Every now and then, I write a post that is not directly related to the core concepts of Upgrd, but that touches on topics that involve its readers. This is one of those dispatches.
Recently, I was reading through a forum that aims to unite and assist native-English-speaking residents in a foreign country. While the information on this forum is incredibly helpful, a common and discouraging undertone seemed to be omnipresent: the blatant bashing of anyone, or anything, that wasn’t amenable to a core group of commenters. This core group typically has members with five thousand plus posts - likely a sign of their comfort level on the board.
The people that were being attacked had posted a wide range of topics. Some of these people were too inept - or too lazy - to search with the forum’s adequate tools. Others were suspected of being dishonest. There were also people who had genuine issues, and these issues were simply “easy targets” for bullies. I was particularly taken aback by the story of a young man living in Florida who had recently been left by his girlfriend. This man’s girlfriend was a native of one of the countries served by the forum. He simply sought local cultural insight to help him make some decisions, which were obviously difficult for him in his downtrodden state. In all of these situations, the original poster was attacked with less-than-pleasant remarks by the core group of members.
Sadly, after reading all of this, my thoughts immediately turned to FlyerTalk.
For years, I’ve seen many FlyerTalk members circle their wagons when it comes to questions that they don’t like, or that they are not motivated to answer. “Search the forum” and “you’re an idiot” are all-to-frequent responses to questions coming from new people, or from people that don’t fit in.
A couple of key facts seem to have escaped a portion of the FlyerTalk community: the core group of attackers seems to have forgotten that they were new members at some point. The core group might have asked a question that another member found less than educated. This same angry, vitriol and spite spewing community may have also forgotten that they do not sit atop the ranks of the socially acceptable. How is this core group entitled to disparage those who simply wish to seek information, and who wish walk among them?
I am willing to bet that if we asked Randy Peterson about his intentions for FlyerTalk behavior, we would find some interesting answers that are contrary to what we often see. I would be willing to assume that he didn’t intend for his board to become a closed community, filled with “holier-than-thou” types that thrive on opportunities to tear people down. More importantly, I would think that he would want information to be given out whenever a member asked for it, regardless of distribution repetition or perceived importance.
It’s quite easy to hide behind a computer and issue jabs and angry rants. I challenge any of you to tell me what purpose this antagonism serves. I might make my share of jokes – calling Matt’s voice “child – molester – like” or Ben “an idiot of superb proportions” – but these are jokes, and everyone who knows me realizes that I’m just kidding around. You don’t listen to me on the podcast because I’m ripping people to shreds, you listen because there are jokes, and hopefully some of them are funny.
Not all FlyerTalk members act in this way, and I think it is important to recognize the good things that so many members do in the FT community and beyond. It’s also not lost on me that many other forums operate in a similar, discouraging way. That said, bad behavior in multiple locations does not make bad behavior acceptable in any one place. It might serve some of you well to remember where you came from. If you simply provide the information that another member requests, or say nothing at all, you handle all of these problems, all of the time. You might even help someone. Imagine that.