There is a very wide range of were and therian resources online. Were related sites may range from from pages put up by a fifth grader for a homework
assignment to pages written by scholars and scientists for a PhD thesis. The sites that have forums or chat channels for community participation can have very
different rules and cultures. You are likely to feel comfortable with some of them and uncomfortable with others.
There are people with bad or questionable motives in every group, and the online therianthropy community has some too. There are people who are predators (and
not in a good way). There are people who like to play unhealthy head games with young, vulnerable people seeking to understand their therianthropy. Some of
them are fairly obvious – “Join my cyber pack and have sex with me and I will teach you to p-shift.” Some of them are not so obvious. Some of them
don’t even know they are playing potentially hurtful games, like a 14 year old who advertises that he is an alpha wolf looking to form a pack. He isn’t
prepared to take on this degree of emotional responsibility for other people, and the end result is that everybody is probably going to get hurt.
There are some online cultures where it is okay to use hurtful mockery and ridicule to put social pressure on people. There are other cultures where much is
made of social status, and the people who claim alpha status exercise social dominance over newcomers and people who don’t have that status. You may feel
comfortable with those things, or you may end up feeling hurt and abused if this is done to you. Before you commit to joining any online culture (this one
included), observe for awhile and see how the social dynamics of the group work. If you feel that the social dynamics are unhealthy for you, you are better off
not participating in that particular group. It’s okay; there are plenty to choose from. Find one that fits your needs, and watch how they treat newcomers
before you delurk.
There are obvious warning signs that you should be looking for. If a board seems to be full of unrealistic fantasy roleplaying claims and no good critical
thinking or rational questioning, that’s not a good sign. If there is too much skepticism, especially when it is harshly applied to people who are honestly
sharing their feelings and experiences, that’s not good either. Bullying and dominance games and a lack of basic courtesy and respect for newcomers are
another warning sign.
Childish or petulant behavior from the people who are claiming to be the “alphas” or admins or “old timers” or “greymuzzles”
should also tip you off that these people are really not good adult role models. How ethical is the behavior of the people who claim to be leaders or
administrators on the site? Do they treat people fairly, or do they play favorites with enforcement and use their admin powers to bully newcomers into agreeing
with their opinions? Use your own best judgement after taking some time to watch the site carefully.
There are many ways that a site can be “good” for some people and “bad” for others. The bottom line is that you need to use your own best
judgement. If you come across a site that makes you feel uncomfortable or hurt or abused, stop going there and find somewhere else to spend your time. It’s
okay to say “no” and walk away if you think that you are being treated badly.
Warning signs that a were site or group or individual may be unhealthy:
1. Grandiose fantasy titles or claims that are used to play one-upmanship or power games. “I am Lord BlackToothDarkClaw, the mighty p-shifting alpha of
the Death Star Pack. Fear me.” The subtler version of this is “I am a True Were, and you guys aren’t unless you do what I say.” Any claim of
having special powers or secret knowledge that nobody else has should be considered with skepticism. Any claim of having the “One True Way” of being
a “True Were” should be questioned.
2. Advocating hatred or violence, or exaggerating the dangers and thrills of being a were. Eg, hating or hunting vampires, or having to protect one’s self
against “were hunters”, or against secret government conspiracies to capture “real weres”. Living in a live roleplaying game based on the X
Files. More subtle but just as serious a warning sign is active hatred of any other groups including normal humans and furries. The “us against them”
mentality taken to unhealthy or paranoid extremes.
3. Lack of critical thinking or basic reality checks. Any and all possibly supernatural experiences are eagerly accepted as such without a single question, and
maybe expanded on with wild theories that are backed by “facts” straight out of popular fiction or games or Hollywood movies. Any attempt at rational
questioning is met with anger or hurt feelings.
4. Too much skepticism. It’s equally bad to jump on people harshly just for believing in the supernatural or for sharing an experience that they think
might be supernatural. Critical thinking is good, making fun of people for sharing and believing is bad.
5. Disrespect as the default way to treat people. If newcomers are verbally abused or otherwise disrespected instead of being treated with normal adult
courtesy, this is a warning sign. Of course if you are rude to people they might be rude to you in turn, but if you start out being polite and are treated like
dirt, this is a major warning sign. The subtler version of this is the idea that you have to “earn” the right to be treated with normal courtesy and
respect. Until then, you are a lowly recruit that anyone may abuse, especially the high status “alphas”. No one should have to tolerate abuse as the
price of acceptance into a community. You can say “no” and walk away.
6. Rigid system of social status, with “alphas” on top conspicuously exercising power over others. Some people are comfortable with this system and
consent to being submissive to the alphas. Other people don’t consent to being submissive to anyone and feel abused because the alphas want to play
nonconsensual power games with them. Power over people games should be played only with consenting adults. If somebody tries to be *your* alpha without your
consent, that’s not cool.
7. Questioning any of the leaders or the rules is not permitted. The rules exist because the boss says so. Any attempt to ask questions or suggest improvements
is censored or punished. It is reasonable for there to be some restrictions on what can be said or posted, but those restrictions should be clearly explained
so that everyone understands why they have to exist. The rules are enforced by whim and favoritism, not in a fair, ethical or consistent way. A subtler sign is
that the admins lack a sense of humor about themselves and their policies. It’s not okay to poke gentle fun at the group.
8. Requests for money or sex should be met with extreme skepticism. An alpha who wants you to pay tribute or to have sex with him and he will teach you all
about how to be a True Were is not somebody you should trust. In particular if you are underage and an adult wants to talk to you about sex or in a sexual way,
they have shown their willingness to commit what may be a criminal act. Do not trust these people because they are selfish users who do not have your best
interests in mind. Don’t necessarily believe people who say they are your own age, either. You might be talking to a 50 year old sexual predator who is not
even the gender “she” claims to be.
9. Lack of older adults on board – the “alphas” or admins are all in their teens or early 20’s. There are some bright young minds in the online
community, but it is a lot more difficult for younger people to be positive adult role models because they just don’t have the life experience. Many young
people are too eager to be “alphas” when they are not emotionally ready to offer the adult support and guidance that a community needs.
10. Isaac Bonewitz’s excellent Cult Danger Evaluation Frame can be used to further evaluate any group you encounter online or in real life.
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