I have been having a lot of trouble on SO lately because I suffer from an array of mental health conditions. I am open about my conditions and don't mind telling people. But I can imagine the backlash of stating in a question that "please be nice because my anxiety might cause me to have a breakdown". I suffer from such extreme anxiety at times that my head just cannot cope but people are quite unkind at times on SO! I also have problems being polite to people who are not so polite to me and can sometimes end up embarrassed by what I say in haste, due to personality disorders. I recently had an issue with a high rep SO user seemingly playing strange games of commenting strange and rude comments and then deleting them. I tried emailing SO for help but was given a generic reply and just ignored by my further attempts to see what I could do. Obviously I couldn't flag comments that had been deleted. What is the best course of action to stop people from causing my head to go in a complete spin by being not-so-nice. N.B please be nice :)

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    Not a real answer, but I wanted to note that you can always flag your own posts ("in need of moderator attention") and community moderators will look into it. They can see deleted comments and will take action if they see a pattern. Such a problem can (and should probably) be escalated to them prior to contacting Stack Exchange.
    – MEE
    Feb 11, 2019 at 11:48
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    Thanks, I was unaware of flagging my own question. Maybe I'm being paranoid but the high rep user I mention is of such stature in the community that I think he has the power to basically make the problem go away. To the point I feel he may be friends with SO devs... I don't know but The email I sent about it was very long and descriptive but just got ignored. It feels like he had the power to make it go away. What concerns me is that I imagine he does this regularly to others. Feb 11, 2019 at 11:57
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    I suppose the heartless but correct answer is that I would refrain from saying anything, as the mechanics of the site do not allow for special consideration to be extended for such cases, bad questions will still get downvoted and closed, etc. In fact, putting something like this in a question would get edited out as noise, and in a comment probably deleted as no longer needed / obsolete.
    – Magisch
    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:01
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    @Magisch I fully understand your point, but with SO and others having such massive community, shouldn't the community be fairer to people in my situation? And you are correct in what you say "something like this in a question would get edited out as noise" and "in a comment probably deleted as no longer needed / obsolete". Which bring me back round again, are people with conditions like mine not welcome in the community then? It would seem not! Feb 11, 2019 at 12:04
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    @JackHerer It's a bit of an issue with priorities. Contrary to traditional Q/A platforms, the actual feelings, result and convenience of the asker is at best a secondary concern. The primary concern is to build a library of high quality questions and answers. That means everything else is secondary to this concern. From that follow policies that would be odd and hostile on other platforms, like deleting obsolete comments and editing out noise (read: anything not directly related to the question or an answer to it). That doesn't mean you're not welcome, obviously not, but
    – Magisch
    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:10
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    It means that the mechanics of the site and how they're implemented (starting from up/downvotes, to the review system, to flags, to editing, to comments and closing) do not allow to consider the user in taking moderation action, only the post. That means, an ideal contributor does not care or even care to notice who a post is from, or what that person is like, only what the post is like. Everything is focused on the content here, nothing on the user, and something like the new contributor indicator was hotly debated and is unpopular as a result.
    – Magisch
    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:11
  • @Magisch your comments are very informative, thank you. What I hear you saying, and I hope others will agree, is that SO etc is not a community but somewhat of a monopoly of Q&A that is purely for being the best - even at the cost of its community members. Feb 11, 2019 at 12:19
  • @Magisch I would post an answer incorporating those two comments above. Feb 11, 2019 at 12:20
  • @Mari-LouA I agree, I have read the comments a few times now and was going suggest just that.. Feb 11, 2019 at 12:21
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    try to bear those comments for a while and keep flagging believe me they might get banned if they keep on posting after being flagged once by a user. and that gives you a very content feeling. I pray you get out of this anxiety thing. Feb 11, 2019 at 12:28
  • @Mari-LouA and the person was so quick to comment and delete his comments that I had no chance in taking screenshots. I tried asking why he was being strange but he declined to answer and just kept up the strange behaviour. the evacuated from my question as if he was never there, then as i said, trying to get help from SO was a waste of the 20 minutes I spent writing my email to them. Feb 11, 2019 at 12:30
  • @JackHerer Comment deletions are not loaded live. If you loaded the page while the comment was still in existence, you can capture a screenshot of it. It's only if you attempt to show more comments or refresh the page that they will be gone. Feb 11, 2019 at 12:32
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    I've retracted my duplicate vote and deleted all my comments that are related to this possibly being a duplicate. (cc @Shadow) Feb 11, 2019 at 12:33
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    A person's amount of rep does not prevent a ban. There are cases of users with more than 1.000.000 rep getting suspended.
    – S.L. Barth
    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:35
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    I don't know why Stack Exchange has not responded to your concerns yet. I do know that the people at Stack Exchange get a lot of custom flags and custom mails. So it often takes a long time before something is done. So, maybe it's just that they haven't gotten to your case yet - that they simply haven't seen your requests yet. I realize that that offers little comfort right now, but I hope it helps at least a little.
    – S.L. Barth
    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:44

