More than a year ago, I started a Facebook group. The subjects of focus are my favorite pro football and basketball teams. It’s nothing huge – maybe 120 members – but the engagement level is high among the top 20 percent.

You learn a lot about people and yourself by running a forum. The dynamics of how people share, what people care about, what people will tolerate, what people won’t tolerate, and the breaking point at which friends become bitter are fascinating dynamics I’ve observed over time.

A few lessons I’ve learned from running a sports forum:

  1. I am a much more negative person publicly than I consider myself to be inwardly.
  2. Sports fans take team success and failure personally.
  3. The point at which the debate turns into a personal attack is the point at which you no longer have an argument.
  4. Some people spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy researching data on their favorite teams. This can be either a win and a loss, depending on how they use the information.
  5. I don’t actually want to run a sports blog, even though I’ve tried three different times, because I only have opinions in spurts, and then long periods of silence, because #LIFE.

Of those observations, the one that concerns me the most is my own negativity. I don’t think in negative terms all the time, so why do I express myself so negatively? Isn’t your mouth supposed to pour out whatever’s on the inside?

Introspectative “Come to Jesus” Meeting

I tend to feel better about myself and my views until they are expressed outwardly in a setting where real people have feedback. Once there’s legit back and forth, my attitude and approach shift drastically. Not excusing it, just stating the obvious.

When it’s just blogging, with no immediate audience or responder, I’m drier, factual, more positive, and generally more boring. Call it a spade.

When I’m in the forum, I’m thinking of specific people I’m addressing, and my tone takes on more sarcasm or irony. I try to elicit a direct response. Or someone has already spoken and I know that my reply will be read by them directly. Knowing my exact target audience affects my tone immensely.

So why, then, am I so much more negative in forum settings than in personal thoughts and journaling?

There’s some personal wounds involved, I’m sure. But it’s also a matter of finding one’s place in the world. We each do this in our various social settings. We subconsciously work to balance the scales. If the group is overly positive and lacking in critical assessment, I fill in the gap. If the group is all pro THIS, I’m going to ask myself whether there’s reason to be pro THAT.

If everyone leans one way, I tend to suspect a flaw. Real life, in my opinion, should be chalk full of differing takes and opinions, covering every degree from positive to neutral to negative. When the group seems to lack a critical eye on the team, I pick up the slack.

If everyone were down and out, I’d be looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. But that’s just not the case currently in our group.

But it’s not okay to become Mister Negative. So change is needed. I’m not a negative person. But I also lose interest if everyone is just “Yes, yes, Amen to that”. That’s not worth reading or contributing to. The debate is what makes it interesting. I want the engagement and the challenge of getting somewhere. Or maybe of just allowing other people’s opinions to challenge my own, and taking that input and honing my own position and critical thinking.

I find that most groups I’m in, both live and virtual, lack a critical thinking / hole-poking view. So I tend to fill that role.

What role do YOU play in social settings?

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