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Unread February 4th, 2006, 12:53 AM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here

OK - The last post in this thread was last September so I don't know if anyone will read this. I joined BOL not so long ago and I've just started posting in one area - EP on Jan 12. But here are some guesses about the problem you are discussing.

There are hundreds of informal Yahoo groups that have less than ten or so really active members and they get several dozen posts per day. But, they are the subjects of the forum topic, not professionals who get paid to deal with it at arms length.

This would include many folks with various psychological and medical conditions like diabetes, etc. Or, philosophical and political passions. So there has to be an emotional hook for people to do this. They have organized their forums to discuss the things that are screwing up their lives. So there's a strong emotional hook there. Some of those people are actually addicted to this and go into major depression if their computer goes down.

Professional forums are usually like architects who want to compare notes on where to get the best deals on Italian doors or something. They have their purpose but there's no real passion there to cause interesting discussions. If they get passionate about something it's usually a way to make more money and the last thing they'll do is talk about with their competitors. But day to day stuff - it's a profession. You deal with it all the time and you become emotionally desensitised.

The format here at BOL is decidedly professional. It says at the top of the page that this is the gathering place for Mental Health and Applied Behavioral Science Professionals.

But here's the thing. Your profession is terribly intriguing to technically oriented non-psychologists like me. Right now I'm devouring one or two books a week on Evolutionary Psychology. Since I enjoy online discussions I've also spent some time wondering about cyber-psychology. There are definitely interesting things going on here that I'd enjoy exploring with real psychologists.

Now, I'm not as bashful as most so I just do it. I'm a talker anyway. Also, I like to write and doing a lot of forum posts on a topic is a great way to practice writing short concise little micro-essays that are easily understood. (I know this post is getting way too long alreay.) But I am wary. I don't know if I'll say something stupid and someone will tell me go learn enough to participate intelligently before I return. I think most other people are not as brave (foolish?) as I am.

One interesting psychological aspect of online discussions is that if you are new, you imagine that everyone who is already here are good friends and they see you as an outsider (even though that's seldom the case). But that's that playground principle that we all learned in kindergarten. So one critical reply to a post and many folks feel like crawling into a hole because they feel humiliated. Or, just the threat of that and folks don't jump in.

On the other hand, I'm sure you don't want to spend time online dealing with people who would be better off paying for your sevices. I think you can find the balance.

I'd suggest that the forum moderator make it clear that non-psychologists who have a strong interest in psychology and are willing to do some reading and listening are welcome to participate. When they sign up, welcome them, ask them some questions and explain the ground rules. Others already in that topic should also welcome them. It's OK to have a two sentence post that's just social lubrication. I don't see many of those at BOL. Then ask if there's something about your topic that especially interests them.

Then when someone starts climbing up on the couch (which some are bound to do) gently explain that they are welcome but this isn't counseling - it's about the science of the brain. I think most people can accept that without being offended.

I personally am honored to be able to expand my limited knowledge about something that I find very interesting in a forum like this where I can talk with real scientists, clinicians and grad students. I will not tell you about my dreams or my childhood. I'm interested in what you see about the brain that explains why we are all so human.

I think there are others like me who would bring some passion to the discussion that you pros may enjoy. The ratio of lurkers to posters here tells me that those folks are out there and probably would love to jump in.

You've become knowledgeable about one of the most fascinating things in the universe - the human mind. How could that not be interesting to millions? Well, dozens.


Last edited by Margaret McGhee; February 4th, 2006 at 01:10 AM. Reason: Stupidity
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