Bad Apples in Online Communities

I don’t usually participate much in online communities, or the comments sections of social media.  It doesn’t appeal to me and isn’t worth the negativity that dominates. Some authors have set up their own online communities on their websites, where they have more control over comments and members, and can more easily do giveaways or post book extras for fans.

One of these authors is Christine Feehan.  I have been reading her books for 15ish years and she is the first author I know of who set up one of these online communities, and has an incredibly large one. Much like facebook, members have their own wall, as do each of the books that she has published or announced, so there is a common space for discussions. She posts the first chapter of upcoming books a couple of months before publication and also posts a book “trailer” shortly after.

I used to be really active on this community, but have barely participated for a few years now. As I ghost around, looking at the bonus material and first chapters, I’ve noticed that the rate of comments seems to be down and other fans have posted about it, positing why. My guess is that a few bad apples have ruined it for everyone.

This is why I would never even dream of hosting such a n interactive feature if I were an author, or any where else on the interwebs. This blog is enough!

On the membership section of http://www.christinefeehan.com there are lots of places to find great comments, like the first chapter before a book is released and the “deleted scenes” that got cut from a book. But the comments sections, and the author’s own page where you can write to her and hope for a response, are a minefield.

Two users, in particular, drive me nuts. One has been banned off and on and never understands why, even though the other users don’t seem to have a problem understanding the rules. She posts the most banal, off-topic, poorly written comments and questions, and has lately, been asking other users if they would read her books that she has written … books that are clearly fanfiction and which are banned from the community.

The other fan is a European woman who must troll the website all day every day. She doesn’t work for the author, that much is clear from their public interactions on the site, but she apparently enjoys taking on the self-appointed task of monitoring every book wall and the author’s wall and posting her comments on your comments and questions. Her posts don’t always make sense, which I could forgive because she clearly states that English is not her first language, except that her comments are not adding anything to the community. She is 90% of the reason I stopped participating and following this author, and I can’t help but wonder if others feel the same.

There is a difference, people, in being helpful and annoying or harassing others online. No one wants to know your opinion on every subject or hear your approval for their opinion. You are not that important. In my most recent example, someone was talking about twins coming along later in the series because in an earlier book, a male character had commented cryptically about having kids “two at a time”. I know a little bit about how twins can be heredity through certain genes because of a discussion I had with a medical professional on the subject, so I posted that; it was actually relevant to the first person’s comment and furthered the discussion on what will (possibly) happen to these characters in upcoming books. But of course Ms Know it all had to chime in with an (in my opinion) unintelligible and annoying response to my comment.

Lesson learned. Re-learned? Don’t bother, it isn’t worth trying to participate in an online community.  I’ll continue to lurk around to read the first chapters in anticipation of new books, but that is it. I may be a millennial, but I will never understand this apparent need my peers feel to be super active online, or the need our parent’s generation seem to feel to control and manipulate every public conversation.

Any one else have a similar experience? Or a really positive one?

xx

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