Forum-posting people fall into predictable roles. Written 2002ish.
|Somewhere on this earth, there is a gathering of opinionated, vocal people all trying to force their opinions onto each other. They ignore the points that others make and insist on trying to prove the same opinion over and over. They sometimes ally and gang up on each other. Very rarely, there are some of them who are capable of having a mature discussion, but attempts by these are quelled with fervor by the closed-minded majority.
What have I just described to you? A court room? A political argument? A family reunion? No. Two words, ladies and gentlemen: message board. The culmination of our technological and social progress has been reduced to faceless, ceaseless bitching. And of course it starts out innocently enough. Webmasters put boards on their sites thinking that people will converse, share info, and connect with others. And they do connect...like a well-placed kick connects to your forehead. What was meant for calm discussion degenerates into immature whining and flaming.
Among these whiners and flamers, a few archetypes take shape.
The Ego - Usually a man in his 30's of above-average intelligence. He stays slightly above the level of flamebait, stating his opinions with a mix of self-righteousness and weak-but-viable facts to back them up. And people start to respect him. He's not that great, really. He's a troll in a nice suit who dodges flames like a dragon trainer. But he's polite. And he's consistent. He usually has one pet subject that he returns to, and joins into any post that mentions it. This opinion becomes his theme, and people start to take sides concerning it. Some of them back him, becoming his cheerleaders, fans, or...dare I say it?...MINIONS. And they're proud of it too, because they become associated with someone capable of having a mature debate, albeit weak. If you want to be well-liked on a message board, get on good terms with this guy. Once you have, and he acknowledges your presence favorably, you can start up with your own self-righteous kvetching.
The Minion - Usually takes the theme of The Ego (above) or The Ass (below), but adds his or her own twists on it. Occasionally takes a completely opposite stand on the opinion of The Ego, but manages to impress him with the ability to debate without calling him 'gay,' 'n00b,' 'poop head,' or some equally insulting term.
The Ass - You'll recognize this guy right away. First off, he has a ridiculous post count. He is proud of it. He may even use it in an attempt to make himself seem more credible. Secondly, he's smart. Smarter, in fact, than The Ego, but with no tact to show for it. He, like The Ego, has an opinion that he uses for his theme. However, it's much broader. Usually it covers enough bases to piss off 90% of people reading. So people flame, and his post count goes up as he replies. Occasionally, The Ego will assert an opinion in one of The Ass's posts. Generally, though, The Ego avoids this guy. Most Asses pick up on this evasion and call out The Ego repeatedly. However, if The Ego wants to maintain his status, he won't reply other than to make himself look mature compared to The Ass. Won't even debate. Usually just takes a detached "whatever" attitude with The Ass, then moves on.
The Teacher - This person is usually female. She answers 'stupid question' posts and is helpful to many. When people get into a cussing flame, she tells them to tone it down. She has a long, pretty sig, usually with 'Moderator' somewhere in it. If she's not a real mod, she has been informally accepted as one. She is generally liked, although some may take issue with her for being a goody. The Ego may or may not like her, depending on her stance concerning his theme. However, The Ass hates her with an abnormal passion. He mocks her, calls her names, and accuses her of being a suck-up. In short, he flirts with her in a junior-high fashion. And her reaction, a combination of tolerance and dismissal, provokes him even more. And his post count soars...
The Little Princess - This one is probably female. I say "probably" because she may be a guy in disguise who likes attention. The Princess digs sigs to an abnormal degree, and will probably go through 10 in the course of a year. She favors cutesy topics, but may make an occasional stab at debate. On boards where the majority is male, she is a hit. She may gain her own clique of followers, or Subjects. In the early stages, the Little Princess is polite to all, but as she climbs up the board hierarchy, she begins to pick on anyone who gets in her way. The Ego might like or hate her, depending on her opinion of his pet subject. The Ass will try to flirt with her, but she usually just ignores him.
The Little Princess is prone to finding a bad thread and posting her own little order ("Mods lock this, it's crap!"). Then, the hand of the moderator smites the poster of said flame, and the thread is locked. Of course, the thread would have been locked whether or not the Princess ordered it to be, but that doesn't stop Her Majesty from taking some credit. The Subjects cheer, the Princess smiles tolerantly, and the mods roll their eyes. God help the board whose Princess actually becomes a moderator.
The Subjects - Not much to say for these folks, except that they can multitask. In addition to upholding the honor of the Little Princess, they may also be Minions or part of the Norm. They shower the princess with attention. If she has added a line to her sig supporting something, they will do the same. Sometimes they save themselves the time and add a line such as "I support whatever the Little Princess supports. Her rule is absolute."
The Norm - The Norm is hard to define. They have an equal chance of being male or female. They react to the four archetypes above in varied ways. Some are lesser forms of Minions, using the theme to an extent. But unlike The Minion, they are not stuck on that one pet issue. These are the people that serve to flame The Ass, justify The Ego, revere the Princess, debate with The Minion and be helped by The Teacher. They have less posts on average than the above archetypes, usually because they are working or prefer face-to-face socialization. Or, more bluntly, because they have a life.
The Lurker - This person (male or female? no one knows...) almost never posts. If they do, they are anon, or keep switching sign-in names. They are interested in the subjects at hand, and usually have strong opinions about them. However, they don't want to suck up to The Ego or the Little Princess to be heard. They don't want to become a Minion or a Subject either. They don't want to deal with The Ass and they already know anything that The Teacher could tell them. They look upon the board as a source of both amusement and frustration. They are interested in the posts and the people, but they don't want to deal with the hassle of virtual socialization. In case you couldn't tell, I'm one of these. Debating with people that are not going to listen to me is just not my cup of tea. However, watching them and analyzing them is.