Thursday, December 3, 2009

Spy VS..

When we started in this insane sport, there were very few places where "skating fans" could get together to chat on line. I remember finding my first group about 18 years ago now; I don't actually remember how. I do know that this was a fledgling communications medium and the skating group also included talk about many other things that were relevant at the time. It was there that I began communicating with someone who since has become a life-long friend and honorary member of the family. We may have one of the longest email friendships on record at this point. He has been a supporter of our skater and became a trusted personal friend who even acted as a chaperone for several competitions which, because of work, we could not attend. And though he is not as involved in skating as he used to be, we still communicate and love to follow his worldwide travels (an amazing photographer!) and cherish sharing his life experiences around the globe.

Shortly after discovering this group, I also discovered a new world on the worldwide web. "Chat Boards" began appearing on line, and for young skaters, they became a place where they could express their unbridled enthusiasm and support for their friends competing across the country. On many boards, the savvy administrators monitored like hawks and took down rude and inappropriate comments, privately admonishing the kids to play fair and not use the boards as a place to trash their competitors or people in their rink.

The next step, partially born from a rash of cyber incidents involving young children, was that parents started "monitoring" the boards to see what was being said and to make sure that their precious children weren't falling victim to people who meant them harm. Of course, on the skating boards, having parents monitor conversations took on a decidedly different twist. The popular boards became a place where parents took on pseudonyms and started their own version of "Cyber Stalking," trying to mimic the language and lingo of the skaters so they would blend in.

Yes, I admit it: I was a "Cyber Stalker" when our skater was young. About the time he started competing at the intermediate level, the boards had taken off and there was a LOT of chat out there. Some people were kind; some talked trash.

It is difficult as a parent to read about your child as he or she is being unjustly (in your opinion) vilified for slips, falls, cheated jumps or any number of other opinions that, in your mind, are reprehensible and unjustified railings against "America's next great skating sensation." It is hard to hold your tongue; it is hard not to assume the persona of your cyber alter-ego and lash back. Actually, it is nearly impossible. Fortunately, some of those same, wonderfully caring site administrators monitor the "Cyber Stalkers", too. If you step over the line, one will quickly send you a PM and let you know that they are watching (as they remove your post). Cyber Stalkers on these boards quickly learn that if they want to spew venom, there are other places to do it. Some have even been lulled into believing that they can trash skaters on these boards without fear of identity or retribution. In today's media transparency, they are naive and don't understand how these places work and how easily they can be identified.

So, in this world of relative transparency, use your screen name but don't hide behind it. It simply doesn't work. Some boards, like Unseen Skaters, are great places to gain information and ask questions. It is not a place to talk trash so don't even bother. These are true informational - and information sharing - sites that can help fill the gaps and serve a purpose. If you want to express your opinions in some format that does not subscribe to the "Thumper Theory," there are lots of places to do that. Just be prepared to be "outted" if you step over the fine line between honest opinion and something bordering on slander. The good thing about the fan boards is that skating fans KNOW the sport and they tend to "police" other members. If you cross them by trying to pretend to be something other than what - and who - you are, it can be a truly arresting experience!

1 comment:

  1. Hear hear. I made a decision early on to be myself on the web, especially on skating sites, mostly using my real name (or my "Xanboni" alter ego, which everyone knew about), on the theory that I shouldn't say anything on line that I wouldn't say to a person's face. No such thing as "behind someone's back" on line.