Travel Forums can be great places. You need a tip on where to go in a particular country, where to stay, or just want general information they are the place to go for the most up-to-date information. My favorite is Lonely Planet’s Thorntree forum; it gets the most traffic and you can be assured of an answer to even the weirdest or most specific question within a short period of time.
As a blogger, besides being a treasure trove of information, forums are a great place to bring traffic to your site. Posting on forums – where you answer a question and include a link to your site – is the easiest way to actively bring “real” people to your site (“real” people meaning those outside the blogging community). You want real people; they take their time on your site and give you the best feedback. Nothing is more rewarding to a blogger.
On the flip side, forums bring out all the uglies that permeate much of news and social media these days; the ones who want to spout hatred, create conflict, or just have it in mind that they want to ruin everything for everyone else. Others are just know-it-alls, people who use news/social media as their pulpit and who shoot down anyone they don’t agree with.
This post is meant primarily for people who enter travel forums, some for the first time, in the hopes of getting or sharing information in a positive way. It is also for other bloggers who want to use forums to boost their traffic. I’ll highlight some of the uglies that they’ll encounter and how I personally deal with it. This post is also directed at the uglies. If you read this you may come to the realization that you fit in one of the categories listed below. If so maybe the following will open your eyes to how you may be perceived and you may want to re-think how you interact with others. My point in all this is that there is no reason why travel forums can’t be a positive experience for everyone. OK, maybe that’s being overly optimistic.
I’ll start off by saying that about 80% of interaction on travel forums is positive. There are a lot of helpful people out there who have good intentions and generously take the time Sonavel to dispense great travel information. The remaining 20% of interaction is either negative or unhelpful, ranging from snarky comments to misleading information to outright abuse. It might be the minority, but it is the people behind these interactions that give forums (and not just travel forums) a bad name.
Below are the typical “Uglies” that I’ve encountered on travel forums. Note that uglies are not black and white and that their lines blur and intersect. But, generally speaking, they fall into these 6 categories.
1) Trolls. The troll just looks for trouble, they can’t say anything good about anything/anyone, will point out anything you have to say as “stupid” and make comments designed to get under your skin. The origin of “troll” dates back to 1610 from the Norse word meaning giant or demon and evokes the trolls of Scandinavian folklore where they are characterized as beings bent on mischief and wickedness. Today’s internet trolls however are quite simple minded, easy to spot, and are even more easily remedied (more on that later). Sometimes though they morph into other categories and are not so identifiable.
An example of a Troll was a guy who pointed out to me that I had misspelled Granada a few times in one of my posts. I had spelled it as Grenada. “Grenada is an island in the Caribbean that the US bombed in the 80′s” he was nice enough to tell me. He then continued on about other “inaccuracies” on my blog and lambasted me for my “self-aggrandizing” blog.
2) The Village Idiot. A different kind of Troll, they’ll post questions such as “What should I see in Canada?” or “Where is the cheapest place to pick up prostitutes in Thailand?”. These posts end up soliciting a lot of angry or stupid responses; people telling him to buy a guide, do research, or generally go to hell. The Village Idiot has succeeded, he’s gotten under everyone’s skin and has brought everyone down to his level.
3) Haters. They hate other travelers, the principle reason being that you are ruining it for them. Some may be backpackers, others might be expats, but what they have in common is a belief that you’re spending too much money and/or ruining the people or places by just being there (ignoring that they themselves are not natives). They also think that you don’t know a country unless you’re not living at subsistence level “like the locals”. I recently had one tell me that I was a “luxury traveler” (yes, my $50 hotel room) and therefore it was “silly” to make social commentary on the country in which he had retired. I replied, asking him if I was supposed to spend my vacation in a mud hut and if doing so would better qualify me to make social commentary? I think it was the same guy who wrote that I had no interest in culture, I just wanted to take my “pretty pictures” and go home.
4) The Expat Expert. These expats know it all and have an opinion on everything and will rip the casual commenter apart with their detailed stories of everyday life in their little slice of heaven/hell. They can’t see the forest for the trees and will have a story to offset any opinion to the contrary. They often have too much time on their hands and grow, morphing into the next category.