Life among the trolls (and lots of nice people)!
Being a moderator for CMI’s Facebook page
Hi all! I’m a moderator for CMI’s Facebook page. I thought you might like to know something about what it’s like ‘behind the scenes’. I go under the name Raven which is not my real name but anonymity is a must in this role. I first found about CMI through my local pastors who gave us a subscription for CMI’s Creation magazine. I delved into the pages like my life depended on it! Then I discovered they were on the internet—creation.com! In 2008 I found CMI’s Facebook page but it wasn’t until I made my own account in 2011 for the purposes of Uni that I began to ‘comment’ on the page.
In 2012, I received a message from the head moderator, asking if I would be interested in moderating for them. I was in shock to be asked but also felt this was rather auspicious. After praying about it, I really felt I should say yes, and I have been on an incredible journey since then. I remember well the first time I made a comment in the name of CMI. My hands shook as I typed in the message, my heart pounded in my chest and of course, I made a mistake but that’s okay because like all things, it’s a journey of learning.
After years of moderating, it is now second nature. The rules are clear enough that I can almost quote them without looking at my ‘cheat sheet’! I have met some incredible individuals that I am proud to call my colleagues, and I feel blessed to learn and work beside them. Many are from all over the world, and as a ‘born and bred’ Aussie, crossing the culture barriers has been a learning experience for me. I’m also doing a Bachelor of Applied Social Science with expertise in Christianity. In lay terms, I am a Christian counsellor. I am privileged to be able to work with others who hold PhDs, Bachelors’ and other degrees; some don’t hold any at all, but their knowledge and experience outweighs any piece of paper.
Dealing with the trolls
A question I’m often asked when I indicate that I moderate a Facebook page for an international organisation is: how do I deal with the trolls? My mind automatically takes me back to some of the most intense moments of being a moderator. Some topics are quite heated, and people can be passionate in their views to the point of being intolerant to anyone else’s view. Some of these kinds of people deliberately look for pages on which to cause trouble, with the goal of shutting down any conversation on the topic. One look at unmoderated pages shows just how easily things descend into bullying, name-calling, reporting of the page and/or article, swearing and cursing. It’s for this reason that we have rules (and moderators!).
One of our most common comments is about our rules. I cannot count how many times people have written that Facebook is an open forum and people can write whatever they want wherever they want. However, this is not the truth. All pages, including people’s personal pages, have rules, whether they are written or not. People decide what is acceptable to be on their pages and what is not. This includes any comments written on the owner’s posts. CMI is no different, and the rules really are transparent, simple and easy to find. Many people are just not interested in taking the few minutes to locate the rules and read them. We do not tolerate rudeness, bullying, trolling or any other bad behaviour. We want our page to be a safe place for people to discuss the articles posted, ask questions and become interested in this ‘other’ worldview that is generally not published nor acknowledged—or at least not fairly.
As CMI uses the Facebook page to advertise that worldview and point people back to the wealth of knowledge on our website, the next most common comment is about our ‘no outside link’ rule. Most of those who hate this rule are those who want to link articles from atheist and evolutionary sources. If people are keen to research that worldview, then they can Google it. Our page is for CMI articles and the biblical worldview that is not well publicised.
This brings us to the next objection … relevant articles on other sites. Some object to not being allowed to link other Christian sites to our page. The issue we have is that because CMI is well known, people may think we are endorsing a ministry or theory to which the link leads. CMI knows the content and quality of the articles it publishes. They are most often written by our qualified staff who hold expertise in the fields about which they write. These articles are checked and reviewed within a Christian peer review process. We cannot guarantee the quality and content control measures of outside sources, of course, and to check each one would be an impossible task for CMI’s staff. In addition, a source linked to might well change without us being aware of that. Then there is the fact that CMI is careful not to become involved in debates within Christendom outside of its own expertise. So, if we provided a link to an outside source that promoted a particular viewpoint in such an area that divides genuinely Bible-believing Christians, it could be seen as if CMI were ‘taking sides’ in that particular debate.1
Now, this leads to another favourite comment often left by those who hold an evolutionary worldview. If your articles are true science then you should have them peer-reviewed by an evolutionary worldview peer review panel … . There are times when I would love to say, what would an evolutionist know about creation science? How is an evolutionist a peer to a creationist? Can they understand the view we take on the evidence? Would we even be given a fair reading? The answer is no, an evolutionist peer review panel is not the peer of a creationist scientist. An evolutionist doesn’t understand (perhaps better said doesn’t accept) how we view the evidence. Their worldview has already dismissed any answer a creationist comes up with.
As much I would love to argue it out some days with commenters, the primary issue many of us moderators have is time. Many of us work, study, and care for our families and homes. We simply do not have all day to argue with people about our rules, worldviews and multiple comments from commenters on the same issue. This is where our pre-written comments are used. These are short, usually one or two lines that either redirect back to our website, or inform of the rules and act on them. For example, “As per rule #7, links outside of creation.com are not allowed. Comment hidden. You may repost your comment in a new thread without the link.”
Many people think we are being rude and often respond accordingly. Considered from the moderator’s point of view, he/she has likely just dealt with seven other outside links on other posts, and your link may well be just one more in a long line of others still to be dealt with. The same goes for debates. We often shut down threads when they reach a point of impasse and the commenters are beginning to repeat the previous comments or beginning to become nasty to one another or moving into off topic tangents (also not allowed by our rules). People often become upset when we do this, however, we do it for a good reason. We want people to be civil to one another, to show the love of God to each other and be gracious to each other. Stopping threads before they become nasty helps people move on and calms the situation.
