Back in my pre-teen years I spent most of my time wondering who was the better quarterback – Roger Staubach or Craig Morton, what comic books to buy; and how to impress girls (still an enigma to me). I usually settled for Marvel comics – the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Thor, etc. These comic books all had the same advertisements – sea people magically coming to life, x-ray glasses enabling you to see through clothing (waste of money), and Charles Atlas’ strength training booklet.
The Atlas’ ad was a long-running stroke-of-genius. It portrayed a skinny fella on the beach with his best gal. A bulky bully kicked sand in his face telling him “I’d smash your face but you’re so skinny you might blow away”. The pencil-neck refused to be victimized and secured himself a copy of Charles Atlas’ program. Two frames – and one year later – our hero is back at the beach and this time deals out a firm right cross to the jaw of the bully saying “I owe you this!”
Funny (ironic not ha ha) how time changes things. In 1970 a bully was a brute who kicked sand in the face of skinny geeks; in 1984 (my first powerlifting meet – Niles, IL – Leaning Tower Y) the personal computer had just hit the shelves and the internet wasn’t even in our vocabulary; and in 1994 (my last meet to date) forums – let alone powerlifting forums – did not exist. Today we have a half dozen very active powerlifting forums, internet users have there own urban dictionary, and a bully is usually someone who hides behind a troll name and lurks anonymously in social forums.
As I examine the powerlifting forums closely and read through archived entries I can see predictable signs of trouble (hindsight is 20-20). The first forum was interesting – a lot of training information from the sport’s best lifters. Icons from the seventies and eighties were regulars on this forum. And it wasn’t strictly training information – there was an overriding joking tone ~ all tongue-in-cheek mixed with a little sarcasm. Ah, the first predictable sign: sarcasm. Sarcasm is difficult to communicate to those who are unfamiliar with each other and damn near impossible to convey through writing. So, the forum required keen eyes to ensure effective moderating, and moderating required mature, dedicated and honest moderators without a personal stakehold. You beat me to it: the second predictable sign. Realize that moderating takes an exorbitant amount of time with no reward. I wouldn’t do it. It takes a strong and firm constancy of purpose to effectively moderate. You won’t please all the people all the time – bam! The third predictable sign: disgruntled powerlifters. And we all know what a powerlifter does when he or she is pissed-off ~ they start their own forum!
It is the final sign that has created the internet forum environment that powerlifters frequent – anonymity. Once a few competing forums began to offer anonymous postings in the form of troll names they all followed suit. Now to post with your own name is the exception and even this last vestige of internet chivalry has been bastardized (o.k. a little overboard, I know). There are some lifters that are receiving more notoriety from their comical postings on the forums than their lifting. These guys have to post with their own names – that’s what they’re known for. But, I digress, back to those freakin’ trolls…………..
Listen, I’m not going to climb on my high horse. I’ve read all the public-accessed boards. I’ve posted four times in the last six months and all of my posting have been innocuous (well – except for that one time when I suggested a forum seek the advice of Dr. Kevorkian and pull the plug). And, I’ve regretted each time I’ve posted. Why? Because I was met with hate and discontent much like we all are when posting in the public forums of today. Why is that? Relatively speaking powerlifters are a small group. There ain’t that many of us. We all know each other – whoops – that’s right. It is anonymous.
Anonymity and powerlifting were not synonymous in the eighties and early nineties. Believe it or not we all didn’t like each other either – even in NASA. There were two lifters I could not stand. They were prima donnas in my eyes. And, they didn’t like me as well. They thought of me as a southwestern ‘redneck’. Me? Southwestern? And, you know how we got along? We didn’t. We simply kept our distance. Because (and mind you – I don’t venture myself a ‘tough guy’ – it was just the way it was) we would have thrown down. So we showed each other mutual respect. And guess what? We all co-existed just fine and kept our personal and private opinions to ourselves.
The way I see it – forum anonymity is the last refuge of a coward. Folks should show each other a little mutual respect. But they won’t. So, the bottom line is: ignore them. Don’t engage them. Stay out of their little playground. Most of these punks didn’t receive enough love from daddy and need the attention. You cannot fill this void. DON’T FEED THE TROLL! Some folks have said that’s hard to do. They want a forum to defend themselves. From what?!? Everyone in our little niche powerlifting community knows the punkish trolling nature of some on these boards. Very little is really taken that serious. No one really cares what these trolling losers have to say. And, for that matter, no one outside of our NASA family cares about what you have to say. They only want to engage you for their own morbid entertainment.
This is an op-ed column and I am going to give my opinions on a few of the active public boards. First and foremost, our boards – NASA Real Power and Training forums – are tightly moderated and everyone shows each other respect, period. I enjoy our boards immensely. I think you will too. If you are a card-carrying member and haven’t frequented the boards I encourage you to do so.
Secondly, there is a tightly monitored board that posts daily news reports on the sport and has established a lifter rankings list (paid membership required for access to this feature). I like this site. Sometimes the news day is slow and seems like the moderator enjoys the drama a little too much but all-in-all I think it’s a good site that ‘watches’ the sport closely.
The third site I read has an outlaw reputation as a multi-ply site and seems to be a little to casual on drug use. Given my personal views on both topics it may seem a little strange that I like this forum but, the information is timely and direct and it allows me to see ‘the other side’ (you can’t watch FOX news all the time). The moderator usually shuts down personal attacks without proof.
The internet is the great tool of our generation. It has changed business, commerce, communications and entertainment. But, with a great tool comes the possibility of misuse. An example of this misuse is the angry, vindictive trolls lurking in the forums – please don’t feed them.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the latest installment of this column. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is a privilege for me and I very much enjoy sharing with y’all in our NASA family. My next column will address drug use in the sport and how it has changed. I guarantee that my take and yours will be different. Stay tuned.
Let me know your thoughts and opinion. I can easily be reached at email@example.com