3 Answers 3


First of all, I can understand your frustration. I suffer from a similar (albeit less intensive) situation (mild anxiety and ASD).

The problem with your approach is that the Stack Exchange format is just not designed to take the user into account.

In contrast to a traditional Q/A or forum-style format, Stack Exchange aims to first create a library of high-quality questions and answers with as little noise, discussion, or pleasantries as possible obfuscating them. This has worked well over the years, but it also means that the feeling, experience and, yes, treatment of the asker is secondary to the usefulness of the Q/A to future visitors. This means that Stack Exchange treats every post as standing on its own, ideally without considering the author whatsoever.

All community moderation is geared this way. You don't see context of what a user posted in review, you're not supposed to consider who posted what when voting, downvotes are anonymous and at the discretion of the users casting them, unless (and that's the only unless) you target them at a specific user. Yes, that means that I can go around downvoting everything I see when I have a bad day, but going through and downvoting a specific user's posts in a serial way is a punishable offense.

Following from that is that the Q/A format here fundamentally does not permit exceptions or special considerations based on author status. That is a rough thing to grok - I can understand, downvotes and negative feedback can quickly feel personal (especially to someone with anxiety).

I also have problems being polite to people who are not so polite to me and can sometimes end up embarrassed by what I say in haste, due to personality disorders. I recently had an issue with a high rep SO user seemingly playing strange games of commenting strange and rude comments and then deleting them. I tried emailing SO for help but was given a generic reply and just ignored by my further attempts to see what I could do. Obviously I couldn't flag comments that had been deleted. What is the best course of action to stop people from causing my head to go in a complete spin by being not-so-nice.

I don't think you have any course of action here except trying to deal with the problem better on your end. Particularly

  • Commenting for people to take your condition into consideration is likely to be unfruitful, such comments are frequently removed as no longer needed or obsolete. Comments are only supposed to be used for clarification or direct actionable feedback or direct criticism on a post. Even those are regularly deleted after their purpose has been served. In addition to this you are likely to invoke a form of Streisand effect (requesting that people do not downvote or close vote causes people to do it more, in any form).

  • Editing such a passage into your post would likely be removed as noise (posts are supposed to contain only material directly related to the question or an answer thereof). It also triggers the same Streisand effect.

  • As you have noted, Stack Exchange staff is not really able to assist you when contacted about something like this, as its a function of their Q/A system and changing it to suit these purposes is currently unfeasible and undesired by the community.

  • Moderators can not do anything beyond deleting actual rudeness, for which there are dedicated flag types.

What you can do

Actual unfriendliness and unkindness or verbal abuse is against the Code of Conduct. This means that it is actionable by moderators. You can flag comments containing such as unkind or abusive, and if they are found to be by moderators, the comments will be deleted and if the user has a history of doing something like this, they'll be sanctioned.

Please note that even though something can feel like an attack, it's possible that it's just criticism. In that case moderators will not remove it or sanction the poster. I fall into this trap from time to time and have to remind myself to not take things personally. It's really important on here.

