Remember the Gay Elite scandal? That seemed to turn Wellington’s gay scene into a froth of debate and bitch fights, and I was even nearly assaulted with a glass bottle at Club Ivy over it. And it was that incident that led me to seriously ask: ‘Is our website doing more bad than good?’
We relaunched Aaron and Andy.com in May as a lifestyle website aimed at GLBT people in New Zealand, in an attempt to get away from the gossipy, bitchy box we had painted ourselves into with the old format. We added news, fashion, entertainment, features, photos, and of course we kept a section for ‘scandal’.
Ever since then our site has been getting more and more popular, with our hits growing about 30% every month — we must be doing something right!
But I’ve found lately that good people in the community are reluctant to be featured on our website for fear of being torn apart by anonymous posters who seem hell bent on tearing them down to the lowest lows. And that’s not cool.
We’ve also heard stories of people who are scared to talk to us or piss us off because they think we’ll feature them on the website as some sort of metaphorical public stoning. C’mon, we’re not like that!
Some levels of bitchiness and debate over a person we can tolerate. Case in point: Jevan Goulter. The guy attracts a truck-load of negative discussion, but he is also putting his hand up for public office. In a way we feel like that affords the community a right to talk about many aspects of the man, in reason, on our website.
And someone like Miss Drag Wellington or Mr Gay Wellington, as another example, who often attract a similar level of negative discussion on our website — to a degree we feel that’s also acceptable because they’ve put their hands up to take on a public role. Of course a lot of the messages are just way too bitchy and personal and we end up censoring (which we hate doing).
But say we write a story on a young gay man who is in the running to win a radio competition, or we feature a profile on a sportsperson — is it okay for people to come on our website and anonymously tear that person apart?
A poster called ‘gymbo’ made an interesting comment on the subject. “I enjoy this website, and the news it brings. I also enjoy reading and being able to make comments. Unfortunately it seems that lately it has become a bastion for anonymous people to attempt to use new technology to just hurt others under some guise of free speech.”
“If you have something constructive to say about the article, please do, we all want to read it,” he continues. “If you are using this site as some kinda town grafitti wall to hurt other people, please don’t.”
I like that reference to some sort of graffiti wall being used to hurt people, because I feel like that is where our website is going lately.
Maybe that’s what our audience wants? Back to Jevan: every time we do a story on him we attract thousands of extra hits, all seemingly to come and make bitchy comments, and/or read said bitchy comments. Our audience just laps it up like a thirsty cat with a bowl of milk.
That’s all very well, but should Aaron and I be the people to supply that negative fix for people that want it. I’d rather not.
I don’t want people to be scared of me, and worry about speaking around me because they think I’m gonna post something on Aaron and Andy.com. I don’t want people to see me as some sort of bitch who loves to facilitate the tearing down of members of our community.
Perhaps ironically, I’m probably the person who least cares about gossip. I don’t give a shit what others are doing, who’s fucking who, who did what to whom, and who thinks this year’s Mr Gay Wellington shouldn’t have won. But there seems to be a market for it.
So what should we do? Should we censor comments that are of an implicit bitchy nature? Should we require everyone registers before they comment? Should we require everyone leave their email address to comment, or at least use a name?
This is where I need your help. Let us know below if you think this website is good or bad. Do you think it’s just a bitch fest? Or do you think it’s worthwhile? We really welcome your ideas and comments!
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