Responding to the Trials & Tribulations of Digital Community Volunteering!

Since 2019, I have been active within an online community as a content moderator, tasked with responding to reports, questions, or concerns, along with managing the communication channels to ensure that the rules are being upheld whether that be internal or external Terms of Service. I have progressed to the senior moderator level, whereby, I assist in the overwatch of 3 communication channels, including the Official English Discord, Russian/English Twitch Channel, and the Australian and New Zealand Discord. At their peak, these 3 communities total up to 900,000 thousand active users, which we must manage in an attempt to keep our community as safe and welcoming as possible for all walks of life. 

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Through this experience, I have developed an outside ring of my “club of life” whom, I am able to actively share my feelings, and concerns with, as they represent a tight group of friends that span across the globe with different perspectives, values, and insights. When Re-membering my experiences with this team, they were not considered in my “club of life” at a first glance, which highlights the importance of self-reflection on previous situations, how I have dealt with disruption and change in the past, and how this team helped me overcome this as we know “it’s our nature to resist change” (Kevin Fleming, 2016)

One such situation was surrounding my health and the wider burden of working as a volunteer within the community. In July of 2021, the game on which the community is based and owned experienced a wipe whereby, all the player’s progress and items reset, which allows for everybody to start fresh, but with additional content as wipes often come alongside major content updates. This wipe in particular was intense taking place during the slow ANZ time zone, the bot which manages a large portion of the workload decided to stop responding leaving our small team with a major workload for the following few hours during the game’s maintenance battling the influx of new chatters during our peak growth and engagement period.

This disruption, takes a heavy toll on the team’s morale and mental well-being, as we attempt to stamp out any bad behavior which breaks our terms of service. This situation for me was, what many would describe as “the stick that broke the camel’s back”, as somebody who volunteers his time to create a safe environment for people to enjoy themselves, being treated like the villain for issues like extensions of server maintenance that are out of my control, really eats away at your mental capacity to cope.

Photo by Pedro Figueras on Pexels.com

Once the maintenance was complete, and the servers remained to normal with the bot returning to service, I needed to take a break as my health with relation to IBD was flaring up, possibly as a direct correlation to the stress accumulated with content moderation. Therefore, during July and August, I stepped away from Discord and the community, in general, to reset and reflect. During this period, my team members we extremely considerate, and supportive of my decision to step away, while still giving me the option to be included in their activities outside of moderation.

The use of Re-membering can be highlighted in situations in “which some mentions an important person from their past in a positive light” (YouthAOD TooBox, 2022) through this circumstance it allows us to evaluate people’s impact on our ability to cope in situations of change, and therefore, it can act as a gateway into the undiscovered webs within our “club of life”. Through the support of my team members, I was able to recharge and overcome, the trials and tribulations, that surround my physical and mental health as all aspects of my life have an impact on my ability to manage my IBD.

Content Moderation is an extremely difficult gig that requires important soft skills like teamwork, communication, resilience, honor, and integrity. Content moderation is also a thankless role, whereby you are cursed at and threatened for your volunteer job as a glorified janitor providing some resemblance of order through the enforcement of rules set by people above you. However, with that being said, my time being a Moderator has provided me with valuable insight into the dynamics of these online communities, along with the ability to deal with disputes, and has taught me a lot about marketing to and managing people to keep them engaged with the community and content. When people thank me for my and the service I do for the community it makes the whole experience so much more worth it in light of all the negativity in this world.

Reference List

Carey, M, and Russel, S (2002) Remembering: responding to commonly asked questions [online] http://narrativepractices.com.au/attach/pdf/Remembering_Common_Questions.pdf [Accessed 25/08/2022]

Fleming, K (2016) ACCEPTING CHANGE: THE INGRAINED RESISTANCE OF NATURE AND NURTURE [online] https://greymattersintl.com/accepting-change/ [Accessed 25/08/2022]

Young, L-Y, (2018) The Effect of Moderator Bots on Abusive Language Use [online] https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3243250.3243257 [Accessed 25/08/2022]

CrohnsColitisFoundation (2018) The Impact of Anxiety and Depression on Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases [online] https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/blog/impact-anxiety-and-depression-patients-inflammatory-bowel-diseases [Accessed 28/08/2022]

YouthAOD Toolbox (2022) E9. Re-membering [online] https://www.youthaodtoolbox.org.au/e9-re-membering#:~:text=Tap%20to%20Unmute,reinforces%20the%20preferred%20identity%20story. [Accessed 28/08/2022]

Wright, J (2018) The origin of soft skills [online] https://code.joejag.com/2018/the-origin-of-soft-skills.html [Accessed 28/08/2022]

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