Maintaining Boundaries II (Focus on Social Media)

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Cheynem
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Maintaining Boundaries II (Focus on Social Media)

Post by Cheynem »

A couple years ago David Reinstein made a good thread on this, which is now locked.

As we as a quizbowl community try to figure out how to do better, one issue that has generated some discussion and debate among quizbowlers I talk to is to what extent there should be more barriers between collegiate (or open) and high school players. I have heard some apprehension and uncertainty about how social media (such as Discord, various Facebook groups, and even these forums) bring together quizbowlers from widely disparate ages, especially those we would classify as "adults" and those are who still legally minors (most of whom, although not all, are high school age and below).

I think this is a legitimate concern. I say this as someone who has talked, probably too much and too freely, to high schoolers in these social media spaces (I do not believe I have crossed any boundaries or engaged in misconduct, to be clear). I'll use Discord as my primary example for some observations from this point on:

The current general #quizbowl Discord has slowly and steadily become incredibly populated by high schoolers. A lot of the regulars are high schoolers and more new high schoolers seem to enter on a regular basis than new college and above players. At one point, although I don't know if this is still true, even a moderator was a high schooler. I don't think this is inherently bad--I can't blame high schoolers for wanting to talk quizbowl with people who like quizbowl and for wanting to learn more about the college game. I don't think (aside from the moderator thing) that any of the people who run or administer the Discord can be "blamed" for encouraging this.

But it leads to a lot of awkward and perhaps even dangerous situations. I have seen high schoolers and middle schoolers (!) get into extremely tense and personal discussions about politics and social issues with people far older than them. It becomes pretty easy sometimes to lose track of who is a high schooler and who isn't. The channel and subchannels also make it easy for people to send personal messages--I've received some DMs from high schoolers--they have all been innocuous, but I have a sense of nervousness in receiving them--I think "is this going beyond the social boundaries we would expect in a community?" (if you have DMed me as a HSer, I am not angry or disgusted or anything, so don't get upset)

Should there be anything done? Obviously I don't run the Discord so I can't really make that call. I have heard people suggest all college and above quizbowlers leave the current Discord and go to a more restrictive new one. I think that's a bit too dogmatic--I think there is a benefit to a community area in which quizbowlers of all ages and playing levels can ask/answer questions and discuss the game. I do think it might be worth considering:

-adding more regular moderators to ensure things are behaving appropriately. None of these moderators, in my opinion, should be in high school. In the same vein, adding a code of conduct that spells out how everyone, adults and non-adults, should be behaving.
-restricting HS access to hotbutton channels--I do not know if HSers should be, to be frank, in such rooms as #politics or #mental health or #covid--not because they are not necessarily mature or they don't have intelligent thoughts or concerns about such issues (they frequently do), but because of the potential for ugly, personal discussions and debates with, well, adults.
-encouraging non-HSers in the Discord to maintain as proper boundaries as possible--that is, not privately talking to high schoolers, avoiding overly personal conversations with high schoolers, etc. I do not wish to say that a college student and a high schooler cannot talk ever--I would personally say that if they want to talk quizbowl or food or a movie that is probably fine, but I would try and remember boundaries. I again admit I haven't been the best person int his regard.

What do people think about this? If you have thoughts or comments on the issue in general or with other forms of social media, feel free to weigh in.
Mike Cheyne
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Re: Maintaining Boundaries II (Focus on Social Media)

Post by Wartortullian »

I can't endorse this post enough.

I'm currently taking a break from the main quizbowl Discord (and most other online spaces) for mental health reasons. While I was still a regular member there, it was easy to get into intense, deeply personal political arguments without realizing that you were arguing with someone still in high school. I've seen many people overshare or become too angry in that space. I've done so myself. This isn't to say that the beliefs of high schoolers shouldn't be held to the same standards as those of college students, but that a larger degree of emotional distance should be maintained in discussions between the two groups.

