A large online community like the Scarleteen Boards can only function well when everyone follows some basic rules for online communication. I felt like it was time for a little reminder in regards to "board etiquette" which will hopefully spark all of us to take some time to remind ourselves of the basics and pitfalls of communicating online.
The main rules of this community are obviously written down in the guidelines, that everyone automatically agrees to when signing up for the use of this service. Everyone should be aware that this is a privately owned service that Miz Scarlet spends a lot of money, time and energy on, and which hence follows the rules that she has given this forum. As this is a privately owned forum, any cries that "the right of free speech has been violated" when one of your post has been deleted or your user rights have been suspended because you violated the guidelines by posting material that is not within the guidelines, is pointless and not valid.
The members of the Scarleteen Community come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They have different nationalities, political or religious beliefs, they come in all shapes, sizes and genders, from all educational backgrounds and have all sexual orientations.
So please, please, please: Avoid heterosexism. Avoid generalisations. Avoid posts that are size-sexist. Avoid stating that "you know the right way for everyone". Avoid stating that you think everyone has to "wait until marriage". If you want to, fine, but accept that others don't share that view. Do not automatically assume that because you are monogamous and hetero, everyone else is, too. - Many people here are neither of the two. Open topics up so that it's not about "boy/girlfriends", but inclusive about "partners". Accept diversity and see whether you can learn from the way others do things. In addition, take into consideration that while the majority of posters is from the United States and Canada, not all posters are.
As a newbie, don't be intimidated by the numbers of posts that some of the older users and some of the advocates have. It doesn't matter what's beneath your name or how many posts you have, it matters what you say and how you say it. Everyone's input is very welcome here.
Use the Search Function
The search function is your friend. It sure is nice to sometimes bring up issues again that have been discussed before, and sometimes it really doesnt matter (IMHO, we can't have enough "what I like about my body" or "how do you communicate well about Safer Sex with your partner" posts), but in general, please make a search of the actual Scarleteen site and then a search of the boards to see whether your question can be solved without a thread or whether something has been discussed before. Every forum has a frequently asked questions thread, too, that you will usually find on the front page of the forum.
Get a feel for the boards
As a newbie, it's usually a good idea to have a look around the boards first, just to see what kind of discussions are on and what the general manners are, so that you can judge better where and what to post, and what is not okay. Reading the guidelines is a must, too, and it also helps to have a look at how everything works (check out the forum help and the UBB code).
One identity only
Registering multiple usernames is against the guidelines. It confusing for everyone involved and can be misleading. If you have a serious reason for it, or lost your eMail address and can not access your old username anymore, please inform everyone about the change.
Please use language which is the least likely to offend anyone, and which encourages intelligent, safe and mature discussion of the issues at hand. Slang for sexual or anatomical terms is not helpful at all, because most of the time no one but you will know what exactly is being talked or asked about. In addition, posting with care for grammar and punctuation is a must, so that it is easiest for everyone to understand you (remember these boards are international, and that not everyone's mothertongue is English), and easiest for users to search for subjects. And that includes oDd CaPiTaLisAtIoNs. It's very annoying, so don't do it. Same goes for abbreviations and substituting letters with numbers.
Writing in Capitals
Writing in capital letters is considered to be "shouting" online. It is a great way for EMPHASIZING certain words, but avoid "shouting" too much. It appears rude and is annoying to read.
It's most helpful if you always write a subject line that informs the other users of the content and subject of the thread. "question" "hey" "help" "pregnant?" "scared" or whatever else do not say much, even though they might be the first thing that comes to your mind. Please try to take a sec to come up with a more detailed subject line. If the thread is a question, remember to put a question mark at the end.
Do not post misinformation, misleading information or sex myths. If you are not sure about something or post your view or perception of something, indicate it by your choice of words (aka "I think", "I believe" or "In my opinion"), so that other users can see that your information or answer is speculative and not a definite answer, do not reply at all, or and that is your best choice: go and make a search to inform yourself about it.
There are lots of great resources in the "resource" sections in each Scarleteen.com subsection (can be found in each sections topbar) from where you can start to find more info. For basic medical info, the Merck Manual is a good starting point and as a general search engine, we love Google.
When quoting from a previous post, it is polite to just quote the bits you specifically mean, and not the entire post.
When you are posting something that has NOT been written by you, identify it as someone else's work and give details about the source. If possible, provide a link to the article.
