I am upset and have been struggling to talk about it.

I am upset and have been struggling to talk about it.
I am upset and have been struggling to talk about it.
I have serious complaints about moderation decisions, and bringing them to the mods directly has failed.

Unfortunately, I am not emotionally ready to make those complaints publicly yet. I need help getting there. For now, I will focus on the conversation I tried to have privately about these problems.

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been very active outside of Swamped for some time now. This is because of extreme discomfort with how the moderators have handled certain matters in the past. As things stand, going into a space under their jurisdiction has been very difficult for me.

I apologize for my vagueness on what, specifically, I have complaints about. It is emotionally difficult for me to discuss it. (This is also the reason much of this post sounds very stilted. It has been a struggle to write it at all.) Because of this, it took me an uncomfortably long time to even attempt to contact the mods about the problem.

When I had finally worked up the strength, I sent a private message to Mirdini. He asked if I wanted to share my concerns with the rest of the mod team; I did not feel ready for that and just wanted to focus on doing what I could. I explained the concerns that I had specifically about bringing up my complaints - what I was worried might happen. He gave me what reassurance he could, and we started from there.

In general I found these conversations difficult - there were a number of matters where I felt Mirdini was not taking my complaints seriously, and it was painful to read his responses. It wasn’t uniformly unhelpful, but I did feel like there were significant portions of the discussion that were going nowhere.

I tried to change the direction by focusing on three points that I considered my most serious complaints. (I do have one regret about this message - I used the term “minutia” to describe the rest of the conversation, which implied it wasn’t important. Much of it was important to me, just not to the same degree.) I even specifically said that none of these points depended on another significant point of dispute - for the moment, I will call this matter “Issue X”, since I am not ready to discuss it directly but will be referring back to it later.

After I sent that message, I did not hear anything back for more than a month. The silence grew to become stressful in and of itself. In this state of mind, I happened to look at the early message where I outlined the concerns that had given me pause about contacting a moderator in the first place. I realized that the very things I was worried about had been happening.

So, between that and the slow response, I’d had enough. I sent Mirdini another PM asking to pass me along to another moderator, or failing that, to someone chosen by the mod team to talk to me. It was somewhere around another month before he responded.

That response was deeply disheartening.

Mirdini said he had already brought up my complaints on Issue X with the other moderators. Up to this point, the one thing he had asked me for permission to share with them was bringing up a policy suggestion and mentioning that it was something I was concerned about. So I was already thrown off that he had already had this conversation without saying anything whatsoever about it to me until this point. (To be clear: I remember him being apologetic about it in the message. However, I have not confirmed my memory of this because the thought of rereading those messages is difficult right now.)

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this happening. I haven’t really been able to process it, because it was overshadowed by the rest of the response.

What Mirdini said was that the moderators all agreed with the decision in question as it stood. He said that there would be no change on Issue X, and he said that he didn’t expect I would be able to “move on”, so that left me with the options of leaving or making a public complaint. He told me he expected the other moderators to agree if I contacted them, though he said I was welcome to try it.

This was deeply hurtful, and baffling. At first I wondered if I had somehow forgotten to say that I thought the three points I had singled out were still problems regardless of the status on Issue X. I sent a reply in frustration where I said it explicitly and told him I found the implication hurtful. I said not to bother sending another response unless it included some form of apology.

I was even more frustrated when I went over the message history and saw that I had, in fact, said what I remembered saying. I had three complaints that I had explicitly said were my top priorities and where my problems were still problems regardless of Issue X.

This was a month ago. I concluded that I did need to make a public complaint in order to satisfy myself that I had done what I could, but I struggled with doing so. I had been talking to one person privately for support, but that person has not been available for some time now and I lacked confidence in approaching anyone else about it.

I still intend to make a public complaint about the overall matter, but for now, I thought it best to make clear just how badly my efforts to address this privately failed.

At the same time, I feel the problem is larger than Mirdini handling this poorly. I think the real problem is that there is no real complaints process for moderation.

If someone objects to a moderator decision, their only options are to talk to the moderators in private - that is to say, the same moderators who made the decision - or to raise it publicly. Which, speaking from experience, can be very stressful and is hardly a guarantee of action. What is more, the moderators will likely take part in the discussion and are easily capable of influencing its direction, even if they don’t intend to. I found moderator comments in a previous discussion to be very discouraging and this played a significant role in my reluctance to say anything.

So regardless of what else happens, I would like to say that this community desperately needs some kind of oversight committee to allow people to make complaints about moderation and moderator behavior without involving the moderators themselves in the outcomes of those decisions. Without a better complaints process, what happened to me is certain to play out again.

I recognize this is not a simple policy to implement, but it is a necessary one. Around a year ago, the moderators indicated a desire to get more serious about moderation. What I’ve seen has convinced me that this cannot be done without external accountability.

As for myself, I honestly don’t know if I’ll be staying here, though I intend to stick around until I manage to get my full set of complaints put together. I guess we’ll see what happens at that point.

Don't worry about my general state of well-being, though. There are other places I'm active in, and they've been keeping me together while I was dealing with this. I have also started making preparations to leave if I conclude that's my only option.

Because this was very stressful to write, and I have a lot of anxiety about how it will be received, I am going to withdraw even more now. Swamped updates will still happen, but you won’t be seeing the daily notifications in the update channel. And I will not be looking at any other part of this forum, including this post. I hate to drop this and run, but it really feels like the only way I can get this done at all.

This is not to say I am unwilling to talk to individual people. Feel free to contact me, though I make no guarantees about how much I’m going to be willing to say about this particular topic.