In my opinion, the best way to achieve this is to establish a new, segregated part of the quizbowl-Discord-verse. To my knowledge, there currently no online quizbowl space which is:
- Accessible to any college or open player who has not already been banned
- Closed off to those who haven't started college
- Moderated to the same extent as the main Discord (i.e. people with a history of toxic behavior in online quizbowl spaces will be banned)

This needs to change. In my opinion, the best way to do this is to establish a new college/open-only server alongside the current all-ages server. Mike's suggestion of restricting hot-button channels also makes sense, but I think there's value in allowing high schoolers to post there—I can recall several instances in which a high schooler came in with a problem that they couldn't trust the adults in their life with.

I'd establish such a server myself, but I really don't trust myself to moderate it, and I'm hesitant to join a new online space for at least a couple more weeks.
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Re: Maintaining Boundaries II (Focus on Social Media)

Post by RexSueciae »

I am uncertain that simply having an online space where high schoolers and college students might interact is anything to be worried about. Quizbowl, for literally decades, has had one such online space -- these very forums. I can think of several prominent incidents of misconduct but can think of none, between an adult and a student, which took place in quizbowl's online spaces.

The sort of overtly boundary-crossing behavior that the community would like to avoid when it comes to anyone from college on up interacting with high schoolers overlaps heavily with the sort of behavior that would be boundary-crossing even if conducted between two adults. The main quizbowl Discord channel is staffed by capable moderators; hopefully, they should be able to shut down any bad behavior being conducted in the open. People from different levels of quizbowl interacting online is far different from them interacting at a party, or some other potentially dangerous in-person event. I do not mean to say that there is no risk, but it is one that appears to be handled well enough by present measures.
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Re: Maintaining Boundaries II (Focus on Social Media)

Post by Jack »

I pretty much agree with everything suggested by Mike. I remember bringing something similar to this up a looong time ago in the discord (though I think my point was that having the more intimate stuff in #politics, #mental-health, etc., might be off-putting to new qbers who join), and I'm glad to see it being brought up again. I don't check the quiz bowl discord that often (except when I get the inevitable @here or @everyone for vanity packets I know nothing about :sad: ), but I've used it enough feel motivated to say something here.

Working in the current framework of how the server is run, there absolutely need to be more moderators. I think people have mentioned this before, but it's so weird to me that the discord has so few actual moderators for how many people there are. There are arbitrary 'muter' roles, random mods limited to specific channels -- why? Just have like 5 to 7 dedicated server moderators with full admin powers. The weird structure now makes it weird to tell who is in charge and what the hierarchy is, and probably would make things more difficult in the event of a serious incident. This isn't and likely hasn't been a huge problem per se, but it's an obvious way to improve the server as a whole. I don't think I've ever seen any other discord channel of this nature and size that doesn't have multiple moderators online at any point.

Restricting who has access to each sub channel is also probably a good idea. I hardly ever check anything outside of #quizbowl, but I distinctly remember the first time I looked at #interpersonal (which, although locked to "contributors", still has high schoolers in it), someone whose nickname made it unclear who they were was detailing events surrounding a sexual encounter they had earlier that day -- it was fairly tame and probably on the side of PG-13 as opposed to R, but it struck me as odd and out of place, especially given that minors were and are present in that channel. The conversation that followed was mostly jokes about the incident. I think it's fairly safe to say that talking about your own sexual encounters with minors around, even in generally innocuous terms, is probably not okay! (EDIT: lest I scare anyone about this, I should note that there was absolutely nothing explicit in this conversation. The content was related mostly to the circumstances surrounding the encounter. Still, I think the point remains: why talk about that in a digital space filled with minors? it's weird!)

I also like the idea of a code of conduct, or just an extensive #rules channel that you have to read (perhaps one of those things where you can't read or post anything until you agree to the rules and then post in a channel to let a mod know you've read them and you agree to them? Just a thought). Currently, the welcome channel just kinda has a mess of info.

Perhaps a more unconventional 'solution' to this would be to make this discord a college-oriented discord managed by ACF, say (merely for the longevity and continuity of the server and to continue its relevance while also ensuring competent people are running it -- really just a transfer of ownership), while still allowing hsers to be present in it with limited access. There are certainly benefits to having HSers talk to college students, but as this thread and past experience suggests, there need to be limits on that to maintain healthy boundaries. I first thought perhaps a PACE-run discord for HSers might also be of help, but I realize that probably puts them at a certain legal liability for things that they probably and rightfully don't want to get tangled in -- not a lawyer though, just speculating.

