I still remember in Christmas 2007 when I got my first laptop. It was a Compaq Presario F730US, one of those infamous laptops that suffered from the godawful Nvidia chipsets that’d fail and cause all sorts of issues leading up to the eventual failure. As someone who had zero friends, I turned to the solution many failures of teenagers my age turned to: Having friends online. With no school getting in my way when I was homeschooled, or school being full of people who either weren’t my friends or who played along, I got into IRC chats, chat groups on Skype, MSN, and later Discord and Telegram, and I met all sorts of well, “interesting” people. I’d say my experience from 2008-2018 was shaped by trying to flock from numerous groups and trying numerous things to be accepted, but over time things changed. Old people I knew online usually moved on to living the “normie” life, getting jobs, hanging around new friends, while people who tended to be online for years and years tended to fit a pattern. They were all broken, internet addicted men who used the internet as a way of escaping real life, and eventually as anyone who hangs out online knows, bad decisions catch up to you and bite you in the ass, hard, leading to group drama of course. Meanwhile the people in said group who aren’t in said friend circle as much just jump out, realizing the building is on fire and it’s best to leave it before it collapses.
While reliving bad experiences online over and over has clearly taken its toll on me to an extent, at least I can relay some lessons learned from this, and now I am here to talk about the top 5 things that can kill a chat group. Strap in, get that mountain dew ready, and listen to some damn good shit hitting the fan music. I’ve also run at least one Telegram chat and have seen shit go down as well there.
5. Badmins (See: Resetera Forums)
Nobody online likes a hardass leader. Sometimes it might be necessary, such as with countries where the government is changed by a coup dictatorship cycle, or a public discord server with a lot of 14-year olds joining trying to emulate 10-year-old raid videos in the laziest manner possible, but then you have admins with overbearing rules, who take it to extremes to the point where it’s almost like going on one of those Reddits where you’re pre banned if you post in another subreddit the admins don’t like. They’ll enforce rules to the littlest degree, to the point of banning many people for even the slightest overstep, and to make matters worse they’ll often ban people for dissent. Perhaps the best example of this is ResetEra, a gaming forum that’s gained a reputation for being one of the most elitist hugboxes on the internet, where any sort of dissent is banned, and over here you can see a running count of who’s been banned from that site. These groups drive out new users, and old users as well as many of them get fed up with the moderation.
4. Chat retards and shielding people who cause chaos
Chat retards are an “interesting” topic to talk about. Now what is a “chat retard” as I like to call it? Well a chat retard (or personal lolcow, depending on the term) is a crazy guy who sits around in a group and acts erratic as fuck, yet adds some character, and also happens to be a regular user. A lot of groups have at least one of these people, and while they can be quality entertainment, the issue is that lots of people online have thin skin, and this means they can go from entertaining to driving off some regulars fast. At the same time, other regulars might find them entertaining as hell, and this leads to a dilemma: should you wrangle the chat retard hard, or go easy on them and just let the person driven nuts by them leave? In a group a few years ago, the chat retard was banned from the server, and other members found him hilarious, causing a chat split.
Furthermore, you have cases where admins will shield someone and let them run free, doing whatever just because they’re pals with the admin/the admin’s thirsty for them, and this can lead to issues if said person causes chaos. I’ve seen this behavior at old jobs (which led to me leaving one), and I’ve seen it online too. When members bring complaints to your door, you also have to ask questions: Who in this group would you rather lose? I try to decide on the basis of how much someone is contributing to a chat when running a chat, but it can be a hard question, especially when said person ends up leaving for unrelated reasons or because they got angsty over something else another month, and when that happens it makes you really question if you made the right choice.
3. Alcohol & Drugs
Alcohol and drugs are some of the things that can fuel hilarious liveleak videos, crazy public freakouts, and crazy college parties that lead to rape accusations. Online however they fuel insane meltdowns, as depressive drunks drink alone and slowly erode themselves. If someone keeps abusing it, they can go from fun guy you wanna talk to a lot to absolute apeshit, with no memories of it until people tell them the next day “dude you did this while you were drunk as hell” or until they see the chatlogs and go “holy fuck”. 2017 was when a good online friend started drinking heavily, then ditching it, and while I ended up getting him out of it thankfully, for months his image among his friends was ruined because of drunk rants and insane behavior which I’d rather not go into, other than saying if you’ve seen one depressive drunk online you’ve seen them all. While this can’t directly kill a chat unless one of the people holding the group together gets on it, what it can do is amplify drama in said server, leading to the server eventually tearing itself apart.
2. Identity politics
This is a relatively new entry, and mainly because this was not a thing when I first got my laptop in December 2007. This is also the entry most likely to grind gears with someone, but you know some things have to be said. See, the atmosphere of the internet, at least on mainstream social media has turned into a new kind of contest: the oppression Olympics. It’s a new contest, to see who can be the most oppressed person on the internet, the most special snowflake on Twitter, the person most worthy of your sympathy…and PayPal/Patreon/ko-fi dollars, Amazon Wishlist purchases, and retweets. Furthermore, there’s a concept called intersectionality, which essentially encourages someone to rack up oppression points, meaning someone who’s an autistic Mexican trans Jewish woman might rank pretty high up, even if these groups hate each other. Being a white cis hetero male on websites like Tumblr on the other hand ranks you pretty damn low, but there’s a solution. Self-diagnose yourself with some mental illness, change your pronouns, dye your hair, and maybe even take HRT (DIY or from an “informed consent” clinic of course, can’t let those gatekeepers keep you from taking meds that irreversibly alter your body).
