Useful and Dark Side of Listservs

With the advent of increased methods of electronic communication and social media, where do listservs fit in?

The following articles delineate some pros and cons of listservs:

Where Do Listservs Fit in a Social Media World?

Death to the Listserv

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electronic Communication

And another article with the same name as above:

Advantages and Disadvantages of Electronic Communication

The Pros and Cons of Electronic Communication

Having been involved in many listservs and Internet groups as an owner, moderator, and active participant, I prepared a list of pluses and minuses and suggestions to help offset the “dark side.”


  • Access to diverse sources of information
  • Fairly immediate help when help is requested
  • Interaction with peers
  • Opportunity to share views
  • Opportunity to be involved in a discussion
  • Source of stress relief
  • Feeling of belonging by the virtual reality afforded (otherwise requires a lot of face to face and other more personal means of interaction)
  • Encourage thoughtful discussion
  • Learn
  • Teach & mentor
  • Peer supervision
  • Ability to attach files
  • Store/archive information
  • Communicate special needs: e.g. availability or need for an office; publications; etc.
  • Communicate forthcoming events
  • Communicate information from workgroups, committees, divisions, task forces, and various other subgroups
  • Provide feedback about what other professional organizations are doing
  • Communicate issues related to the listserv’s mission, activities by the parent organization or listserv’s leadership, and matters of particular interest to the organization, its growth, development, survival, etc.


  • Flooding of e-mail boxes and receipt of unwanted e-mails
  • Misinterpretations
  • Loss of visual cues
  • Erroneous or accidental postings
  • Increased exposure to viruses
  • Increased exposure to spammers
  • Lack of security and confidentiality
  • Anonymity discourages “real” socialization
  • Encourages taking short-cuts and laziness in doing one’s own research, problem solving, and looking for solutions
  • Addictive-like quality

Possible Solutions:

  • Use digest version
  • Eliminate piggybacked messaging
  • Improve Subject Line to make it clear and concise
  • Backchannel “thank you”, “you’re welcome”, “send me too”, and “I’d like that information too” messages, and posts that are more personal in nature
  • Review message for accuracy: content, spelling, links, intended recipient before hitting “send”
  • Take a few moments to ask yourself why you are sending the post before hitting “send”
  • Review message to make sure there is no vitriol, shouting, flaming, or chance that a message will be misinterpreted
  • Don’t send a post when angry. If you write one, hit “send later”
  • Allow a thread to die out after a while; too much back and forth (like “arguing”) becomes hard to follow and the purpose of the theme gets lost

Some Parting Remarks:

Reassess your perceptions regarding the listserv from time to time. Why are you a member? What do you get out of it? Is it meeting your needs? What are your contributions? What are you prepared to do to keep it functional and viable?

Avoid making snap judgments and consider that people are human. Consider that we all make mistakes. Consider too that no one likes everything that is posted.

It takes effort, patience, and persistence to make something work. Nothing is cast in stone. As our needs change and evolve, so must the ways we use electronic media and social media.

Lastly, consider how often you have found yourself in a position that you didn’t like something…that is until you needed it?




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