Anyway, glad to see this discussion happening. The fact that there haven't been huge issues surrounding the discord now -- as far as I know -- is not a reason to not see if we can improve things.
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Re: Maintaining Boundaries II (Focus on Social Media)

Post by Cheynem »

Thanks for the responses so far, both in the forums and on Discord. To reply to some things I've heard on Discord:

*This is not so much about the "maturity" of high schoolers or college/open players. While I think that does play a role, I think it is more about power dynamics and the status of people in life. The majority of high schoolers do not have legal adult status, most live at home with a parent or guardian, and most are dependents of said guardians (not all, of course and this also applies to some college students). Think of the dynamics of being a teacher in a school or even just a college student staffing a high school tournament--you talk differently to adults than you do with high school students. In fact, with obvious and sensible exceptions, the personal and social interaction between you and high schoolers is likely minimized (a teacher or adult would not be expected to launch into a political debate or even a discussion of favorite TV shows with high schoolers in most cases). This is not necessarily about maturity--a lot of the high school quizbowlers I've met at Discord have been very mature, but about proper boundaries and respect for power dynamics.

*I do think that a Discord accessible by all players, high school or college, is important to talk about quizbowl-related issues. This can include stuff not about gameplay, such as community/misconduct issues or outreach or issues about starting or maintaining teams. I do not want any split Discords to "kill" discussion of important quizbowl issues, including misconduct.

*There's plenty of gray areas and potential fringe cases. As I've alluded to above, some high schoolers are legal adults. Some college students are not legal adults. There's somewhat of a difference between a 18-year-old college freshman and a 35-year-old college instructor. Talking about sports or movies is somewhat different than discussing politics and personal issues (although if taken to an excess, can still be dicey). As Matt pointed out, sometimes people in the channels can receive an adult's perspective on some issues they are not receiving in life (I would be very, very careful with this though, as well-meaning yet bad advice can also be given). By no means, am I suggesting hard rules written in inflexible stone.

*To kind of respond to Vasa's point, I don't think that just saying "conduct not appropriate between anyone shouldn't be appropriate between an adult and a high schooler" is sufficient. I agree with it--no matter the age or status of anyone, creepy or harassing behavior should be strictly forbidden. Someone sliding into anyone's DMs uninvited with bad intentions should not be allowed. But I do think there are differences between discussions between "adults" and discussions between an "adult" and a "high schooler/minor." As I alluded to above, the difference lies in maintaining boundaries, respect for such boundaries, and being aware of power dynamics at stake. Even innocuous discussions such as "talking about music I like" have to keep this in mind. I am not necessarily saying that an adult should never talk to a high schooler about music they both like. But they have to be careful--would you be comfortable doing it in person is (sometimes) a good rule of thumb. And at the risk of pulling an old person card, I think navigating that is something you become more aware of as you get older and become an adult.

To reiterate, this is not an "anti high schooler" post at all. This is also not me envisioning some sort of panacea solution to misconduct--this wouldn't solve it. But I think as we consider these issues more and more, we need to keep this in mind. Adults, including in quizbowl, have crossed the line too much and let boundaries fall. Sometimes this has led to big trouble. No, altering Discord policies probably (?) wouldn't have stopped any misconduct issues that I can think of. But as Jack points out, we should probably address this before an issue does develop.
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Re: Maintaining Boundaries II (Focus on Social Media)

Post by Ike »

I fully agree with the thrust of Mike's post.

I want to give an illustrative example. After being recruited by Andrew Wang, I had the privilege of playing with then high-school senior Jakob Myers at WAO I. He was a great teammate, affable, etc. and we would not have won the tournament without him. I didn't mind even posing for a victory pose in a photo afterwards. However, I made the decision to not talk to him or socialize with him until after he had finished the competition year, because in my mind there should be a separation between high school players and people involved in the collegiate activity. I didn't engage him on Facebook etc. If he wanted to ask me a question, I would have preferred it came through a DM on the forums, since a forums administrator could see the content of any DMs if need be, and the setting of a forums DM feels more "clinical" than just shooting the shit on Facebook.

