This is an essay.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
|This page in a nutshell: Always keep an eye on yourself when you are involved in a dispute.|
Why not to panic
It's easy to get caught up in an emotionally fired up argument over something that is so important that it must be fixed immediately. Moral outrage over something is a common source of this, but before cutting and stabbing the offending text, perform a sanity check to see if any actual policies are being violated.
Remember, there are few things on Wikipedia that won't fix themselves, either because someone else sees it or because it's not actually a big deal.
- Moral panic: Say an editor on his or her userpage proclaims to the world that they would like to molest dogs. It's not vandalism, but it has ignited fires in your soul and MUST be dealt with! Sanity check: Has WP:NPOV been violated? Has WP:NPA been crossed? Those might be valid reasons to come in with a correction, but an opinion on a user page is not something that will hurt Wikipedia (assuming the dogs are not themselves editors).
- The press: Something has happened that will, if the all seeing eye of The Media notices it, bring down Wikipedia. Someone has done something in an article so shocking that the first journalist to see it will immediately win a Pulitzer Prize for their exposé on the seedy underbelly of the project. Sanity check: Can it be fixed? Has it been fixed? Is there a discussion about it in progress? If the answer to any of these three questions is yes, then everything is OK. If the answer to all of those questions is no, then you can help by being bold and fixing the problem yourself.
- Defamation: We are pretty hot on biographies of living persons, but there is no need to go over the top. Can the problem be solved by trimming a single contentious sentence? Do so!
- Legal issues: Sometimes an editor will come to the conclusion that a certain practice on Wikipedia is violating the law and will get Wikipedia in trouble, and take drastic action in response. Pressing legal issues are dealt with by the Wikimedia Foundation, and less pressing issues should be dealt with by consensus and gradual change – individuals, even lawyers, are not sufficiently capable of predicting who will sue us or how those cases would be resolved that they can set policy on their own. Allow the Office to do their jobs themselves, and don't become too personally concerned about it. You could always start a discussion at the Village pump.
Take a breath, do something not computer- or Wikipedia-related. Go into the real world and speak to family and friends. Take a walk and relax...and then come back. Chances are whatever it was that caused you distress is either no longer a problem, or doesn't make you feel as stressed as it did when you first found it.
In the end, remember: It's just an encyclopedia. We're volunteers working to create a repository of knowledge. There are editors from all backgrounds, and because of this, all of them have a major problem with at least some of the others, whether it's because some editors are antagonistic, murderers, or even politicians or bureaucrats in the Department of Motor Vehicles (yes, that one, who denied your old Gremlin a new permit sticker last year). We won't always agree with each other, but we can co-exist.
If the problem persists, there are systems in place to deal with almost any imaginable misuse. Use them, but don't overreact. Say someone puts an outrageous statement into an article. No matter how outrageous it is, your first response should be to fix or revert it. Even if the statement is the most evil, deviant, misanthropic, filthy and intolerant thing you have ever read in your entire life, that single statement does not merit going straight to Wikipedia:Requests for Arbitration and demanding the user and every IP address the user has ever used be banned forever.
Have you considered that the panic-inducing activity might have been trolling? It may be that attention is exactly what the user is looking for. Quietly deal with the problem in the most minimal way required to protect the encyclopedia, and the "troll" will often just go away.