Treat others as you would like to be treated. It's not very clever nor will get you friendly replies to start your topic by "don't give me the standard answer and tell me to communicate" "don't tell me I need to love my body" "get real - not everyone uses condoms" or "give me real advice this time". There is no need or excuse for being condescending or hurtful to others, and fact is that no one here gives the advice you want to get or tells you what you want to hear, our users post what they thinks is accurate and the most helpful information. Oh, and posting a thank-you to someone who has helped or tried to help you is a great way to encourage that person to continue helping.
No personal fights at the boards
If you have a complaint about another user email it to them directly, contact the board administrators or just leave it. Do not post accusations to the board, this is a private matter between you and the other party. Any issue that you may have with an advocate or sexpert action must be handled through the administrators. Send any complaints via eMail to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is not about killing discussion or critique, but about politeness.
Privacy & Security
Please do not post email addresses, standard addresses, full names or phone number. This is for your own safety! Do not publicly re-post private email without the permission of the email's original sender. Do not publicly re-post private discussions with others that were held through icq or AIM or any kind of contact info that is not your own, such as someone else's eMail address or ICQ number. If a user is contacting you in private and something is not quite right and (s)he makes you uncomfortable, please contact the administrators.
"Flaming" is to rebuke another user. Flaming can be more or less deserved but is not okay here. Not at all. Users doing that will soon find their posting priviledges revoked. Avoid "Slamming", too. i.e. "Durex Condoms suck"/"How dare you screw around girls who sleep around are sluts!" or whatever else. Critique is ok, but not derogatory statements and name-calling. That includes calling someone a "ho" a "bitch" or a "slut" and "eeeek"-ing someone else's post or preference. Keep the argumentation at a high level, and avoid making your statement appear as "The Final Truth". Instead, any kind of critique should be presented politely and with follow up reasons, aka "I do not like Trojan condoms because they feel kinda thick to me and because they tore during sex"/"I know you all like Astroglide, but I had an allergic reaction to it and like the more stickier KY Jelly because...." or "I can not agree with you that you have to wait for sex until marriage, "virginity" simply never mattered to me personally and within my belief system" or whatever else.
If there ever is an online fight that has gotten out of hand, (such as when people keep posting the same arguments in different wording accompanied by a handful of insults), just fight the urge to answer such posts. Sometimes one simply has to agree to disagree, and that's fine, too.
It is generally a good idea to use "smilies" (or emoticons) when communicating in a written forum, just to prevent mistakes and misunderstandings. You should ALWAYS add a smiley when making jokes instead of relying on the reader to "get it". But please, please, please don't overdo it. If you look at your post once it is up and there are double or triple the smilies than there are..say line breaks, ask yourself whether they are all needed. Words can express emotions, too, after all!
Also, please do not crosslink to UBB smilies or images from other boards, unless you upload the images to your own website and link from there. Otherwise, it is stealing the other boards bandwidth, and that really shows bad online manners.
Post-types best avoided
- Multiple posts of the same message. Think before you post. For one sexpert opinion in "Ask a Sexpert". For more views somewhere on the general boards. If you are new, look around, you'll soon see which kind of posts go where. And no worries, even if you accidently post something in the wrong forum, it won't matter much. An advo will move it to an apprpriate forum.
- "Bump" posts. "Bumping" your thread by replying to your own thread with nothing but a *bump* message is not okay. If no one replies to your post they may not know what to say or it is simply uninteresting. And sometimes it just takes some time until someone replies. So be patient.
The administrators and the Advocates can bump threads, such as each forums frequently asked questions, when they deem it appropriate.
- "I don't know" posts. A new message should contain new information or new opinions not previously posted in the thread (or forum). If you do NOT know the answer to a question someone asked, simply don't reply and let someone else do it. Or search for the information. But don't post "I don't know, maybe someone else does". It wastes bandwidth and is annoying. Examine the board and thread carefully before posting a new message. And most importantly: read the entire thread, and NOT just the first question.
- "Me, too" posts. Please do not post the exact same stuff someone else has posted before you. Let's assume that our users can read and get the "use condoms"/"take a test" or whatever message when they read it for the first time. Many users posting the exact same thing will look and be perceived like gang-bashing.
- Technique posts (aka "how do I give a blowjob"). We not only avoid technique discussions because this place is PG 13, but also because everyone is different and likes different things.
- Unanswerable posts. Such as "am I pregnant?". "Does (s)he like me?" "Do men/women like it when you shave your pubic hair?" - No one here is psychic. We can't guess what's going on inside someone's head nor can anyone or anything but a preggie test tell you about a pregnancy. We can talk about pregnancy RISKS and advise people to take a test, but can not give definite answers. Neither positive nor negative.
Here's to lots of good, diverse, informative discussions at the boards.
"Through repetition the magic will be forced to rise."