I have seen a lot of collegiate players "befriend" high school super stars due to their impressive PPG (at least in part.) This manifests in various ways, including collegiate moderators only engaging with high school teams that put up "impressive buzzes" after a match. That to me is a mistake, I think collegiate players should maintain their distance, and should not really care who buzzes on what questions in high school (though, from a writing perspective, they should care that their questions are buzzed on if they're a writer, I guess.) Discussing what games or movies you're playing on the public Discord seems fine to me, engaging in 1-on-1 communication via FB messenger is not. To use a more extreme example, legally speaking, there is no difference between a high school student who is a minor and a middle school student who is a minor -- how out of bounds do you think engaging in DMs with a middle school student is? I think it's best to maintain the same boundary for high school students.
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Re: Maintaining Boundaries II (Focus on Social Media)

Post by jonpin »

I also agree with much of what's said in this thread. My school district has a specific policy that we are not to accept friend requests from students at our school (even if they are not in our class), and that online conversations should be conducted via our school email addresses, rather than personal ones or other social media. Personally, I extend that first constraint to be any high schooler; at this moment, there are a handful of friend requests on my Facebook from high school quiz bowlers on my circuit or elsewhere in the nation, and I just don't think it's necessary or productive to be that personally "close" to such students.
Casual public conversations on the forums, or on Discord, or even in Facebook groups isn't a big deal, but the older generation should not lose sight of the air of authority, and not become overly familiar with those significantly younger. That's not to say that these friendships are forbidden; of course, students who enter college can maintain their connections with students on their circuit who are still in high school. In general, private messages between such groups should be quite limited; I'm not going to say I've never had PMs with a high schooler over Discord, but I try my best to limit them to "professional" conversations.

That said, this idea did come to mind during the recent Mafia games. And this is not me saying MAFIA BAD, but it is saying that maybe people who are clearly in the adult domain should pay close attention to who they are interacting with in these games and how those conversations are conducted.
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Re: Maintaining Boundaries II (Focus on Social Media)

Post by Amiable Vitriol »

Ike wrote: Mon Jul 20, 2020 8:06 am I have seen a lot of collegiate players "befriend" high school super stars due to their impressive PPG (at least in part.) This manifests in various ways, including collegiate moderators only engaging with high school teams that put up "impressive buzzes" after a match. That to me is a mistake, I think collegiate players should maintain their distance, and should not really care who buzzes on what questions in high school (though, from a writing perspective, they should care that their questions are buzzed on if they're a writer, I guess.) Discussing what games or movies you're playing on the public Discord seems fine to me, engaging in 1-on-1 communication via FB messenger is not. To use a more extreme example, legally speaking, there is no difference between a high school student who is a minor and a middle school student who is a minor -- how out of bounds do you think engaging in DMs with a middle school student is? I think it's best to maintain the same boundary for high school students.
Befriending high schoolers for being good at quizbowl has the added effect (implicit in this thread, but perhaps necessary to explicitly state) of incentivizing high school friendships with adults; if you get in with the old people, it means you’re good at quizbowl. That can further cloud minors’ judgment about what healthy interactions with adults look like and further discourage them from questioning an unhealthy dynamic.

Additionally, I think something quizbowl adults need to remember is that minors are by and large really bad at setting boundaries for themselves. They’re looking to you to do that. Just because a young person says they want to be included in a social space, or reassure you that they feel safe, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s something that should happen— young people want lots of things, and, as adults, it is sometimes your responsibility to say no!

Thinking back to when I was fourteen, there were definitely times when I enjoyed (inappropriate) attention I was getting from older quizbowlers and, if I had been asked, would have reassured them that it was fine and good. However, I now look back at some of those interactions as unhealthy and even traumatic, because I am now an adult who realizes just how young a fourteen year old is, and how much attention from adults really damaged my social development as a teenager.

So, adults, sometimes sixteen year olds are going to resent you or think you’re uncool for excluding them from your groupchat of twenty somethings or whatever. And you know what? That’s okay! Quite frankly, a boundary that’s difficult to set might be even more necessary than an easy one.
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