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    i think I will accept your answer, I will give a day or two to see if others have anything insightful to say but your answer has really answered my question precisely. Feb 11, 2019 at 12:47
  • Regarding what you write under "What you can do", yes, if one does come across rudeness, then please flag it. (I say this as a moderator on two sites in the network.) However, just because you find something to be rude doesn't guarantee that another person will. If there's something specific that you find to be rude, it may be beneficial to write up a custom flag and clearly specify what about a post or comment it is that you find to be rude. The moderator handling the flag may still disagree, but it'll make the moderator's task easier. // cc @JackHerer
    – user
    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:51
  • I have acted upon your advice and flagged said question, one thing that is very irritating is that it was marked as duplicate when it is clearly not - and funnily enough the user I am talking about in my question here, has a badge that has allowed him to close the question single-handedly, which kind of enforces my thinking he has targeted me for some unknown reason. It would be nice to be able to answer my own question because the other "duplicate" Q&A's did not - and could not have - answered my question as they were not the same issue. Feb 11, 2019 at 13:06
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    @JackHerer Duplicate votes are sort of orthogonal to the code of conduct. A duplicate close vote cannot be in itself unfriendly or abusive, as far as the network is concerned. There are checks on duplicate closing (even a review queue dedicated to determining if a question is fit for reopening) and users can undo any one person's close vote. But as far as I know moderators almost never get involved in close voting details. My advice wrt. flagging is only for rude or unfriendly comments or passages in answers or questions directly. Although, if unfriendly comments were involved, do flag.
    – Magisch
    Feb 11, 2019 at 13:09
  • @Magisch please read my comment above - no checks, no review. And I get duplicate marked questions, as frustrating as it may be i do understand. But as my previous comment says the user had the power to close it without review Feb 11, 2019 at 13:11
  • @JackHerer That's an intended mechanic of the network, though. Users that have more then 200 answers totaling a score of more then 1000 in a tag are allowed to single-handedly close and reopen duplicates in that tag. The normal way to appeal such a thing is to edit the question and see how it fares in the reopen review queue, or to raise the issue on the per-site meta. If I looked it up correctly, the question you're referring to in particular has been through the reopen review queue as visible here and gathered 3x "leave closed" votes
    – Magisch
    Feb 11, 2019 at 13:15
  • @Magisch Then the said mechanics are unfair but that is just my opinion, having taken the time to see the review reopen votes did you take the time to see if I am correct in my argument of the question not being a duplicate. I dont understand how it marked and even voted on to be a duplicate. it is just not a dupe.. how do we know the guy did not get his mates involved to back him up? It would put my mind at ease if someone like yourself who seems impartial was to tell me it was or was not a real duplicate? Feb 11, 2019 at 13:37
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    @JackHerer In that case, the proper procedure is to file a request on the per-site meta asking that your question be reopened, and asking why the reviewers thought it should remain closed. I agree that it's not communicated in any way to users that their question has in fact been reviewed by users, who thought the question should remain closed; I'm working on filing a request for that. Feb 11, 2019 at 13:42
  • How do I go about "file a request on the per-site meta" would I just ask a question on Meta SO? Feb 11, 2019 at 13:44
  • @JackHerer I unfortunately do not have the subject matter expertise with the technologies at use in your question to make that determination. I did ping some people in chat about it though.
    – Magisch
    Feb 11, 2019 at 13:44
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    @JackHerer Yes, the per-site meta for SO is Meta Stack Overflow. Feb 11, 2019 at 13:44
  • @Magisch Ok thanks anyway Feb 11, 2019 at 13:45
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    @JackHerer Well, I read your question there. It's often better if you provide a clear, detailed argument about why your question isn't a duplicate (e.g. "this question is asking about [x] but that question is asking about [y]; I read the answers there but none of them addressed my question because..."). It's also often best if you don't include things like claims about being "targeted" because those don't come across well. The MSO community is generally helpful, but tends to jump to call things out as rants if you don't include details and especially if you accuse them of "targeting". Feb 11, 2019 at 14:54
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    See here for more tips on how to make better cases for reopening duplicates. Feb 11, 2019 at 14:55
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    @JackHerer Meta.SO is kind of a dog-eat-dog world. I'll admit it's harsh, and the downvoting there feels personal sometimes. This entire network requires a very specific mindset, and a particular approach. One of the things that is most important of all is that you can't be taking things personally. The streisand effect is real and even more powerful then I alluded to. The more frustrated you are (and sound) the less likely it is outcomes will be in your favor. I won't try to keep you here, but good luck on whatever endeavor you try next.
    – Magisch
    Feb 11, 2019 at 15:04

I guess we have the service dog problem. Proper service animals are well trained, often unflappable professionals. Some folks though stick a vest on their pet to get them places they won't be allowed. The problem with a 'handle with care' message is I am doubtful it will have the intended effect.

