBTI and branch off and discuss generally. However, even general dicussions can become turned into which Type responds to this or prefers that as opposed to other Types etc. Some people may know nothing of MBTI or have a basic understanding of why they are that "type" (nvm the confusion some people can create by incorrectly stating they are whichever they've chosen). I think there is a lot of misunderstandings on Type, not learning CPs or theories. People may group themselves to types of people they feel most comfortable with, genuinely that type or not or ones they feel they'd relate to most next to their own-- Hierarchies can also be created using Types as well as stereotypes (perpetuated for fun and mostly not---especially when there is no deeper understanding of MBTI.).

    I'd say our observations on human interaction is also linked to MBTI, not all of course. But it's a pretty dominant theme, right?

    I also think the Internet is a real location, so would be the pages/forums seemingly dispersed within in it. The internet is infinite as consciousness is infinite. We have domains. It's not the same as "real life" but what is real life? It's the reality of our (un/sub)conscious experiences but mostly conscious ones. When we choose to go outside, we perceive reality outside, however we see it individually. We choose to go on our computers, the internet and go on forums, we've now created a new reality. The location is in front of us, in a space most can't discern yet knows exists because they have access to it. Just as most can't discern what space actually means in "RL" outside either. It can be transitory because we may choose to leave it, at any time, and go back about our business. However, that can also be said of anything that we do. It's not that it isn't transitory at all, as it's always there (unless it crashes away but so can things in RL too crash away...), it's just that we ourselves are mostly transient beings who don't focus on particular modes/thoughts/jobs for long. So we leave. But it's still there, existing for others without our particular focus on it.

    Now, more than ever there is more access to computers/internet and it has fast become a new medium through which people perceive as being very real to them, creating real relationships, good/bad/neutral. They create their identities, single or multiple, which may be a new extension of themselves. I think people can change quicker being OL if they find it more freeing, so it may translate back into that 'outer' reality. Breaking down of borders of all kinds, for sure! I kind of view it all as novice technopathic exchanges...or something like that heh. We can instantaneously chat, PM privately or even view the posts/profiles/anything within the forum at any time w/o restriction---no barriers or borders unless one keeps themselves Invis but even then they can be tracked through their posts. We can stalk each other too!

    Edit:
    The forum is like a stage, but a safe one, with an unseen audience as well as an active one
    I also don't think it's entirely a safe place either as people create real identities and relationships. We can still feel threatened, still become stressed due to our activity here or by our interactions with others or just by ignoring our RL's which creep up on us...it may appear more safe because there is no physical recognition (unless one views Avatars/pics as such and they would be) but there is a mental/emotional one which still exists only more stronger than the physical (ah ha! mental/emotional trumps physical!! right?! ). But we can still receive physical sensations due to our perceived happiness or stress or anger caused by "text" which we recognise as being other people.

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