CHAPTER ONE: WHAT IS YAHOO?

An excerpt from a conversation on Yahoo Messenger, February 14, 2006:
cindybin2001: i've been avoiding the yahoo headline boards
cindybin2001: it has just been terrible
cindybin2001: last week especially, i left in tears and haven't been back
cindybin2001: my friend "love is a verb" aka "pixie" really insulted me
cindybin2001: as did others
jacak1981: so it's been a week?
cindybin2001: pixie and i had emailed alot and i really liked and admired her
cindybin2001: umm, probably a little less than a week
cindybin2001: just because i was talking to a woman who smokes pot, trying to tell her she shouldn't do that, especially considering she is a mother
jacak1981: yeah
cindybin2001: pixie tells me i'm judgmental and need to "get over myself", etc.
cindybin2001: what gets me is that pixie is as against drugs as i am
cindybin2001: and i thought she understood more than anybody where i'm coming from, that i don't tell people they are "losers" or morons or anything
cindybin2001: i point out their good qualities and try to tell them they are too GOOD to be doing something like that, especially if they are a parent, how they need to set a good example and all
cindybin2001: i mean, pixie's first husband DIED from a guy who ran into him, driving while high on pot
cindybin2001: she had to raise her two young boys alone
jacak1981: wow
jacak1981: you'd think she'll understand
cindybin2001: so i just can't understand why she would think i'm terrible for trying to help talk some sense into people
cindybin2001: right
cindybin2001: i mean, i understand when the bullies and trolls pick on me, but pixie...
cindybin2001: that just really hurt, especially since we had been friends
cindybin2001: so i left, told her i couldn't believe she was saying what she did
cindybin2001: haven't been back
cindybin2001: i'm probably going to write out my thoughts and feelings on this whole thing
jacak1981: yeah
cindybin2001: just drives me nuts, so many people on those boards think nothing of smoking pot
cindybin2001: and even the ones who don't smoke it think there's nothing wrong with it
cindybin2001: i tell them, "what kind of example are you setting for kids?"
cindybin2001: most parents try to tell their kids to stay OFF drugs and they want to keep them out of trouble with the law
cindybin2001: and here all you grown adults make fun of me and call me goody goody and judgmental
cindybin2001: i was talking about this with lori a few weeks ago, she understands my point exactly
cindybin2001: these people on yahoo think that just because they are successful and good people and good parents, that gives them the right to smoke pot, and what lori said, and i agree, is that makes it worse!
jacak1981: plus there's those tv commericals of keeping kids off drugs
cindybin2001: right
cindybin2001: i try to tell them how my son was on his mission and talked to alot of families in the ghetto, where the parents all used drugs, and then the kids ended up using drugs as well, because they weren't taught any better
cindybin2001: i feel sorry for them, because you can't blame them, of course
cindybin2001: but when these grown, successful adults with good jobs and families think nothing of lighting up, that makes it WAY worse
cindybin2001: they should know better
cindybin2001: anyway, enough of my rant
jacak1981: right
cindybin2001: i'm just fed up with all those people, and really hurt at the things pixie said to me
cindybin2001: maybe i'll go back someday, after i cool off and get my thoughts in order

The above conversation was with my online friend Jeannette, a young woman I met about five years ago through Yahoo Beatles-related groups we were in. We have maintained a great friendship all these years, even having long conversations on the phone and sending presents, videotapes and other things through the mail. I don’t usually rant to her about the Yahoo news headline boards, but that day I did.

I first discovered these headline message boards probably sometime in mid-2004, finding the forums from a link at the bottom of most news stories on Yahoo’s main page. Since the boards are not moderated, many stories are a free-for-all of discussions, debates, jokes, insults, flirting and chit-chat that may or may not have anything to do with the news story at hand. And that’s what I thought made it fun, the fact that everyone can say pretty much what they want. Yahoo does have a “terms of service” agreement, and sometimes people get warning letters or even have their accounts deleted, but it would take an awful lot for that to happen. And I much preferred the unmoderated format, especially after being banned from several moderated groups just for having a difference of opinion. Freedom of speech is good.

However, when I first came to the boards, I was really annoyed by all the rude comments geared toward overweight people whenever there was a story having anything to do with obesity, diets or food (or anything else for that matter). People thought nothing of using the term “fat*ss” and would often say things like, “If they would just get up off the couch and get some f*cking exercise, they wouldn’t be such lard*sses”. Well, I had just had great success on a controlled carb plan, Somersize, and had spent months and months talking to the nice people in the Somersize chat room, none of whom called anyone rude names or made accusations about people being lazy. I just could not believe how mean people were on these Yahoo boards. I know that in an anonymous forum one might say things they would not say to someone’s face. Even so, I couldn’t help but think about the feelings of any overweight people reading these posts. So I exercised my freedom of speech and told these people that they shouldn’t use such rude terms for those with weight problems. And, since learning that it often took more than just exercise, counting calories, or “will power” to lose weight, I tried to dispel the many misconceptions people had about weight control and lowcarb or controlled-carb programs.

