While no statistics are available, Post-post Remorse probably afflicts hundreds of thousands of Internet forum users daily. Post-post Remorse can lead to feelings of guilt, self-hate and follow-up posts that may leave the poster with a compound case of remorse.
What it is
Post-post Remorse is the state of wishing that you had not just posted something, and desperately wishing that it could somehow be removed or replaced before anyone sees it. There are several possible causes for Post-post Remorse:
- Posting something that came out sounding more offensive than was meant.
- Posting something completely off-topic, idiotic or otherwise inappropriate to the discussion.
- Presenting an argument as fact when you can't actually back it up.
- Posting a feeble comment only seconds before thinking up an extremely clever one.
- Posting personal information that shouldn't be given out online.
Why it Happens
Not everything you think should be said; not everything you say should be written; not everything you write should be published.
Rabbi Yisroel Salanter
The problem with forum-posting is that a thought can be typed at over 60 words per minute, then published with a click of the mouse. This is not enough time for the superego to kick in with its two cents.
One of the advantages forum-posting has over face-to-face conversation is that you are not forced to respond immediately after reading the previous statement. You could, ostensibly, carefully weigh your words before submitting the choicest selection of phrasing. In practice, however, this rarely occurs. Most people habitually tap out their immediate reaction, as they would in a face-to-face conversation. There is one major difference between these forms of communication, though, known as 'disinhibition'. Simply put, this means that people will not hesitate to type things they would never say to another person's face. In many cases, this can be positive - relationships build faster as people more readily reveal more personal aspects of their personality - but it can be detrimental when people let loose vitriolic or misinformed posts that they then feel required to defend. Yet another downside is that while the details of most oral conversations are eventually forgotten, past posts can be dredged up and used against a person for all eternity.
How to Prevent It
The first, most basic rule is never to post while under the influence of mind-altering substances. It is difficult enough to post something intelligent when you are stone cold sober. If you're inebriated, drugged or sleep-deprived, you should not even log on.
In most sober cases, Post-post Remorse can be prevented with a few minutes of thought before posting. Many, if not most, forum conversations do not take place in real-time, so the poster can dwell over his or her response before posting. This is an advisable approach whatever the topic or conversation.
There are many instances, however, where thread conversations zip along so quickly that a would-be participant would need to post quickly in order to stay a part of it. In this case, the poster should preview and reread the post at least once. He or she should ask the following questions:
- Is there anything offensive in this post?
- Is there anything that could be interpreted as offensive, and if so, can I make my meaning clearer by rephrasing or using smileys?
- Are there any statements made in here that I do not know to be absolutely and completely true?
- Is this exactly what I want to say? Really?
- Is this how I want to present myself to the other members of the community?
If the poster has doubts after asking any of the above questions, he or she should seriously consider altering the post. It is far, far better to fall behind in the conversation than to say something that one will regret later.
Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it up and remove all doubt.
What to Do After Posting
If you've just hit the 'post' button when Post-post Remorse hits, don't immediately follow up with panicky correction posts. In h2g2, as well as in many moderated forums, there is a button that allows you to complain about a post and queue it for moderation. In h2g2, there is a 'Yikes' button which will block your post with a standard moderation notice. In the Alabaster and Classic Goo skins, this button takes the form of a round horrified face in the bottom right corner of the post. In Plain skin, it is an exclamation point in a triangle in the bottom-right. In Brunel, the exclamation point is in a circle, and it is centre-right.
If others have already read your post, it pays to follow it with a polite, thought-out, explanatory apology explaining that you are currently kicking yourself very hard, so nobody else need inconvenience themselves to do so.
In phpBB Community-based forums, it is possible to alter a post after it has been made. If nobody has yet read your post, do not hesitate to edit or delete it. If others might have read it, be prepared to explain why you've changed your post.
If others have already reacted to your post, and none-too-politely either, be apologetic. Don't persist in any stance you know or suspect is incorrect. Then try to change the subject. Most forum-users have made such mistakes themselves, and will forgive your error. Just don't make it chronic.
When Others Are Afflicted
If someone has posted something that rightfully ought to give them Post-post Remorse, follow the Golden Rule. If the post can be ignored without detriment to the conversation, do so. If it demands comment or response, be gentle and defensive. Never attack: that will only entrench the poster in his or her words and cause a flame war. Give the poster opportunity to retract his or her statement. If the poster remains trollish, ignore it; if necessary, unsubscribe from the conversation.
Post-post Remorse occasionally afflicts even the most careful forum user, and newbies discover the joys of Internet community daily. Post-post Remorse is not likely to disappear anytime soon. However, like any other malady, early recognition and intervention is the key to effective treatment. By learning to quickly deal with the causes of Post-post Remorse, netizens can limit its damage.