18 August 2010

Forum Decorum

Forgive me for neglecting to update this blog for a while.  I've been doing some social networking.  Not the fun kind where you meet your mates for a drink or a meal, but the virtual kind where you sit in a dark room and have typed conversations with people you have never met and are never likely to.

One of the drawbacks (probably the only one, apart from the startling absence of paydays) of giving up working in an office is that you miss out on all the random non-work-related conversations over lunch or in the coffee area.  When you move to another country, the problem is of course greatly exacerbated.  You keep in touch with your family and best friends, naturally, but it's that background level of daily trivia that leaves a black hole.  Your OH, with the best will in the world, is no substitute - you know each other so well that you can usually predict each other's responses.   You might make new acquaintances locally, but conversation can be a bit limited, especially if you have little in common other than living in the same community, or you don't speak the language well enough to get the jokes.

So I ventured into cyberspace and signed on to some ex-pat forums, hoping to find other like-minded souls to share some experiences with.   But first you have to learn what is called "netiquette".  You are advised to "lurk" for a while before creating or answering a thread, to get the feel of things. You must avoid trolling, scrolling, cross-posting, SHOUTING, repetition, advertising your own business, and insulting people.  You mustn't change the subject of a thread halfway through.  Whether or not you litter your messages with smiley-faces or other emoticons is up to you.  Then there is an entire lexicon of abbreviations like LOL and FOMC, which crusty old pedants like myself, who spell everything out in full when sending text messages, have to learn from scratch.

It soon became clear which forum was the most lively and active, so after a respectable lurking period I started to join in.  At first it was a bit like going to a party where everyone knows everyone else and you are the outsider.  But any forum worth joining will invite you to say a bit about yourself, and one of the moderators (people in charge) will send you a personal welcome.  Very soon I became involved in a whole range of discussions about life in Spain, what's good and bad about living in the UK, whether it's better to live in a police state or unregulated anarchy, and whether women in 1900 would rather have had the vote or a washing machine.  On the whole the regular members seem to be a bunch of intelligent, amusing and interesting people.  A few eejits of course, but a much smaller proportion of rabid racists, know-it-alls and Spain-bashers that I have seen on some other forums.

However it soon became apparent that I would have to limit myself to one visit a day, or I'd never get anything else done.  Much like Facebook, which IMO (see, I'm learning!!) is a wonderful way of keeping in touch with old friends and workmates; how else would I get to see pictures of their new babies/puppies/hairstyles, hear about their new partners/jobs/houses and share their favourite books/recipes/jokes/music?   But like the discussion forums, you have to keep it in perspective.  It's all too easy to waste hours finding out what sort of shoe you are, watering somebody's virtual garden or feeding some virtual chickens.

Right, must just go and check the latest post on whether the UK is the only place in Europe where you can't go into a bar and ask to use the toilet without buying a drink. TTYL!

Forum etiquette
Abbreviations used in chatrooms, forums and text messages

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people" (Eleanor Roosevelt)

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