And while I was at it, I frequently commented on the obscene and rude profile names and photos. I remember one guy’s name was “icumont*ts” (only the “i” was not blotted out). He had a photo of a woman about to put her mouth on a man’s privates. Again, I know the boards are unmoderated, and I believe in freedom of speech. I fully support anyone using whatever name or photo they want. But I felt that in turn gave me the right to express my opinion about it, without fear of being banned. In addition, I chastised those who used the n-word on stories having to do with blacks, as well as yelled at people for using rude terms to describe gays. I would tell them that behaving this way is going to do nothing for world peace.

I also quickly caught on to the phenomenon of “trolling”, whereby posters will say something they don’t believe in order to generate reactions of disgust, rage, laughter and the like. Since Yahoo is an anonymous forum where you create your own ID or multiple ID’s, trolls can make up any kind of personality they want, posing as different characters, men posing as women, etc. The seasoned poster usually gets a feel for who is trolling and who is not, but trolls delight in baiting the unsuspecting newbie who falls for their trap. Some trolls can get extremely crude and disgusting. Stories about children being murdered or molested are often prime targets, where the trolls will post the most outrageous things they can think of  to gross people out or make them furious, such as what they would have liked to have done to the child, or how the little girl must have enjoyed having such-and-such done to her, etc. People will get extremely mad, which is just what the trolls want. Whenever I saw posts like this, I would usually suggest to those who were offended that they should go to a moderated board.

Sometimes it was fun to play along with the character trolls, such as Edna Bambrick (really a guy). This plump, middle-aged “lady” who enjoys quilting and bridge was often brought to tears by posters hurling insults regarding her weight and other matters. Many times she took it upon herself to “report” any and all offensive posts. (“REPORTED!”) I always stuck up for Edna, and she was always sweet to me, bless her heart.

For the most part, I had fun on those boards. I tried to keep things in perspective and not take anything too seriously.  I became acquainted with the “regulars”, such as spartancheerleader (now known as danaisagurlsname), max_rain_beer, two_dogs_f*king, pbrown, troll_to_troll, cluckie_the_chicken and others. We would usually congregate on the lighter, fluffier stories having to do with celebrities, music or whatever silly topic the person in charge of Yahoo headlines would post that hour. I stayed away from the more serious boards. I’m not up on politics, but every once in a while I’d join in on a discussion about abortion (I am pro-choice) or gays or religion. For the most part, though, I’d stick with the regulars, and we’d chit chat, comment and have a good time. Troll_to_troll would make up far-fetched stories about our alleged marriage or dating years and I’d play along. People seemed to enjoy those posts. This person also made up a new ID, Cindybin2005, posing as me and purposely saying outrageous things or making posts that were just a little bit “off”, in order to get people riled or think I was really weird. I spent quite a bit of time trying to defend my good name, explaining to unsuspecting people that I was only Cindybin2001 (or Cindybin2002 when my primary ID timed out).

Actually, Cindybin2005 was just one of many trolls or imposters that sprouted up within a short time. I have counted literally hundreds of Cindybin variations, including such names as cindybin_forever, cindybinlovesme, cindybins_boyfriend, cindybinsmokincrack, and mr_cinbin. Then there are all the cindybin ID’s with numbers after them, designed to look as much like mine as possible. Not to mention the absolutely obscene Cindybin ID’s that people have made up, which I will not include here. People would also doctor up my photos to include in their imposter ID and fill out the profile information, making them silly or offensive. Spartancheerleader, one of the other few female regulars on the board, had her share of imposters and trolls as well, and while it could get really annoying at times, we learned to put up with it and sometimes couldn’t help but laugh, especially considering all the trouble these mystery people went to just to get a reaction. I tried to take all this in stride, enjoying the fun aspects of the board and appreciating that they were not moderated.

Being more reserved, I usually did not start topics but only replied to others’ posts. But I do remember one day I was about to do some grocery shopping, and decided it would be fun to ask board members if there was anything they wanted. So I started a new topic, “I’m going to the store now” and then when you opened up the post, it said, “Anybody need anything?” Well of course I got all kinds of zany replies. After the responses were in, I posted my revised shopping list (Playgirl magazine, K-Y jelly, beer, rolling papers, more beer…) and everybody laughed.

The “rolling papers” request was an attempt to poke fun at my stance against marijuana, which was fast becoming known on the boards as I replied more and more to the myriad of pot-smokers who seemed to flock to every story about drugs, or who would just casually mention that they smoke pot on any board, for that matter. Before I go any further, let me delve into the background of Cindybin a bit, just to clarify how I was raised and how I came to acquire my views. (Don’t worry, I’ll get back to the boards and the juicy bits later.)

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