When participating in an online mailing list or forum there are few guidelines that I believe are important in order to get the most of the participation.
When you enter into a discussion with another person or group of people, opinions unlike your own may be expressed. Everyone has a right to his/her own opinion and people are more likely to listen when it is expressed respectfully. It is important to voice your thoughts and ideas in a non confrontational manner and to respond to other opinions with respect. You may want to consider not immediately responding to a post or an email. You may want to consider writing a response but waiting to hit the send button, return to your response later, and re read it before you send it.
If a disagreement breaks out, tempers can get hot. If this happens, think about how you would react if the person you disagree with were standing in front of you. Treat others with respect. If you can’t agree, don’t rehash everything hoping to convince everyone that you are right. You may want to take the disagreement to corresponding via private email or simply agree to disagree and move on.
There have been several instances that I have witnessed on a variety of mailing lists that turn into a flame war. This is when the correspondence turns into intentional personal attacks. They can include, but are not limited to harassing, vulgar, abusive, obscene, and hurtful or hateful attacks that are aimed at a particular individual. On most, but not all mailing lists and forums, if you are a participant in a flame war you will be placed on moderated status or removed from the mailing list or forum. If you would be a victim of a flame war the best thing to do is ignore the attacker, do not speak about the attacker with other members, and contact the owner of the mailing list or forum. In most cases, they will assist you in any way they can.
There are individuals in the adoption community whose focus is to enter a chat room, forum, or mailing list with the intention of stirring the pot. Usually these people cause a lot of hurtful feelings and misuse of the community area. These types of individuals usually but not always post anonymously or assume another’s identity or use multiple identities. When you witness or are a victim of these type of attacks from this type of poster, the best course of action is to contact the list or forum owner, or moderator and ignore the poster. Basically if everyone stays united in ignoring the poster, they will find no enjoyment in harassing people and they will probably leave.
If a flame war or something negative does happen with a random person it effects everyone in the community. It may be difficult to bounce back but it is important to try and move on from the incident by starting up new topics or posting a poll or ideas.
Most of the online adoption search and reunion communities are happy, and have a supportive atmosphere. They are a wonderful resource and a place that can provide search assistance and advice.