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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