Flaming and Backchannel


Flaming refers to an attack made on a fellow list member, usually resulting in a “war” between various list members who jump to the defense of one another. Here is a definition found on www.whatis.com:

On the Internet, flaming is giving someone a verbal lashing in public. Often this is on a Usenet newsgroup but it could be on a Web forum or perhaps even as e-mail with copies to a distribution list. Unless in response to some rather obvious flamebait, flaming is poor netiquette. Certain issues tend to provoke emphatically stated responses, but flaming is often directed at a self-appointed expert rather than at the issues or information itself and is sometimes directed at unwitting but opinionated newbies who appear in a newsgroup.

The Chemical Injury Support group doesn’t allow flaming, even in response to ‘flamebait’. It’s very upsetting to be on a group that substitutes insults for information and negates the reason for our existence – support for chronically ill individuals. It causes people pain, drains the limited energies of our membership and damages our community as a whole. Many listserves have been permanently damaged by flaming, which led us to “ban” discussions of certain subjects that tend to provoke this nasty behavior, such as religion and politics. Readers are directed to our guidelines page for details of what constitutes ‘off topic’ discussions. As illness does not bring out the ‘best’ in people, taking the time to review one’s messages to ensure they are civil in tone, is well worth the extra time required.


“Backchannel” refers to email exchanges between members that are conducted off the public list. Members may wish to thank another member for their advice or perhaps discuss a topic with more detailed, personal information than is appropriate to offer in a public forum. Some members are hesitant to publish their information because of concerns they may receive negative/unfriendly responses from others. Since members meet one another and conduct backchannel messaging based upon posts sent to the public forum, we feel members have the right to expect the same courtesies off-list that are required for posts sent to the regular discussion list.

If anyone feels they are being harassed via ‘backchannel’ messages and prefers not to continue such contacts with a fellow list member, any or all of the following measures are recommended:

  • request the party cease writing to you in a politely worded message.
  • delete messages coming to you from that party without reading them. Most people will stop sending messages if they are ignored.
  • adjust your server to reject messages sent to you from that email address.
  • notify the list owners that you are experiencing unpleasant contacts. You can forward innapropriate messages to us for review if you wish. The owners can then notify the unwanted correspondent that they must cease all contact with you if they wish to remain a member of the listserve.
  • Contact the server of the unwanted correspondent if their messages blatantly violate conditions for internet use or ask the owners to do so if you provide proof of violations.

Remember that correspondence can be unpleasant but it is still just a message and you are free to ignore it or insist it stop. The majority of your contacts on and off the list will be positive experiences and the owners are committed to making this listserve as stress free an experience for everyone as is possible in a large forum. After all, we are all subscribed here because life is complicated! The internet is a remarkable tool and should never be used as as a weapon.

If anyone has difficulty in formulating a post due to problems with anger management, feel free to contact the owners and moderators for assistance with your writing.