How I deal with flouncing

By: R/DV/RSCC BY 2.0

Ah, the the flounce. The term refers to the way that frustrated online community members will stand up and yell, "I'M LEAVING! No really, don't try to stop me! I AM LEAVING. I'm done here. I'm going! I'm never coming back! Did you hear me? I am done with this community! Are you listening? DONE!"

I don't want to diminish the frustration that people feel when they're driven to flounce. The frustrations are usually valid (they've been moderated for reasons they don't understand or agree with, or they've got complaints or concerns that they don't feel empowered to address in a more direct manner, etc). Unfortunately, that's where the reasonable-ness seems to end, because rather than contact me with a question/concern or simply leave the community, members who are driven to flounce are seeking external validation for their departure.

As a community manager/publisher, my response to flouncing is usually a brief, non-emotional response saying something along the lines of:

I'm sorry you feel this way. I certainly don't expect that this community is going to be a perfect fit for everyone, and I fully support each member finding a space online that feels right for them. You don't need to like all our policies, but you do need to respect them — and if you can't do that, then it makes sense that you'd want to find a community that's a better fit for your needs.

It's basically a very straight-forward acknowledgement that says, "I hear you, but the site isn't changing. I guess this is goodbye."

Some flouncers are actually trolling, in a way — sometimes I feel like I shouldn't respond at all, but I don't like to be accused of ignoring community members. I'm not usually going to acquiesce to most flouncers' requests, but I like members know that their concerns were heard.

It's sad though: sometimes flouncers have legitimate concerns, but when these concerns are presented with drama and a meaningless threat of departure, it makes civil discussion pretty difficult. MAKE THIS CHANGE OR I'M LEAVING puts me in the position of saying, "I'll consider your feedback, but if you need to go, you should probably just go."

  1. I've always admired the way you diffuse online drama and tension, and I know it's something you've developed into an art form over your years in online communities.

    I think the main thing that distinguishes trolls from flouncers is that trolls make their comments mostly to get a rise out of you, and flouncers make their comments largely to rally the troops towards some sort of online walk-out. By responding to the flouncers the way you do, I think you're really talking to everyone else who's reading the flouncy comment, letting folks who might agree with the sentiment know it's cool to disagree, but also making clear that this is a No Bullshit Zone. Nicely done.

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    • Agreed! I think the acknowledgement without necessarily agreeing is very effective. I really appreciate the comments throughout the empire – I find that even when it gets a tad out of hand, the mods are obviously keeping an eye on things, which contributes to more thoughtful conversation and less echo-chamber hate-mongering and trolling.

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  2. I feel so naive! I honestly didn't realise the Offbeat Empire had an issue with flouncers (though I wasn't in the Tribe).

    I never saw heated arguments on any of the sites before, comments always seemed so calm and reasonable.

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    • Yep, we deal with flounces from Tribe members and commenters pretty regularly. Here's one recent example.

      The sad truth of the Empire is this: our comments seem calm and reasonable because they are heavily moderated. There's an editor on each site watching every single comment all day, every day. It's the last thing my editors do before they go to bed, and the first thing they do when they wake up.

      In other words, that calm exterior is the result of a lot of work. :)

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      • Oh my. I saw that comment the day the post was up and couldn't stop cringing. I wanted to send you an email or something saying how great all of you are and how I appreciate that you do anything at all, but I had forgotten.

        Frankly, I was surprised it wasn't just deleted. I was really impressed by that.

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  3. I've always really admired how the OffBeat sites handle the internet drama. So many other sites either devolve into petty disputes or have such stringent commenting policies that all dissenting voices are scrubbed clean. It's refreshing to see your policy. That's why I read 'em all even if they aren't relevant to where I am at in my life presently. Thanks!

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  4. I've had the urge to flounce once from a community I was part of. A situation was handled badly (by a whole lot of people) and in the end I felt that the policies of the site hadn't been upheld and I had concerns about what that meant for the site. I let a few friends know my concerns and chose to leave the site quietly, citing other reasons. Because, when it came right down to it, I wasn't the one running the site and they had the right to make their decisions. I haven't been back but I know, because I did my best to be professional about it, that I -could- come back. And I moved on and found somewhere I love hanging out.

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  5. I work at a school, and I just did a "cut and paste" of your response. I plan on using this when dealing with angry parents in the future. Thank you for this!

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