A Brief Look At Resentment On Black Hat Online Marketing Forums
Resentment in any online community is an inevitability; just like with any business, you’re always going to have unhappy customers. However, unlike unhappy customers who will simply cease to use your services, unhappy community members will continue lingering and, because the act of lingering in a community is free, growing evermore resentful.
In order to better explain my perspective, I’ve created a chart below of the six phases of an internet marketing forum vigilante.
Within each phase, there’s a thought associated with it that causes the member to continue spiralling.
The Six Stages Of Resentment
Phase One: Dissatisfaction
This usually begins with the thought, ‘The forum is not going in a direction I agree with, therefore the forum is dying’.
Occasionally, dissatisfaction with a community leads to a member taking matters into their own hands. Whilst I can appreciate this endeavour on some level, more often than not, the execution of it is counter-productive to the health of an online community.
My reasoning for this statement is that, often times, a dissatisfied member will convince themselves that what they’re doing is for the betterment of the community. However, the reality of this is that they’re not acknowledging that what they deem as ‘better’ is what benefits them the most. An example of this would be a seller complaining about low-quality sellers in the same online marketplace. On the face of it, they’ll state that they’re trying to get rid of bad sellers who lower the quality of the marketplace. Now, removing undesirables from an online marketplace is ideal, but not when the person bringing attention to this is not only in direct competition with these sellers, but doesn’t actually offer anything better than their competition.
Phase Two: Vigilantism
Once a member gets it in their head that, ‘The moderators and administrators aren’t doing anything, so it’s up to me to right these wrongs’, they’ve successfully traversed into the vigilante phase.
This phase manifests itself in several ways, usually through armchair investigations and petty vague posting about an issue. Often times, these members start off humorous, but the novelty wears off pretty quickly.
Previously contributory members may completely stop contributing in a meaningful way, and instead resort to spreading negativity and attempting to persuade others to share their viewpoints. This usually results in the formation of private echo-chamber groups where they can freely share their views and create fictitious “Us versus Them” wars without the possibility of being challenged by others.
Phase Three: Disobedience
This is where those with authority issues shine the most. With their resentment boiling over, the member may have a difficult time resisting the urge to openly express their views. This is where the real problems start. They begin testing the patience of staff members by breaking arbitrary rules and eventually begin looking for loopholes in the current rules in order to perform an inappropriate action.
On a related note, the nature of black hat internet marketing means that it attracts people who are going to look for loopholes and ways to game systems. So on one hand, I can’t fault anyone for looking for loopholes on the very forum where they learn these tactics, but on the other hand, you would think the phrase “Don’t defecate where you eat” would have some meaning here.
Phase Four: ‘Antagonised’
Members who feel antagonised quickly become paranoid. ‘The mods are censoring the truth’, ‘They’re reading my messages’, ‘They’re in cahoots with the guy I don’t like’, ‘I’m being threatened by mods with a ban’, and ‘They’re making this personal’ are common thoughts these members often express.
When someone, especially in a large community, concludes that they are being personally targeted, this is always the point of no return. Of course, becoming a personal target in a large community is not unheard, it’s just more uncommon than most would realise. If I could compile a list of everyone who has sent me a complaint about feeling personally targeted by a staff member and asked you, the reader, to select the the one who was actually targeted, it would be like looking for a needle in a stack of fake needles.
Phase Five: Complaining
‘That’s it, I can’t take it anymore; it’s time to go public and expose these corrupt individuals’.
Whilst not the final phase, this is the stage that determines whether or not the member will be banned from the platform or bitterly be silenced and use the platform occasionally. It’s usually accompanied by a large number of rule violations unrelated to their dilemma and more direct public complaints about the purported incompetency of the staff members, often in public. Demands for public apologies to the individual are common in this phase.
Phase Six: Change
‘I need to use this forum, but I hate this place’ or, if they were banned, ‘I’ll be back, I’ll show them they can’t silence me forever’, is the thought process in this phase.
Personally, I’ve always found it disappointing when a member gets to this stage and continues being in limbo with the community. They never post like they used to, there’s a sense of bitterness in their responses, and they only use the platform to either run their business or
In regards to the other outcome, when they keep coming back, they do this frequently for the first week or so, only to come back less and less as they move on with their lives.
Managing a community means putting processes in place to prevent this resentment as much as possible. However, as previously stated in this article, resentment is an inevitability. In these cases, the solution to the member’s dissatisfaction depends upon how possible it is to come to a satisfactory resolution and change their expectations. For instance, if a member simply has a problem with a sub-forum not being moderated, this is entirely possible to remedy, and the member should be thanked for bringing attention to the issue. On the other hand, if a member is imagining problems and is convinced that everyone is a scammer except for them, the member needs to be removed from the platform to prevent them from spiralling further and taking additional members with them.