A theory on photog forums incivility

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by WT21, Apr 26, 2013.

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  1. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Was just thinking about photo site forums incivility (this one excluded -- more like DPR and especially lately, 43rumors).

    Lots of folks complain about "wanna-be" photogs on those sites. Referencing what "pros" would do (whoever they are -- it's like the term fascist, it's whoever you want it to be), and claiming other people are mor-ons, etc.

    I'm beginning to believe the real issue is not that the forums are clogged with failed, wanna-be photgraphers, but that they are clogged with failed, wanna-be writers. Because they can't actually create a blog, newsletter or article that others willingly read, they prefer the boards, where they don't have to register and no fear of being edited, to insert their "droll" or "witty" (at least in their own eyes) humor into other people's conversations.

    Instead of sticking to facts and topics, certain posters (I've been guilty of this in the past myself. I'm trying to reform!) descend into snarky, what they think are witty comments (something like this very post! If that's not ironic, lol). So, people are trying to figure out how to be some kind of sarcastic editorialist more than they are interested in coming to an understanding.
  2. Mellow

    Mellow Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2010
    Florida or Idaho
    Interesting theory. I think it's got to do more with the way people are defensive about their purchases, causing them to become fans of a brand way out of proportion to how much they actually like it. It's hard to admit you plunked down $800 for the wrong camera.

    That, and the unwillingness of people to concede that others might have different priorities, preferences, and budgets than they do. Like you can be "wrong" if you prefer Oly's user interface to Panny's, or vice versa.
  3. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    I think you are both correct to some degree. Speaking for myself, I know I tend to just ignore certain posters who clearly want to read their own words rather than contribute to a discussion. I also find myself really editing my own comments about gear at times, as I don't want to kick sand at people who are likely to get defensive about their purchases.

    Unfortunately the latter tends to curtail some level of honest discussion, imo.
  4. amalric


    Jul 24, 2012
    Rome. Italy
    To me it's rather the opposite. Leaving apart the juveniles, I have a problem with conformists, that complain to mods as soon as they detect something not PC, that is departing from the opinion of lemmings.

    Sarcasm, irony and generally are well accepted in my culture, which is among the most liberal. Also, yes writing must have a telling style, it's not like you were mumbling prayers. If you don't know how to write, practice makes perfect.
  5. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    There are always cultural differences, though I'm not convinced it's only cultural, and not sometimes personal.

    But even when cultural, there are ways to be a bit more culturally sensitive without being all-out PC.
  6. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    There's a big difference between PC and basic civility. Our discourse in general is becoming increasingly less civil, more prone to personal attacks, less tolerant of dissenting opinion. In addition, sarcasm is very difficult to convey in writing because it often lacks the nuances that voice and facial expression impart.
  7. juangrande

    juangrande Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 2, 2012
    In my opinion, those who lash out at others are the least comfortable with themselves (i.e.. self-esteem). I've been known to have an opinion or two ( sometimes uninformed :rolleyes: ), and have been challenged. That's ok, that's why we're here. At times the challenge can venture more into impoliteness than information. The key for me is to not engage once it goes there. I'm not compelled to have the last word.

    BTW. This thread may just bring out the thing the OP is lamenting.

    Also, I've considered that the insulation that the internet provides allows some to be " pendejos " w/o the possible consequences of face to face interaction. When I was young, you had to be prepared to back what you were saying, which often tempered the conversation. Unless of course, alcohol was involved!
  8. silversx80

    silversx80 Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 27, 2012
    North Carolina
    It's not just photography, it's forums in general. The internet "chat-rooms" bring about a certain level of anonymity that breaks down an individual's inhibitions. They'll write things down that they'd never, in a million years, say directly to the person or people they're textually assaulting.
  9. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    I do agree I'm walking a fine line. Trying to point out something, though maybe it didn't need to be said. It's a good point, though, that you make.
  10. drewbot

    drewbot Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 21, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    The Internet is generally a rough place.

    Look at any place that allows people to comment below posts, or forums, etc.

    Since people can hide behind a computer, a level of confidence is gained.

    If you think DPR and 43rumors is bad, take a look at Engadget and the like. Their comments on blog posts are filled with even more trolls, armchair experts, etc.
  11. amalric


    Jul 24, 2012
    Rome. Italy
    Vigorous argument is the essence of democracy. Lynching parties quite the opposite.

    Assuming that you culture must be everybody's else if the worse. I.e. I have no taste for bokeh, just like A. Adams, and yet people always assume that lenses must be rated only by that.

    So how not to be sarcastic? People go by hearsay and the voice of the majority must be that of everybody. In such societies culture is dying.

    That it does so politely or not, is very inessential.
  12. juangrande

    juangrande Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 2, 2012
    "Vigorous argument is the essence of democracy. Lynching parties quite the opposite."

    The difference between one escalating to the next and not is dependent on the level of " self righteousness " that one or both parties possess. To me, the more self-righteous, the more fear-based and insecure and dangerous. It boils down to one's level of consciousness, if you will. It might be cultural in a sense of " cultural/collective consciousness", too.
  13. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    This, plus the factor of written communication not passing along attitude/tone and facial expressions is probably the single biggest contributor to incivility online. It's sometimes misunderstandings over tone or intent, and more often just people who say things online that are unnecessarily negative, mean, or insulting that they most likely wouldn't have said face to face.

