Why Are There So Many Illiterate People Online?

I’m the webmaster for Working to Halt Online Abuse.

WHOA helps people who are being harassed online. Our site is full of material about avoiding and dealing with harassment, good anti-harassment policies for forum owners, etc.

There are many contact forms on the site. Each has a specific purpose, with messages sent through it going to the person who handles that specific topic. Interview requests, volunteer applications, suggestions, etc.—all go to different addresses.

All but one of those forms has a note reminding visitors that harassment reports should not be filed using them, with a pointer to the one form that is provided for that use. The “not here!” note is red. It’s a larger size than the rest of the text. I used a different typeface, too.

I don’t know how to make it any more obvious without using animations or something equally disgusting. Perhaps I should automatically load a sound file with the page? Maybe a recording of my voice reading the note to the site visitor would help.

I ask because, despite my efforts, we get several messages a week from people who want help, but cannot seem to find the form used for asking for help.

(That’s because I have cleverly hidden that form, placing a large, red “Need Help?” link at the top of the menu bar on every single page on the site. It’s a reverse psychology thing, ya know?)

Sometimes, the sender will tell us that he found the right form, but didn’t want to use it. His situation is, you see, so very special that he shouldn’t have to go to so much trouble.

These “special” people are almost always the ones who will waste a safety advocate’s time, then refuse to make any changes in their own behavior. The “harassment” they report is almost always a pissing contest.

They’re also prone to filing multiple reports when they DO use the right form, thinking that they’ll get more, faster, or better help if they do so.

You get three guesses as to why I maintain the website rather than working on harassment cases these days.

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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