I am no angel. I am bluntly honest and not very politically correct. My appearance does offend some people and I am stared at when I go out shopping. I am also polite, intelligent, open minded, not easily offended and I believe in proper behavior in all public areas physical or virtual. In other words, I believe that there is a time and a place for all language and behaviors.
I have been increasingly annoyed by the forum behavior at Etsy, mostly in the Etc. section. Look, I am a strong supporter of freedom of speech, but I really don't get why people feel it necessary to pepper their speech with all manner of profanities in a public space. I also do not get how people can be so comfortable discussing, lets say, sensitive topics where anyone could run across it. My daughters can't read yet, but when they can, I don't want to have to block Etsy because I don't know if the forums folks will behave.
Yesterday, Etsy instituted a "report this post" link in the forums as a way for people to more easily help keep the forums clean, organized and free from spam and other undesirable content. Immediately, the posts ran amok with dissent and "catch me if you can" behavior. They felt challenged by this and therefore resorted to the worst possible behavior. Here's the weird thing though, I couldn't bring myself to post a dissenting opinion. I was actually afraid of being called a Narc or something just because I don't want to see the F-bomb dropped in a forum title. When I saw the new feature, I thought, great, now it will be easy to catch the occasional spammer and people won't always be posting that "this is in the wrong section" and asking where admin is, they will just report the post, easy peasy, right? Apparently all some people see is a nefarious Big Brother plot.
What I don't think these people get, is that their language and behavior not only reflects on their stores, etsy and internet society in general, it reflects on themselves. Sure we all like to act raucous at times. There are few of us who haven't regretted something we said or did, but man, do they not realize that the typed word is permanent. It doesn't go away and you can't take it back. With every word you type, you are defining yourself to a public that has no other source of information about you. You are what you type. I've also noted that many of the most colorful personalities hardly ever make sales. I can't imagine that this is a mere coincidence.
This is not the first time people have hijacked this handmade community for conversations incongruous with the focus of the site and I'm sure it won't be the last time either. I've seen heated religious and political debates, as well as threads full of way too much personal information. Etsy was my very first forum experience and my lack of non-family friends in the real world has led me into many off-topic conversations, much the same way it did when I worked in retail. I guess the biggest difference is that, at a store, I see the customer and I know that they can hear me so we would adjust the conversation to be appropriate. Folks on the forums need to do the same thing, there are customers lurking everywhere and they are making purchases based on what they see.
While I'm known to let out a choice word or two on occasion, I never forget that profanity is the last resort of the unintelligent. I actually saw one person comment that we were adults and did not need babysitting and then proceed to type out a very offensive string of expletives much like a ten year old would when told not to curse. We are adults and I know that I would appreciate it if we all would act like adults.