Kill the Beast!

May 20, 2013

"Maybe there is a beast. ... maybe it's only us.'"

William Golding, Lord of the Flies


The anarchy of the Internet is one of its greatest attractions.  Anyone can say anything.  And, when leaving comments, we’re all equals.

So what should I make of the discussion I began in the LinkedIn group Public Relations and Communications Professionals that has attracted more than 250 comments?

Initially, the comments were pretty straightforward and serious.  A request for people to define public relations in three words or fewer included responses such as, “Telling our story,” “inform, persuade, motivate” and “Managing public opinion.”

Eventually, some of the comments became a bit looser, funnier and more cynical.  One said, “Adam needed it.”  Another said, “Believing our bullshit.”  The most cynical commenter left a string of responses that included, “Hyperbole in bucketloads,” “Patronizing the client,” “Missing the point,” and “Misunderstanding the journalist.”

Pretty funny and pretty accurate.  But then it got a little weird.


"Serve you right if something did get you, you useless lot of cry-babies!"

William Golding, Lord of the Flies


Having already left their comments, some began resenting the ongoing comments that were clogging their inboxes.  Of course, anyone can choose not to receive such e-mails, but most people don’t.

“It's starting to feel a whole lot like spam. Enough!” one said.

“A lot of e-mails,” said another.

No kidding.

But then this comment came along:

“In the name of all that is good and pure, please kill this thread. This is going to result in people simply leaving this Group.

“It's getting to the point where I honestly believe that this is an exercise by Linkedin to gather data for a white paper on 'thread fatigue".

“As I said earlier I'd love someone with some stats (and Excel) experience to plot this thread (from bright and bushy tailed to dark and loathsome) as it descends into a Lord of the Flies scenario.

“I'm not going to be Piggy, I'm out.”

Maybe I missed something in the Cliff Notes, but I don’t see how comments in a LinkedIn discussion group relate to Lord of the Flies.  And if anyone should feel like Piggy, it should be me, innocently sacrificed for posting a discussion topic that took on its own life, like the imaginary beast in Lord of the Flies.

I didn’t force anyone to comment.  Where did all of this angst come from?

The Lord of the Flies comment resulted in this reply:

Lord of the Flies!? That's pretty tame Steve. Looks more and more like Deliverance to me and I ain't Piggy too. Not oinking, just buggering off ...

"What was the sensible thing to do? There was no Piggy to talk sense."

William Golding, Lord of the Flies


Understandably, some of the people who initially commented are sick of the thread.  But why not just delete any further e-mails?  Or stop receiving them?

The topic is still receiving serious responses.  And, ironically, those who are complaining about it are keeping the discussion alive and clogging my inbox.  As one person put it, “One commenter here made six comments, four of which were for everyone to stop commenting.”

Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart,

and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy."

William Golding, Lord of the Flies


So kill the beast if you’d like, but don’t blame me for having kept it alive for so long.  And if you’re disgruntled, maybe you should start your own discussion group.

"'We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we're not savages.”

William Golding, Lord of the Flies


Maybe we need to have rules to govern LinkedIn discussion groups, but where’s the fun in that?  A better idea would be to tune out it you’ve had enough of a particular discussion.  Maybe you’re sick of it, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else is.

"Which is better--to have laws and agree, or to hunt and kill?"

William Golding, Lord of the Flies




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