Thailand Message Board Behavior
I think people underrate just how big internet message boards are. People know that Facebook and Twitter are important, but because message boards are spread out among tens of thousands of url’s, their impact is overlooked. I think they’re an important part of the modern internet culture we have today. Chances are that you have either participated in a message board or at least view them from time to time. Google apparently loves them, as they come up high in the search rankings of many big time keywords. You can talk on Facebook and Twitter, but the anonymity of the internet forum let’s people discuss topics more freely and without consequence. There is a place for them, and it seems that there always will be. And in terms of Thailand information for foreigners, the message boards were really the only internet resource we had for quite some time. A forum where Westerners can bond and share tips and experiences to help one in another in a foreign country – sounds perfect! Well it was never actually close to being perfect, as no message boards are. But, there was a time when a few Thailand related topic forums were certainly worth the time, and could often be helpful and entertaining. That time seems long gone.
What is the purpose of an internet message board and why do people bother?
You’d think it would be easy to answer these questions, especially for a guy like me, who has indeed participated in some forums. But I have to admit, I’m struggling to find the right words! Can you learn something or meet interesting people? I suppose you can, but you can also be mislead and meet heinous people, so there’s that. Read through enough threads and enough comments, and you’re bound to come across some good insightful posts and some mean spirited troll posts. If you’re good at identifying which is which, you may actually get something out of reading them.
But what about actively posting on a forum? What possess people to do that? A moderator of a decent sized sports message board once told me that 80% of the people who regularly visit their site don’t actually post, they just read. And we get that reading forums could be relatively harmless if you’re good at ignoring the trash. But what actually makes a person pull the trigger and spend time writing out posts that are going to be judged, criticized, and made fun of? For me, it usually starts when you’re reading a thread, and you realize that you have something to offer the thread that is just too valuable not to post it. If only all posts were written under those same criteria! Unfortunately, that kind of careful and thoughtful posting phase doesn’t last long for most. It usually doesn’t take very long to go into the phase where you post 100 times per day, and post whatever insane and hateful thoughts enter your head. Before you know it, you go from innocently wanting to share your insight, to actually feeling homicidal! Why do people bother at that point? Addiction, compulsion, and the need to one up your rivals.
And back to the Thailand boards
I’m not naming names here, and it wouldn’t change anything if I did. In most situations, it’s not the fault of the people running the boards. If you get too strict, people call you a board Nazi and everyone leaves forever. If you let it be a free for all, it’ll be page after page of people fighting about whose Father would win in a fist fight and whose high school girlfriend gave better bj’s. The board operators really can’t win, they just have to hope that they get a decent group of thoughtful posters, who stay despite the trolls who exist to annoy them into oblivion. But even with all of the challenges, for many years the Thailand forums ran smooth enough, and there a few thousand people posting her day between a few different sites. There were horrible posts of course, but there were enough good ones to balance things out. I don’t think that’s the case anymore, and it’s sad.
I checked out a long time ago, just couldn’t take it. But I come back to read a few threads once in a while just to try and stay on top of things and see what other people are thinking about relevant topics to me. Things had been getting worse for the past couple of years, as the condescending, trolling, and judgmental comments were beginning to outnumber the others. But there was still some glimmer of decency…until Martial Law! When Thailand declared Martial law, all hell broke loose on the boards, and I think the good and decent posters out there finally lost their battle. It was amazing to see so many Western foreigners pick sides in Thailand’s political issues, and then defend those sides so vehemently. The fights on these issues were insane, and like a cancer, they started spreading into other more healthy topics. So even if you knew better than to go into threads about the political issues, there really was no safe cover. When you read a thread that was supposed to be about some new visa issue, and by the middle of the first page people have already fought about their home countries, their view on Thailand, their personal finances, and their family values – that’s when you know the inmates have took control of the asylum.
It got so bad that I think good decent people felt compelled to make the choice between: 1) leaving forever and 2) fighting the horrible trolls. The only problem with that is that neither option does any good. Quality boards are good mostly because they have quality posters. So when their best posters leave, it’s a crushing blow. And as far as fighting the trolls go, that is a lost cause. The trolls want you to fight them, that is their main objective. When you fight them two things happen: 1) They win and 2) You have just become a troll yourself. I think the Thailand forums just went through a vicious cycle of this. Maybe it was bound to happen sooner or later anyway, but Marshall Law and the Coup really kicked things into gear.
How bad can it be?
It’s bad, really disgustingly bad. It used to be that one out of a hundred posts would make you want to puke, now it’s one out of 5! You can’t get out of most threads without someone pretending to be very rich and someone calling everyone else poor. The judgmental and bickering comments used to be among the on-topic posts. Now the on-topic posts are a rarity. People are so much more extreme now, you literally feel yourself losing sanity as you read through the pages. Every 10 posts or so, someone tries to sum up another posters entire life with a couple of ridiculously offensive judgments’. And it starts to go back and forth, as people talk about how smart and rich they are, and how stupid and poor everyone else is. IT’s like 90% of the posts are rooted by some deep insecurity and personality disorder.
I don’t know! I’ll never change my opinion that the internet forum can and does have some value. They all seem to have more of a hateful tone than they did 5 or 10 years ago, but as long as they’re not completely over the edge (like some of the Thailand ones have become), they can remain worthwhile. For Thailand related topics, and for the existing ones out there, maybe they’re just cycling through the worst of things. Maybe the trolls will calm down when there are less people for them to troll, and when some of the big topical issues have calmed down. I’ve seen boards that have a thumbs up and a thumbs down button, and I’ve seen it work pretty well. It makes people strive to be better posters. I’d like to see a feature like that installed in one of the Thailand boards. Of course, the trolls will try to find a way to take advantage of that too, but I think it’ll do more good than bad. And I’d like to see some of the board operators plead with the posters. It’s one thing to just remove a post or ban someone, which has a short sighted impact. But if they would more actively speak up about board civility with a “we’re all better than this nasty behavior” tone, I think they might get somewhere. They can’t just let it keep going in the same direction, can they?