Comprehensive Guide To Handle Online Community Conflict

January 5, 2023
 | by 
min read

A single bad apple can ruin your entire community. However, it can be taken care of by having proper community guidelines and rules in place.

Comprehensive Guide To Handle Online Community Conflict
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As a community scales, you're going to be spending a lot of time firefighting, and managing conflicts. Managing people is not a trivial skill — there are four-year degrees that claim to teach you how to do so, but still woefully inadequate. 

The big problem with large groups of people is, well, people. Conflict is wired into our brains. With our own Discord, we encountered many of these issues, and the same set of issues continued onward onto communities on Scenes.

What Humans Need?

If you’d narrow  it down to first principles, all humans in a community want mainly three things:

1) Attention

2) Validation

3) A group to belong to

Take any of the three away, and there's disaster brewing. If you're selling soap, a bad customer can at best leave a bad review on a website. That may only marginally affect business, unless you have a lot of customers leaving bad reviews. With a community, a single bad apple can ruin your entire community. Do not underestimate the extent a person will go to gain 1), 2) or 3). 

Dealing with Noisy Members

One of the reasons we removed user to user direct messages from Scenes was harassment. The other was because pissed-off people who are muted in a community or kicked off of stage can DM every single other member, throwing shade at the community itself. This happens very often on Discord.

Kicking a noisy member off of the stage can be a trivial action for a moderator. However, if not handled properly, you could find an essay on your main chat about all the problems that plague your community. Dissenters can attract groups of other dissenters who haven't received 1), 2) or 3) in a while, and the problem could snowball into a lot of people spewing hate; with many innocent bystanders leaving the community as a result (some will stay to watch the drama, armed with popcorn). The question is one of how intolerant you should be of intolerance itself.

Ban the dissenter after a toxic post? Ban the dissenter before they become explosive? Ban the dissenter the minute they show signs of being a dissenter?  As you can see, we're entering a Minority Report situation here. Dealing with dissenters is like dealing with a bomb situation where you could have evidence of a bombing far before it happens, based on member behavior. It has to be handled carefully, or it'll hurt everything around it. 

What to do?

In my experience, you should delete and ban the dissenter right after a toxic post. A lot of idealists will disagree with me, and talk about the value of free speech. Young community managers are of this mindset: that members must be allowed to complain. While this is true, it's almost insane to let someone ruin years of your hard work, because they didn't get some attention or validation or got kicked off a stage for a noisy microphone. Like I've mentioned before, one pissed off person can bring down an entire 100,000 man community with ease by creating a snowball effect. Trying to reason with the person while they're angry won't work either. 

This is the main reason to have a channel or a post where rules are written up explicitly, so you can point at it and explain to everyone else why you banned someone from the community (otherwise the banned individual can become a martyr for the cause). 

Here's an example from the Parallel Alpha community:


1. Have fun and don't be toxic. 

2. If you have a question, please read #deleted-channel first and view our pinned messages. 

3. Unsolicited DM's to other members will result in an immediate and permanent ban. 

4. No spamming, text walls, or flooding channels with "copypaste" messages. 

5. Don't @ everyone or @ here unless you have written permission from an admin.

6. Please be mindful of the channel descriptions and post appropriately. 

7. Listen to all Mods and follow the general rules and etiquette of a Discord server. 

8. No lewd, explicit, excessive cursing, or hate messages will be tolerated. 

9. No advertising or self-promotion will be accepted without permission first. 

10. Bashing, heated arguments, or any form of doxing will NOT be tolerated. 


1. Zero tolerance for racism or racial slurs of any kind.

2. Zero tolerance for posting someone else's personal information. 

3. Zero tolerance for forgery, fake identities, or multi-accounting. 

4. Zero tolerance for any type of online bullying or harming of others.

You do not have permission to send messages in this channel.

Note: Doxing means putting out someone's personal info online.

💡Scenes allows users to report problematic posts and messages, which allows moderators to go fix those issues. Discord and Slack severely lack this feature — with the mods having to go find the troublesome posts themselves on those platforms (nearly impossible in a large community).

One person or message, when not handled properly, can snowball into a serious problem for the entire community. So, make it a point to resolve conflicts at the earliest. As your community grows, the frequency of this firefighting is bound to increase; and that’s normal. If you run into any hurdles along the way, we’re here to help. Reach out to us.

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