BellaOnline Forum Statement of Purpose
The BellaOnline forums explicitly exist as support forums for groups of people with a common interest. We have no boundaries. We accept people of all races, all backgrounds, all religions, all genders, all ages (although posters have to be over age 13 for legal reasons). We are determinedly inclusive and actively support individuals who share a mutual passion.
BellaOnline has over 400 topics of interest represented by our sites. We have topics on Buddhism and Catholicism, on Cats and Dogs, on Moms and Married No Kids, on Crochet and Knitting, on Weight Loss and 'Large and Lovely'. Every one of those groups deserves to have a safe haven, a location where they can share their love and adoration for their topic without encountering negative talk. We are not debate forums. We are not arenas for questioning someone's belief. We are very deliberately a safe haven, a carefully constructed shelter where visitors from all cultures can come to share and be bolstered.
It might be easy for an outsider to understand why, for example, the "Gay Lesbian" forum needs this type of protection. A person could be coming to the Gay Lesbian forum from a country where gays are actively stoned to death. They could be petrified about having their gay status known, and need to hear from friendly, understanding people what their issues are. Any discussion in that forum of "maybe gays should not have equal rights because ..." would make that person uncomfortable and even drive them away. The forum needs to be 100% supportive of that forum's topic area. Gays could certainly debate "are gays better off coming out to their parents one at a time or both together". Any debate should of course be friendly and professional. But all debate must be supportive of the topic's arena as its core tenet.
Another example could be the Catholic forum. We have all seen how powerfully violent religious debates can become in the world. Numerous wars have been started over religion. Millions of people have died. Even in modern times, individuals have incredibly strong feelings about religion. If a teenager is determined to be a "good Catholic" and is getting resistance from her peers, she needs a place she can feel safe, secure, able to cry and get hugs. Her Catholic Forum should provide that warm embrace. It should not be another place she needs to defend her views from people who do not believe in Catholicism.
Again, it comes down to the specific forum's scope. Say stepparents were congregating in the stepparents forum and discussing having children of different religions. Maybe they were discussing the benefits of raising a child Catholic vs Jewish in a friendly manner. That would be entirely appropriate in the stepparenting forum. However it would never be appropriate in either the Catholic or Jewish forums. It would not be appropriate in the Catholic forum to post "My stepchild is Catholic, I want to raise them Jewish instead". It would not be appropriate in the Jewish forum to post "My stepchild is Jewish, I want to raise them Catholic instead." It puts the forum members in the position of having to argue why they are worthy of consideration. Someone in a given forum should never have to defend their way of life while in their "safe, comfort support group."
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a good example of what we are aiming for. It would be inappropriate for a newcomer to go to an AA meeting and start telling people that they should drink Zinfandel wines, and that one drink wouldn't hurt them. The purpose of an AA meeting is to support people who are fighting addictions to alcohol and want to completely remove it from their lives. A person whose aim is to promote or discuss alcohol drinking could go to a wine club meeting for that discussion - but not to an AA meeting.
We have many groups at BellaOnline who it is clear face discrimination in the world and desperately need this safe haven to cry and be picked up off the floor. The Disabilities group. The Large and Lovely group. The Gay and Lesbian group. The Married No Kids group. The Islam group. Members of these groups routinely get harassed for simply being who they are, which is often completely outside their control. They need an area where they are safe and loved. Large and Lovely people should not be told "people discriminate against you for a reason, which is ...". Married No Kids people should not be told "someday you will want to have kids and this bizarre stance you have now will pass." None of those would be appropriate ways to interact in a support community.
It might be less clear that someone who is a member of the Fish group could be harassed - but you might be surprised! It could be that a teenager who adores beta fish is being picked on by school friends for having "stupid fish" and who is bullied daily for not having a "real pet" like a cat or a dog. By giving that fish lover a safe haven where everyone loves fish, understands her fish passion and supports her, we could become the lifeline she maintains to being happy. If we compromise that by allowing people to come into the fish forum and start up debates about "why do you have a fish? Why not get a dog instead?" we risk destroying what had been her only zone of safety.
For that reason, every forum at BellaOnline is a safe comfort zone forum. We do not have any exceptions. Every forum's members deserve to feel secure and happy in their chosen topic area, without debate on that core ideal.
If you have any questions at all about the BellaOnline forums and why they exist, please do not hesitate to Contact the BellaOnline Webmaster. We will be more than happy to further explain what our forums exist for and how we work to protect our islands of happiness.
Closing note: A forum's sanctity is for the contentment of its members - but should never support hostile discussion of other groups. For example, quilting-loving members are encouraged to extoll the virtues of quilting, discuss how much fun they have and thrill with their quilting talents - but they should not be posting disparaging remarks about other types of crafts. That would go against the main focus of BellaOnline.
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