I've suffered from anxiety in the past. It's not great. And I found it's very hard for people to actually realize you are in an anxiety attack even when right next to you and are family.

And therein runs the hard problem. We can't really make excessive allowances for your behavior. Folks would often use it as a way to get around our norms. If you're clearly having other sorts of trouble people often help.

As for other folks, if you're seeing a pattern of unkind comments from a user and they are constantly doing it, try flagging the post the comments are attached to explaining what's happening. Screenshot it if you can (but mods can see it anyway). We want people to focus on the posts and there's no room for folks being unkind.

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    "but mods can see it anyway" One exception: for comments which are edited within the five-minute grace period, moderators can only easily access the most recent version. (It might be possible for a Stack Exchange developer to pull out a revision history; I've never needed it badly enough to actually ask for someone to do that.) So if you want to be certain, wait until the comment has been around for at least six minutes before flagging. The comment owner at that point cannot edit the comment (though a moderator can) and can only delete it, and/but moderators can view deleted comments.
    – user
    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:53
  • Hence the suggestion of a screenshot.
    – Aibobot
    Feb 11, 2019 at 13:07
  • Jon Clements pointed out on another answer that mods can indeed see all revisions of comments. So no need to make screenshots (which could be technically faked easily anyway).
    – poke
    Feb 11, 2019 at 16:19

I think there's a big difference between someone saying or implying that you are not clever (as an example) from someone saying the question/answer does not meet certain standards.

It is difficult to tell if the OP has cause to complain without knowing what these strange or rude comments were. Even harder if the user (or bully) deletes their comments within five minutes (I think comments that are deleted within 5 minute are non-traceable but I could be mistaken).

Next time, take screenshots of these comments, it would be better if they occurr over a period of time, and always flag them. One important piece of advice I can give is to not interact with this person. Ever. Then, if the flags result in no action, calmly inform the user you now have a record of his/her behaviour. That might stop the harrassment, if it is harrassment. If the user continues to post and delete insensitive or hurtful comments, I strongly suggest that you contact SE via the link at the bottom of the page and describe in detail the comments, and if possible, include those all-important screenshots.

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    Comments deleted within 5 minutes can still be read by moderators. Feb 11, 2019 at 12:38
  • @SonictheIntrovertedHedgehog much appreciated, do you have a link that I could read? Feb 11, 2019 at 12:40
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    @SonictheIntrovertedHedgehog All deleted comments can be seen by diamond moderators. Comments edited within the five-minute grace period are only accessible to moderators as the most recent version; there is no easily accessible revision history, the way there is for questions and answers (and even for those, multiple edits within five minutes will often be lumped together).
    – user
    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:55
  • @aCVn I also know that deleted comments can be read by moderators but I thought there was some sort of snag regarding those deleted within 5 minutes, Thanks for commenting! Feb 11, 2019 at 12:56
  • @Mari-LouA To my knowledge, there is no such limitation.
    – user
    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:58
  • The limitation being only the most recent version is visible, if I call someone "an idiot user" but after three minutes replace it with "a difficult user", the mod will only see the edited version. If this happens only once or twice it's not such a big deal. We all lose our cool from time to time, but if this is a repeated mode of communication then that is harassment. Screenshots are the solution. Feb 11, 2019 at 13:01
  • @aCVn you realise that you can click the pencil icon (the one that indicates it has an edit) next to comments on a site you moderate and see comment revision history? (Which has all the changes - even if in the first 5 minutes (unlike posts)) Feb 11, 2019 at 14:23
  • @JonClements ahh! Good to know but if the entire comment is deleted within five minutes, does that make any difference? So nothing absolutely nothing is ever hard deleted, even a comment posted and immediately regretted. Oh, great... :( Feb 11, 2019 at 14:30
  • @Mari-LouA comment revision history is available on deleted comments as well... The time the comment was on site doesn't matter. So you could post one, edit it 10 times, then delete it in under a minute... mods can still see that comment and its revisions. Feb 11, 2019 at 14:32
  • @JonClements No, I hadn't realized that. Thanks, that's very useful to know! (I wonder how many other such little tricks are available once you only know about them. Probably a bunch.)
    – user
    Feb 11, 2019 at 15:34

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