    I've been a part of a few really excellent forums in this regard, and I think it's down to two major factors:

    1) Smaller forum size
    2) Moderating aggressively and consistently

    The bigger the forums get, the more the discourse tends to degrade as a general rule. Small forums encourage people to get to know each other better, and tends to focus the forum to a smaller subset of like-minded folks. However, #2 above makes a big difference even as a forum grows. The only way to maintain a civil forum is to make sure that negativity and rudeness aren't tolerated. Sometimes that means moderating more than people would like, but it's what makes the difference between a free-for-all where people get 'status' by bullying and a forum where the emphasis is on courteous discussion.

    With regards to the OP... I think it may be a factor at times, but it's less to do with people working their editorial skills, and more to do with simply getting a boost by panning other people.
  14. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    I agree completely vigorous argument is necessary. Personal attacks add nothing to the conversation, and in the US right now, there is far more mud slinging (on the political side) than substantive discussion.

    It's like signal to noise in sensors. If there's more sarcasm, personal attacks, or generalizations than facts, then the image you are trying to present is lost.

    The proposition that all free society is grounded on snark and witty comments would need to be argued and presented convincingly before I'd buy into it. There's certainly a history of such communication in free societies, but I think it's rather perhaps showing the society is free, rather than the reason the society stays free. Perhaps there is some correlation with skepticism and distrust of centralized authority, though again correlation does not mean causation. And certainly, it can go too far. If everyone is snarky and skeptical and distrustful, will a society continue to function?

    Put another way, sarcasm and snark has more to do with building straw-man arguments than it does to get to the real issues. They are more effective at revving up your base supporters and same-minded ideologues than advancing an argument. Maybe bludgenoning your opposition, and if you can get them to be quite, allows you to advance your cause, but you are moving away from thesis-antitheses-synthesis, and moving more to might-makes-right (or whoever shouts the loudest, wins).

    Back to my earlier point though -- there is a place for criticism, snark, droll humor, etc. but it seems to me that someone who was truly good at it, could make a living doing it. Internet boards seem to be littered with amateurs - those who are actually bad at it, but because there is no gatekeeper (e.g. editor) stopping them, they have at it, blissfully unaware (or perhaps aware and enjoying it) that they are not witty, but just disruptive and trollish.
  15. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    I'm not terribly old, but I've been doing this since the days of BBS. Irony and sarcasm, even if used in a constructive manner, rarely translates to the written word well. In conversation its very easy to detect sarcasm and irony through facial expressions and tone. Can't do that over the internet very easily.

    I also tend to agree that the most of the time that on forums of all types, debates generally degenerate into strawman arguments. I also think people on the internet are more unwilling to concede that their opinions are generated through their own biasnesses. There is nothing wrong with having opinions that aren't always rooted in something concrete, we just need to be willing to concede those opinions and arguments are our own, and we shouldn't subscribe to the notion that others will have those same opinions. In many cases, those opinions end up conveyed as absolutes.
  16. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ

    This is why I don't buy the "free speech" arguments people make over moderation. I believe in the concept of free speech generally, but that doesn't require incendiary comments, gratuitous insults, or personal attacks. Get your point across with civility - more people will listen to you and you can build bridges instead of lighting them on fire :wink:

    And 100% agreed about your last point above. That's what I see on Facebook every day, people revving up like-minded people with sarcastic memes and commentary, with little to no actual content.
  17. sokar

    sokar Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 30, 2011
    Good thread WT. I have lurked on 43 Rumors since the EP1 days, and the level of posts has deteriorated significantly. It seemed like it happened quickly and now there is no stopping the flaming and downright nasty, antagonizing nature of some posters. Its a real shame.

    This site has remained constant for a long period and hopefully it will remain civil and / or educational for all members, regardless of experience with photography.
  18. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    I have a theory. If you are a really mean annoying person, where else can you have a conversation except on an online forum?
  19. Dalton

    Dalton Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 24, 2010
    Portland, Oregon USA
    Dan Ferrall
    Hard to decide what the value of culture is...

    I am trying to figure out what value in the blending of cultures and the gains and losses are likely to be. There are some things in some cultures which seem so revolting as to be considered inhumane. Just look at what women are subject to in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, and many other countries where women are treated as less than men within the culture. There are certain hand gestures which might be made unintentionally by a person from a different country (culture) in a country being visited by a person which could be "culturally" intolerable by the "culture" being visited. There are many wonderful traditions in various cultures including dance, song, clothing, and even some styles of discussion (humor, satire, and more). Culture identity can at times be something that causes one group to believe that it has a certain superiority over other groups. Pride (in a certain culture) can override the ability to perceive value in adopting change even when the change is offering long overdue equal value (and protection) to subgroups (racial minorities, women, gay men and women, children, and more) within the culture.

    Didn't mean to hijack a perfectly good thread...Culture...the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  20. rklepper

    rklepper Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 19, 2012
    Iowa, USA
    I think is a larger issue, one that runs to the very core of society. We have created a society where each individuals thoughts, rights, issues, etc.. are at the core of everything. When each thinks that way then discourse is going to follow and trends in the way that we see, not only on forums, but also on Facebook, in "real" life and so on.
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