Since the start of the alt.support.diabetes newsgroup in February 1999, it has quickly become the newsgroup of choice for people looking for support. It quickly eclipsed misc.health.diabetes, which began in May 1993.
“With all this freedom to communicate also comes responsibility”
Newsgroups are often the first place newly diagnosed people with diabetes seek out information on the Internet. I know that when I was diagnosed with diabetes in February 1994, one of the first things I did was get an Internet account so I could read the messages on misc.health.diabetes. But even by the time three years ago that I wrote about it here, misc.health.diabetes had begun to feel less supportive because of a number of personal attacks.
If anything, the number of attacks there has increased over time. Some of this is righteous indignation over spam and snake oil for phony cures. Unlike the Web, which is almost entirely advertiser driven, advertisements of any sort have always been completely off-limits on newsgroups.
But some of the trouble seems to have been deliberated instigated by what are known as trolls. A newsgroup troll is someone who is fishing for a response with a provocative message. The best way is to ignore them.
Many people, however, can't resist getting into a newsgroup argument. And it is these arguments that have all but destroyed misc.health.diabetes as a warm, cuddly place to go for support.
"There are a few really strong personalities over there, and I notice that they don't take in newcomers very graciously," someone wrote recently about misc.health.diabetes on alt.support.diabetes.
But now, as alt.support.diabetes has become more popular, it too is beginning to suffer from the presence of negative individuals. Some of these are the same ones that made misc.health.diabetes less than hospitable.
The founder and guiding force behind alt.support.diabetes, Jude Crouch of Oak Park, Illinois, has tried his best to make the newsgroup as supportive as possible. He points out that like all newsgroups, it is unmoderated with all messages passed on automatically to news servers around the world.
"With all this freedom to communicate also comes some responsibility," Jude writes. "We can disagree with one another, but in each of those discussions we have the option to be respectful or disrespectful. By being respectful, we have the opportunity to build a healthy community."
How does he recommend dealing with those who have other goals?
Jude suggests that you set your newsreader filter to eliminate all postings from those persons. "If you don't see the hate, you won't respond to it," he points out.
If for some reason you can't set a filter, just go on to the next message. "No matter what is said," do not respond for any reason. They are trying to provoke you and get their satisfaction when you respond, no matter how you respond."
Excellent advice! In fact, I have followed it myself—except once to answer an attack on a respected diabetes researcher whose book I had recently reviewed.
If your Internet Service Provider does not include alt.support.diabetes in its newsgroup feed, you can sometimes get it just by asking. Otherwise, you can read it on the Web at Google Groups.
The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.
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