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In this age of modern technology, information has never been more readily available and at our fingertips. There have been forums around for many years for all sorts of music-related topics. TheGearPage.net, TDPRI, DIY forums for learning to build pedals to name just a very few of the more popular forums out there that people have been frequenting for years. Now the newest evolution is the creation of guitar groups on Facebook (one of which we created and maintain). If you can't find information regarding a question or if you're trying to find a solution to an issue, there are a plethora of resources to choose from to share experiences and ask questions to a group of players of all skill levels from around the world.
These resources have helped so many people gain a wealth of knowledge, along with making new friends in the process. That's the intended goal of guitar groups, is sharing and coming together over our favorite instrument. However, there' s a flip side to such a great gathering place for musicians. Along with knowledge also comes a not so friendly side. I'm talking about trolls, bullies, jerks... whatever you want to call them. These are the people who judge (based on their own self-established authority) that a topic or picture is unworthy of the groups time, or if they don't agree with something that the group doesn't either or that the poster is a [insert vulgar adjective and noun here]. We've ALL been there and seen it happen. It's aggravating from anyone's perspective, but it's really disrespectful or hurtful sometimes to the people who are on the receiving end of the objection or trolling. If you have friends or people who want to defend the receiver, it grows out of hand VERY quickly.
This scenario has had me thinking a lot recently, and wondering WHY people feel they have any right to criticize or put down another person for wanting to learn or share something. TONE IS LITERALLY ONE OF THE MOST SUBJECTIVE THINGS IN THE WORLD. Nobody is right, nobody is wrong. It's whatever makes the player happy in their own chase for tone...there are no rules. Yes, there are common practices, but if players feel the need to switch it up and they dig it, then go for it. Nobody should be harassed or belittled for getting enjoyment out of their gear. So what if someone doesn't like relics or thinks Dumble amps suck, or they love Joyo pedals and think any pedal over $50 is a ripoff? There's a nice way to put it without being a jerk about it. Respect and tactfulness are lost arts these days.
What's the deal then? Why are people so quick to turn a friendly conversation into an all out war with words on a subject that's so subjective and different for everyone? The truth is we'll never know. Maybe they're just having a bad day (which we're all entitled to) and it's just the wrong place at the wrong time and that thread sets them off. That doesn't make it right, but it happens. Maybe it's jealousy? Unfortunately this is part of it as well, and with different incomes and lifestyles comes different opportunities for gear that won't always be available for everyone. There still should be no animosity over it, that's just the way the world is in all walks of life, certainly not just gear. What each person does with their own money is their prerogative, but not everyone sees that the same way.
So how do we combat this? Number one advice (you probably already know it) is don't feed the trolls. Getting angry and quickly responding usually escalates and feeds into their destructive behavior. Ignoring rude comments as if they don't exist doesn't feed into whatever trip their on, and it will quickly fade into the sea of comments. Another way we handle ridiculous comments on YouTube or Facebook (which any company gets on a regular basis, you'd be amazed at some of them) is to just kill them with kindness. A simple "Thanks!" or "Cool, thanks for the input" ends the conversation by taking the high road. Either way, meeting negativity with more negativity won't solve the problem, and it usually just adds fuel to the fire. Following the old saying of "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" is a simple way to approach it, and that's how most people normally operate. If the average person isn't into a thread, they move on to another that they are into.
If you see someone being bullied or a troll bringing a thread down, take the time to let an admin of the group/forum know what's going on. The end goal is to keep these great places of knowledge thriving and positive, and even a quick message can keep a bad apple from ruining the bunch.