Friday, February 27, 2004

About Robert and Nonny, FM and rules...

It's never good when a couple breaks up, and even if you don't particularly like the people anymore, you can feel a little regret that something didn't work. The world in general always seems better when a love story works rather than when it doesn't, no matter who is involved.

However -- and this won't surprise anyone -- I'm not at all surprised that this one didn't succeed. The relationship started out with deceptions on both side (age, gender and a number of lesser secrets -- but all couples have the lesser ones, at first). They rushed into a situation that was bound to be filled with conflict since they had the added pressure of others to please in a place that was not their own. S and V encouraged and enabled the situation, and V professes that they were surprised at how much he changed. That may be true. After all, they had never put R in a situation where he had anything to protect or lose before.

In my opinion, R was looking for a new mother. Anyone who spent more than a week in chat with him knew he was obsessed by his mother's past actions, and N stepped right into the role of nurturing and taking care of him. When it came her turn for care, she couldn't understand that he couldn't make the sudden change in roles that she had never asked from him. R was living in a fantasy world and didn't want to step out of it. N had created the situation, even if she never realized it -- but then that's part of her immaturity. She had barely turned 18. No matter how mature she might be in some respects, she is still very young in others. And R has continued to be immature despite his age. People can hope that N will grow up -- R never will. But that is his choice, and anyone who is surprised by what happened just hasn't been paying much attention.

While this entire group was still at Forward Motion, Holly and I began to discuss the problems it presented. We knew that R and N were going to be trouble. In fact, they were already a problem. People were complaining that they felt like chat had turned into a 'make out' session. What R and N thought was cute, others found unpleasant, distasteful, childish and distracting. The people who came into chat often didn't feel that they could make any comments or ask the two to tone things down since both had been moderators (though N was removed from that post for non-related matters). Holly and I asked that they act better in chat, but asking had no effect. Holly and I even decided on a rule that at the site people should just treat each other as friends in public, no matter what their relationship was in private.

They, and a few others, didn't like that rule. They moved off to Evolution. That, truly was a wonderful blessing because the trouble all bypassed the site. When something came up in chat last week or so, several of the people had no idea whom we were even talking about.

Now I've learned they banned Robert from Evolution. Maybe he posted things at the site that they didn't like, but all in all it is about relationships. It's amazing how now that it's their site, a banning is appropriate behavior, but when it's FM, we didn't have the right to remove any sort of trouble.

Vindication is sweet in some ways. I never expected to feel that way.

FM is a writing site. We are friends there, and sometimes we help each other out with real life problems, but that is not the point of the site. Some people find that attitude cold, but it's actually a way to preserve FM from personal problems that would overburden it -- because everyone has problems. This is a refuge from those things, not a place to solve them. We are not a debating society on war, religion or anything else -- we discuss many things in general ways to help writing, but what a person's beliefs are is not important to the site.

We are also not the Dating Game.

None of the people directly involved in the R and N fiasco will be welcome back at FM. Not only will the site not take sides in the break up, but the animosity is not going to seep into the boards and chat again, either. People can stop asking me if I've heard from Robert and when he'll be back at the site. He will not. He made a choice about Forward Motion and the way it was run. That has nothing to do with his relationship with N, V and S even if it was the relationship that sparked the choice.

There are always repercussions to the choices made in life. This is one of them. Everyone will move on in their own directions. Some will still have exciting writing careers, and some will continue to play in their small sandboxes with only a few to see their pretty castles. But most of them will do it beyond the embrace of FM.

I can tell you that having gone through this entire fiasco on the site, as well as viewed it after it left, has not changed my mind about the rules at FM. Nor do I believe that FM's rules are going to work for every other site. However, in the end... no, I don't want love affairs on FM again. Between worrying about underage girls (and their parents) and how the inevitable breakups are going to affect the site... no. Sorry. Not at FM.

So there is the answer to the emails, the private messages and the questions in chat. Time for all of us to move on.

Oh, but first... a note on the difference between rules and censorship.

The world is filled with rules that are made just so that others will not be disturbed by what someone thinks is vastly important and want to shout at the top of her lungs. You cannot go into a grocery store and stand in the baby food aisle and preach about anti-abortion. You cannot go into a church and shout about paganism. Those are rules. They are made for the benefit of others who are not interested in hearing your views. Most of us appreciate that we can walk down the streets or go to the store without being accosted by people who have an agenda to push.

At Forward Motion, after some rocky exchanges over some subjects, we realized that politics, religion and war were making insurmountable divisions in the site, and that they had nothing at all to do with writing. Until those subjects came up, in fact, everyone had gotten along pretty very well. Oh sure, there are always disagreements about writing subjects, but at least those have something to do with the site.

So, we made rules at the site -- no war debates and religious discussions must stay in the context of helping in a writing situation. Just like the grocery store, the church, your place of business, or a number of other locations, we created rules that would keep the place focused on what was important to FM, and not have the site constantly falling into tirades. This was right after 9/11, by the way. The trouble would have been constant, given the temperament of the world as a whole.

People have continually complained that this was censorship and that they had a right to rant and rave about whatever they liked at the site. No, this is not censorship. These are rules. It only becomes censorship if we at the site told others that they could not discuss or write about these matters anywhere. We even started the blog page listing for people to have their rants and draw others from the site to discuss it with them. Just not on the FM boards.

There are rules everywhere in the world about behavior and enforced politeness. The rules have become important to the site and have kept it from exploding into flames like so many other places on the Internet.

Rules are not censorship. No one even tried to tell anyone what they could say or do outside of FM. But at FM the rules are pretty simple -- post only your own words and pictures and respect others' copyrights; avoid discussions on the war; do not preach religion; and, finally, treat each other as friends on the site, no matter what your relationship may be elsewhere.

Seems like an easy set of rules. I'm going to stick with them. We may find that the site needs new ones as time goes on, but for now, this will do.

But for now, if you are interested in writing, Forward Motion is a good place to be. I'm proud to be part of it.

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