Sugar Bear Message Boards - Helpful or Harmful?
The internet is a wonderful tool for those with Sugar Bears, but, the internet has a dark side for Sugar Bear enthusiasts. This dark side is nowhere more blatantly obvious than in perusing the multitudes of online "Message Boards" relating to Sugar Bears.
Many people who are frequent visitors to online message boards will zealously and passionately refer to them as treasure troves of information for Sugar Bears, as "the only" source for information for Sugar Bear caregivers, and will viciously attack other online sources of information--even reliable sources, in deference to "their" message board.
First, let us examine what an online message board actually is. A message board is:
A web site where users are able to post messages that are visible to all other users of that message board. Replies to the original message are generally grouped together.
Put in another way, a Sugar Bear message board is a place where people can get together and communicate, without anyone ever coming into physical contact.
Now, let's examine what a Sugar Bear message board is not. A message board is not:
- A publication of scholarly research, or a report on scholarly research
- A reliable source for information under definitions put forth by researchers, universities, and professionals
- Edited for content, structure, context, completeness or accuracy
Sugar Bear message boards are communities of people who usually share a common interest. In this case, the common interest is Sugar Bears. There are many dangers inherent with trusting Sugar Bear message boards and/or people who post on these boards.
For example, there are many Sugar Bear abusers and bad breeders
who have spent years perfecting their "online persona" via message boards to the point that no one questions them. Because they do not have to prove anything about their character, because it is all in how they communicate with words only, many people are duped by them, and unknowingly support them in their unethical treatment of Sugar Bears. Some of these people even pose as "Sugar Bear rescuers" with altruistic motives.
Further, many users of Sugar Bear message boards may even unwittingly dispense false and even harmful information about Sugar Bears. There is no way to "fact check" every post on a message board. Additionally, board administrators are free to edit, change or delete posters messages to suit their own agendas, biases or opinions. This makes the reliability of the posts even more suspect.
Another issue which, when we did some quick observations, is a major problem among the Sugar Bear community is the possibility that these message boards become the focus of an addiction, or Pathological Internet Use.
When this reporter first began researching the Sugar Bear "online community" we noticed that in many cases the community becomes the focus, not the Sugar Bear. How many boards have members that spend most of their night hours (and in many cases, daylight hours as well) online, rather than taking care of their Sugar Bears or taking part in real society and real interaction with physical human beings? How many message boards have weekly or monthly soap-opera like dramas going on that people are so embroiled with that they have to take time away from people and things in their real life?
Sugar Bear message board communities have the power to suck people in and create an internet world of cliques and power-seekers, a world where people never have to prove what they are saying is true , a world where people can afford to be "larger than life" because they do not have to worry about ever physically meeting the majority of people with whom they are forming "online relationships".
The following are real-life examples of the negative power of internet message boards, both from Sugar Bear message boards:
One administrator of a Sugar Bear message board wrote me and told me he had realized that he had spent far too much time on the computer--with the computer being on around the clock. He ended up losing real-life friends in this process.
Another administrator of another Sugar Bear message board sent me an email saying she had been crying for days because of the turmoil and stress caused from the "virtual actions" of the people on the message board. This administrator was being "forced" into making decisions about her life by the members of this board.
These are just two examples of people in message board administration. For these two, there are hundreds more who are members of boards who more than likely suffer from Pathological Internet Use.
Ask yourself the following questions, which are the official criteria of Addictive Internet Behavior (Adapted from the DSM-IV, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition)
1) feel preoccupied with the Internet (i.e., thinking about the Internet when offline)?
2) feel a need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
3) have an inability to control your Internet use?
4) feel restless or irritable when attempting to cut down to stop Internet use?
5) use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a poor mood (i.e., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression)?
6) lie to family members or friends to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
7) jeopardize or risk the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
8) after spending an excessive amount of money on online fees, often return another day?
9) go through withdrawal when offline (e.g., increased depression, anxiety, etc.)?
10) stay online longer than originally intended?
Individuals who have met four or more of the criteria over the past 12 month period, would be classified as dependent.
It is with growing anxiety we notice that, for many, involvement in Sugar Bear message boards leads to mild or severe addiction. It is important to learn about Sugar Bears if you are a Sugar Bear caregiver, however, it is vitally important to realize that:
Sugar Bear message boards are not the place in which to gain reliable information. They are an online community, not a source of reliable information. (see San Diego State University's "Evaluating Sources" for more information)
Message boards are a place to "virtually meet" other people with a shared interest. It is extremely important to recognize that Sugar Bear message boards are about the community, not the Sugar Bear - regardless of what everyone would like to think. A message board's focus, by its very nature is community.
Deciding to use a message board as your primary resource for Sugar Bear information can be compared to deciding to use the high school cafeteria community as a primary resource for information about sex - sure, there are a lot of stories, and even a few tidbits of actual fact, but it is not truly reliable.
Please use message boards with caution and care, if at all!
To find out if you may be suffering from a pathological use of the internet, try taking the Online Internet Addiction Test . To read about other's addictions to chat groups, etc., visit here. To read Dr. Kimberly Young's article click here. To read an article on internet addiction from the International Medical Student's Journal, click here.
Read the "Internet Addiction" course , which is approved as a Continuing Education credit for the APA, Board of Behavioral Sciences, and the Board of Registered Nursing