Please remember that our comments and shutting of threads is not anything personal against you, the commenter. We do this because we attend many comments a day, we want a peaceful and gracious environment for those who are searching for the truth and to make our lives manageable. It would not be hard to spend hours debating with commenters which would mean our assignments or work tasks that require our attention would be left undone. We are generally volunteers, who lead lives outside of CMI. We are also a separate part of CMI. We don’t interact with the qualified staff on a professional level (although we may do so as friends outside of CMI). We are also not ‘qualified staff’. Although we may hold degrees ourselves, we are not employed by CMI to give professional opinions. It is for this reason we redirect back to articles or direct you to contact our qualified staff. We may even directly quote from articles.
One of the things I love to see is when our regular commenters (and you know who you are, God bless you!) redirect people to our website and to articles. Oh, how I love to read down the list of comments and see that someone has already taken the time to help and support others. I also love it and feel very appreciated when people thank us for the time we take to redirect them to the articles or apologise when they've unintentionally broken the rules. It can be so easy for us volunteers to take comments personally, particularly if we are having a bad day ourselves. Please be kind to us volunteers, we do our best and we do make mistakes. We have to read what is written and decide very quickly how to handle it. Facebook is not like having a face-to-face conversation with someone. We don’t always realise when something is written sarcastically or with intent to poke fun at something. Here it is always helpful to indicate that is in fun or meant to be sarcastic. That way, when we moderators read it, we know immediately the intention behind it.
Top tips for posting comments
So, if you’re looking for tips on how to make use of our Facebook page and not run afoul of us moderators, we actually are kind people and we particularly love some of the comments you post, many of which have us smiling and laughing and even feeling appreciated. So here are my top tips:
- Read the rules! I cannot emphasise this enough. If you know what the rules are, then following them is a snap. They can be found on the main CMI Facebook page, under the heading ‘More’. Please read them through and keep them in mind when you write a response.
- Be clear in your response. Make sure anyone reading it knows exactly what you mean by what you have written. We can't read your expressions or tones, we rely solely on the words you write.
- Be careful whom you tag in posts. People that are tagged, particularly if they have never heard of us, will more than likely not know of our rules. If you’re sharing with atheist friends or those that hold an evolutionary or theistic evolutionary worldview, share the article instead and tag them in the shared article. This avoids any run-ins with us moderators and allows free discussion with your friends, away from the moderators. Many of the problems we encounter daily are from people who have been tagged directly to our page. We don’t know the person tagged and we judge solely on what an individual has written.
- Follow our directions and please, please, please, read the articles to which you are directed. I cannot tell you how many times I have directed individuals to the articles, the ‘related articles’ and ‘further reading’ sections, only to have the individual come back with more questions that are already answered in either the articles, related articles or further reading sections—which they have clearly not read. More time is unnecessarily spent (wasted?) redirecting back to articles and those associated section than in any other aspect of our work.
- Please don’t get cross with us or take our comments personally. We deal with many people each day, we follow strict guidelines with statements/comments/redirections that have been developed over many years. The longer we moderate, the more these lines come naturally. Often we type them without even thinking much about them, we are so familiar with them.
- Regardless of our denomination, we adhere to the CMI ministry mandate. We only comment according to that mandate. For example, I have a certain understanding about the Second Coming that is not shared by some others. This however is not in CMI’s ministry mandate, therefore I don’t allow my personal thoughts or beliefs to filter in. This was a hard lesson I learned when I tried to calm a debate between Calvinism and Arminianism by trying to get the commenters to look beyond the two positions and reconcile that both could be right—which is actually taking a position on the debate. A few words reminded me that I am to adhere to the wise guidelines set out.
- See a troll comment … Leave it alone! Don’t try to argue with the trolls and troublemakers. As soon as a moderator is available (usually when we check in with the page) the comment will be hidden and more than likely the commenter banned from the page.
- Remember that the Facebook articles follow a pattern. The new release article is put up for the day. This is followed usually by a supporting online store item and a media clip. The articles after that are usually articles from the related articles or further reading sections. There are three exceptions to this rule:
- It's ‘random day’ where we will post an assortment of articles to Facebook, usually around the one topic or
- The topic of the main article is controversial (for example same-sex marriage) in which case we will post non-threatening articles, so there is only one controversial article for the day and
- when we are promoting something big and exciting like the Alien Intrusion movie.
- Be courteous to other commenters. Do unto others as you would want them to do to you. Keep to the facts, be civil and polite and consider their point of view. We moderators work hard to create an environment that is welcoming, God-honouring and an enjoyable experience.
I’m sure you all have many questions that you want to ask us about our work, so don’t be shy. You can always post the questions you want answers to on Facebook and we moderators will attempt to find an answer.
References and notes
- Of course, individuals within CMI all hold what they believe to be informed convictions in those areas, but if we took side ‘A’, then those of side ‘B’ in any such debate might think that CMI’s stance on Genesis creation is somehow a part of ‘side A’ or informed by it. Whereas the reason that all Christians should take Genesis as history is because that is how the Lord Jesus and all the Bible writers took it, and it is so clearly intended as such that if not for the pressure of evolutionism, there would be no debate about it. Return to text.