The problem is, these people tend to be very self-centered, and worse, since their lives already likely revolve only around identities formed by buying products, they can be very shallow people who will only talk about gender and pronoun issues, mental illness and how ugh depressed they are, and worst of all, you’re not allowed to criticize them. See, the mentality that caused the oppression Olympics to pop up is the idea that nobody online should be mocked, critiqued, or laughed at in any way, shape, or form. Your site can be considered a terrorist hate site for laughing at crazy people online, especially if you use examples instead of mocking groups that all have the same characteristics because they’re more disposable than an Apple product. This leads to the big issue: Dealing with them can be a massive headache, as they can not only leave your group easily if you don’t cave to their whims, but they can be cattier than a pissed off fast food customer who yells and wants to speak to your manager, and can not only make their friends leave your group but they can even start drama online revolving around you or your group.
Furthermore, when these people populate or multiply within (and most importantly run) a group (or their admins cave), the atmosphere can change from being “toxic” to well, nonstop identity politics discussion and an environment that reeks of not allowing any dissent or criticism. Remember what I said about badmins? Imagine that but even worse. Imagine going onto a tech group and finding instead of tech discussion, someone talking about getting their balls removed. Yep, that’s what I call technology talk. These people actually caused strain on a group a friend ran. Someone was mad people were mocking communists online in said group and took it to Twitter and their friends to try to ruin said group and the owner’s reputation. Said owner also ended up deleting his twitter because he ended up on a blocklist and labeled something he wasn’t…gee that’s sounding a lot like a cult doesn’t it?
1. Friction between members
This is perhaps the number one cause of any sort of online group falling apart, and not just on chats. One of the top myths I see on the internet is that it is this open and welcoming place, where you can act like the worlds biggest autist and be accepted. You can do anything, be anything, and must be accepted for anything, no bullying allowed. The problem with that is, you’ll learn that a lot of people and groups don’t exactly like each other, and there’s bound to be fights. Some people are relatively chill, get along with anything, and have fun. Some people make it clear they can’t tolerate people with long “don’t follow me if” lists on their Twitter/Tumblr bios, despite the fact they’re on a public social media site. Others put on a façade, but once you push their buttons (or if you do some digging you’ll find this out too, screening can save your ass), you start to find out they’re more fragile than an iPhone or Surface screen.
They’ll call you toxic and ragequit servers because of anything from someone taking the piss out of their autism, to something minor like being muted for having a noisy mic, hanging out with people someone doesn’t like (guilt by association), being called out for spamming a chat with stickers, shitty political memes, or NSFW content. As with number 4, you’re stuck with a decision, shield the person who left your chat and wants nothing to do with it anyway by banning the person who caused it, even if it was the most minor thing, or tell said person to take his ball and play elsewhere if it’s not for him. If said person was inactive, it doesn’t matter so much, but if you’re thirsty for said person or other members of the chat worshipped him, that’s when shit really hits the fan.
Chat members will end up leaving the group and start a new one because you know they loved this guy and how could you do such a thing as kick someone…with many of the same people but a different “boss” in charge. Eventually with the same people in the group, the friction might as well start another day with someone else, because the thing is, a lot of people online don’t like each other, they just know if they speak up they might get banned because that’s the internet climate nowadays. When you combine that with the last 5 issues I mentioned, it’s a perfect recipe for a drama bomb, a shitstorm in the process of brewing, and causing popular members to leave and run their own groups. Then, the cycle continues, just like Groundhog Day.
This applies to more than just chat groups as well. Some of my favorite YouTube groups died off or split for this reason, such as TheBestGamers, MillionDollarExtreme, and a few others. Bands break up all the time because of creative differences/disputes with other members, or go through members like rolls of toilet paper (Look at Jefferson Airplane/Starship’s lineup list on Wikipedia, or how many bands that have been around for decades have few/none of the original members left).
Chat groups sound like a nice idea, but so did the internet before it turned out to be a propaganda machine and a spying apparatus, a tool to enable those void of any existence besides buying more and more shit and taking on labels in an attempt to distinguish themselves in a society where your identity and existence is defined by the shit you spend your money on. All chat groups have done is reinforce my void, especially after so many incidents over the last 3 years on group chats made me question myself a bit: Why am I with online friends, why do I have no real-life friends? Was this my fate? Maybe it’s a sign, to step away from chat groups a bit, to try to fix shit in the real world. I’ve seen them implode or get loaded with so much petty drama, and it makes you question, is it worth it?
Ah well, I have an SGI Octane right near me, I’ve got a C compiler, and I might as well learn C there so that well, I can have marketable skills and be spending less time absorbed in group drama. As some of those points mentioned, being online can be a risky business nowadays, especially if you don’t shield your identity, and group drama blowing up in your face might mean you could be next in the crosshairs of someone.