Friday, February 28, 2014

On b@b, again

Post #3820980: B@B has been used as a primary means by people to harass, threaten, mock, and demean students and organizations at this school anonymously. I seriously want the fans of this site to defend b@b in light of all the shit this site has caused for the school. Feb 8, 2014 @ 6:22pm”


I began using BoredatBaker at 11:46am on September 23, 2010. That’s the timestamp of my first post, anyway. Two years later, my senior seminar work was digital performance art on B@B. The next year, as a Dean’s Office Student Consultant, I used the site to advise students and refer them to campus resources. Throughout, B@B has allowed me to express myself anonymously.

The site itself is a free service provided for anyone with an address, funded out-of-pocket by its owner and administrator “Jae Daemon.” In a recent message to the community, Jae wrote, “I am providing this place for you as a safe haven where you can talk about anything and everything, honestly, without fear of judgment.”

Bored@Baker provides a valuable service to our community by allowing people across all social groups and backgrounds to come together on relatively equal footing. With anonymity, age, sex, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, and the myriad other visual cues we use on a daily basis to categorize people and decide how much to respect them are stripped away.  We are able to experience thoughts and opinions perhaps unrepresented within our own friend groups shared by people we otherwise may have never met.

Anonymity also allows us the freedom to experiment with aspects of our identities. It allows us to seek advice about tough issues we may not want to discuss in person—sexual violence, mental health, eating disorders, drug addiction, academic trouble, parental conflicts, and money problems. I’ve seen all these and many more in my time on the site, and the community has consistently proven itself a tremendous source of support.

That said, there are those who abuse the service. People can be...horrible. I don't have to enumerate those things. We all know. Probably a good many of us have been targets, too.

For those reasons, there are those who have called upon the College to take action against the site. I, too, am sometimes overwhelmingly disgusted with the depths of human depravity that B@B shows us in our peers, but it is important to remember that the abuses of a minority do not represent the standards of the B@B community and are in direct opposition to the goals of the site. 

It is also worth noting that on the Global Board—a B@ page accessible to anyone with a .edu e-mail address—users from schools with their own B@ pages frequently comment on the uniquely abusive nature of Bored@Baker. Regarding the recent post targeting a first year student, a user from Carleton remarked,I can't imagine something like that happening on our board.” The absence of the problems for which our board often finds itself in the spotlight from other schools’ boards suggests that B@B is showing us something particular to our community.

There is currently a team of 12 student moderators who work tirelessly to remove posts that violate the Terms of Service. Neither Bored@Baker nor the vast majority of its users want to be associated with the kind of abuse that bigots and bullies sometimes post. That's just not what Bored@Baker is about.

Unfortunately, there will probably always be people who will violate the standards set forth by the site and the community at large, but denouncing Bored@Baker for the actions of those individuals disregards the tremendous amount of thought, time, and effort that has gone into building and continually improving the site and threatens to take away from the majority something that is a source of support, enjoyment, and community, simply because a few people will abuse the system.

For the site's part, there needs to be a faster and more forceful way to address some of the problems that arise. We are well aware of this and continually discussing our options. Not too long ago, the threshold for removing posts was lowered so that moderators can remove posts more quickly. It's an improvement, and not the last that we hope to see in the moderation system.

For the parts of students, staff, and faculty who may be concerned about the Bored@Baker atmosphere, I would encourage you to look at it for yourselves. Take a look at the Zeitgeist. Read the top posts from today, this week, all time. Look at how the Bored@Baker community—our community—responds to abuse. Perhaps consider making a few posts yourself to add to the positive and supportive atmosphere that the majority of us try to foster. The more voices like that, the more irrelevant those that espouse hatred and violence. The abuse that happens shows us that there are individuals among us all too willing to hurt others; far more important is how we as a community respond.

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