I've repeatedly watched as photographers battle it out over semantics, politics, and beliefs until finally an administrator in the forum comes along and deletes the entire thread. As the thread disappears, often the members who thought they had a right to bully their way through the argument, wind up being removed from the forum as well.
A few years ago I was following a thread on Linkedin in one of the discussion groups. A member of the group had a black-tie wedding coming up and threw a question out about what was appropriate attire, wondering if he could get by in a dark suit and not a tux.
The question was great and certainly appropriate. It was answered right away, but twelve days later the banter was still going on. The volley continued as two photographers argued their points about beach weddings versus the rest of the world, when the only answer that really mattered was to "dress appropriately". The question was answered right from the beginning, yet people wanted to keep giving input and it got emotional and ugly.
When things heat up in a forum I'm amazed at what happens next. Hiding behind the anonymity of their computer screens, there are always photographers who morph into trolls and bullies, insisting everyone buy in on their opinions.
Last week I had the same type of challenge in a forum I administrate. It got ugly because a couple of people wanted to play troll and simply didn't know how to behave, let alone communicate. Once a thread goes off track, there is absolutely NO WAY to get it back. We wound up deleting the thread and permanently removing the trolls.
So, here's what I wish we could all agree to and I'm including myself in this. It's an extension of the "Rules of Engagement" I've written about before and it's pretty simple.
- If the question has already been answered by at least three people, then don't bother to respond if you don't have anything new to contribute.
- Don't get hung up with semantics and the challenges of communicating via the written word. Too often we sound emotional when we don't mean to. Somebody throws out an inflammatory barb and it starts a sidebar battle that's unnecessary.
- Don't take the bait! If the conversation seems to be getting heated, just walk away.
- Don't write anything you wouldn't want to share with the world! Forums are available to everybody who can read. I've heard some truly sad and unethical stories about competitors who have shared information from a forum with another photographer's clients. I've also heard about clients who are in some of the forums and have been shocked by some of the comments from their own photographers. You don't have to sugar coat anything, just be professional when you comment. Remember, there are no erasers on the Internet!
- And as always, from good buddy, Levi Sim..."Act as if your grandmother is watching you!"
Don't get me wrong, I love forum/group discussions. The Internet is a remarkable tool and helps so many photographers every day, but there's no telling how much stronger we could all become if we were simply more selective when commenting in any group.
The endless volleys that come up over and again would rarely happen if we were all together in one room talking to each other.
“Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it.”