Mikey Angels - The After Math
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mikey Angels

Experienced community managers will have seen this scenario play out so many times: A community member or visitor posts something that you have to remove because it was vulgar, inappropriate, disrespectful, inflammatory or just downright nasty.

Later, they send you a message. Or you see them complaining somewhere – another community, a social profile, etc. They are talking about how you removed their post, but wait, they can’t be, because what they’re saying isn’t actually what happened.

They posted this comment: “What the hell is your problem? Why would you walk your dog in the morning? You look like a fool.” (This is not a real comment, but honestly, it’s not far from some of the stuff that people actually say. And it’s a clean version).

So, you remove it, because it violated your guidelines as inflammatory. But then they send you a message an hour later: “I love how you censor comments. I merely asked why you would do that.”

Let’s look again at that last sentence. “I merely asked why you would do that.” That doesn’t seem to be an accurate description of what occurred, does it? After all, most reasonable people would probably say that merely asking would look something like this: “Why would you walk your dog in the morning?”

When you say “What the hell is your problem? … You look like a fool,” you aren’t “merely asking.” You’re passing judgement, which is alright, but you are doing it in a nasty way. Even if it isn’t against the guidelines of your community to do it that way, since all communities are different, it is pretty clear that the comment was not “merely asking” a question.

It’s funny and strange when this happens. When it’s someone that I’ve had to ban, I’ll just let them go on their way. When it is someone who I haven’t, I try to explain to them that there is a difference between “merely asking” and what they did. I try to impress upon them that how you say something is just important as what you say.

It is true that sometimes people simply forget and have a terrible short term memory. But, more commonly, I think people just can’t see themselves as having done something wrong and so they either think of themselves in some great light and remember it differently or they lie to make that seem like a reality. Either way, it’s odd when it happens.

With my forums, we have everything documented. What you said, why it was removed, what action we took. With comments on third party platforms, like Facebook and YouTube, the same level of documentation doesn’t exist, but I usually have the notification email that includes a copy or a majority of the comment.

In other words, I know what you said. What would I do with that information? Well, I’ll never say never, but it is highly unlikely that I would ever publicly call out someone who was running their mouth in public. It’s sort of a professional policy that I have: What you said is between us, no matter how foolish it would make you look. I don’t really want to air that dirty laundry. I mean, I reserve the right to if you make me. But, for the most part, I’m happy to have them and their friends hate me, to maintain that professional standard.

Even if they’re lying or simply don’t remember what they posted online 10 minutes ago.