Three lessons I learned about how not to handle digital fights in sports

Some years ago, when two of my furry best friends were alive, they had a moment of estrangement. Unfortunately, they got into a serious fight Rita went for Nala’s throat. I jumped in an tried to stop them. They ignored me. When I actively intervened, they attacked me. I don’t remember how I succeeded in separating them – probably water. They hated water. I was wearing white loose pants. They were red with blood in half an hour and I had bite wounds on my forearm and hands. The same happened to my brother, who owns peaceful Labradors. One day they got into an argument and Mauro, my brother, tried to separate them. He ended up with stitches on his hands. The dogs are fine.

Powerlifting and sports fights in general are not that different, I learned. There are three elements in the fight that we simply can’t control:

  • The level of anger of each contender at the moment
  • Their previous history
  • The high number of people who actually want to watch the fight

I am one of those people who firmly believes there is nothing to be gained in digital fights. There is no learning, not establishment of credibility, not even an outlet for stress: most people I talked to became much more worked up and developed stress symptoms after expressing their anger.

I also do not believe a hostile environment drives more people to watch meets when two contenders that have engaged in hostility are lifting. We recently had the case of Jimmy Pacifico and Chris Papillion. I believe what made people watch the flight they were on was the quality of their lifting, not the fight. They are both very good athletes. It is a pleasure to watch such great lifters.

So, according to my beliefs, which you are free to openly disagree, I tried to intervene in fights in order to stop them.

I failed a 100% of the times in which I was not the moderator and, therefore, did not have the real power to delete hostile arguments. I succeeded a 100% of the times I was the moderator.

These are some of the lessons I learned (but I still commit some of the mistakes):


  1. All digital fights involve a subtext, the assumption of a subtext or a context (or all of them)
    1. * A subtext. This is the most benign form of manifestation. Example:

= “This is the video, now from all the angles to leave no doubt as to depth” (subtext: “because before there were a bunch of people fucking with me because of depth”)

  1. * A presumed subtext. This is worse. It is an assumption that even a completely literal question has a subtext. Example:

= “Where was this meet?” Presumed subtext: “I want to know all about the meet to tear the lifter down

  1. * Context: this is the worst of all situations and usually leads to ugly exchanges of insults. The people involved have been previously involved in many digital or even presencial fights and whatever is said or posted by one will be attacked by others. Anything can be an example: from a video to an update about his recovery from an injury

That said, a good moderator will cut sarcasm by exposing all subtext, presumed subtext and context and then delete hostile comments. Educate and punish – no other way. Good moderation implies having no problems with banning people. It improves the quality of the group, produces fear in the slightly sick and gets rid of the weed.

  1. Most of the community welcomes people who bring peace or laughter. The 2-5% who don’t are sufficiently aggressive to drive away those who try. I, for one, will never try again in a group that is not OWNED by me. Recently I wrote a long text, previously agreed upon with the owner, that had almost 100 likes and a long thread of comments, with some people testifying that they felt intimidated before but now they felt encouraged to post their videos and questions. It took two extremely ill intentioned and insistent participants, with no support from anyone, to push me to the decision of not only deleting my post (so that their comment would also be gone), but block the people and leave the group. I like to help, but not at the expense of my sanity. Some people are badly in need of therapy: they are obviously messed up. Only a messed up person defends an environment that welcomes hostility. Other people are outright sick and actually should be locked up. All you need to do is take the suicide example. What to say of the people who kept encouraging the victim to commit suicide? These are dangerous psychopaths that should be locked up for life.

This lesson is good: it shows the community is not sick. But the sick members are so intimidating and loud that they make the community sound sick. The best thing to do would be to moderate everything useful and let the sick people find their way into a sick forum, attacking each other. Some of these sick people will eventually grow up and mature out of their mental disorder. Most will not.

  1. Some people actually get a high from making digital attacks. These are easy to identify: they will invade a wall of someone who is not their friend and post sarcastic comments in the hopes of starting an aggressive thread.

The best thing to do, for everyone, is to configure your account so that only you can write updates on your wall, only your friends may comment on them and then unfriend all the unfriends.

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