There’s something very strange that goes on in many travel and expat forums, and sometimes it’s very hard to figure out what motivates people. Having been on the road in Asia for over two years now, I’ve had some great experiences when researching topics or asking questions on expat forums, but I’ve also been brought nearly to the point where I’m ready to swear off the internet based on what I’ve seen on some of them.
I’m sure there are many more examples of these extremes on various travel and expat forums, but this is mainly a bit of a rant about two in particular, and an open question to see if others have noticed similar things. Lonely Planet’s infamous Thorn Tree forums can be fantastic as long as you can avoid the many permenent trolls who seem to be stationed there, which is difficult. Perhaps worse is…
Hostility on thaivisa.com
In 2010 I lived for 3 months in Bangkok and another 2 months in Chiang Mai, and unsurprisingly I had many questions about finding an apartment and finding many other things while I was there. Unfortunately, thaivisa.com is by far the busiest such forum for the country so it’s the best source of information. The problem is that many topics seem to be dominated by bitter and spiteful expats who appear to spend 16 hours each day on the boards, sometimes insulting newcomers and other times giving them incorrect information.
It’s true that some people ask simple questions that have been answered over and over on the boards, so it’s understandable when someone will reply that they should have searched before posting. But what I’m referring to is far worse.
Here’s a simulated thread that demonstrates some of the people you’ll likely encounter on those boards:
(New thread by forum newcomer) – Hiking sandals in Bangkok?
Q: Where can I find sturdy sports sandals in Bangkok to use on hiking trails?
A1: You should always hike in boots not sandals. Don’t be stupid.
A2: There are no places in Bangkok with hiking sandals so you should bring them from home.
A3: If there was a place with hiking sandals the government here would have shut them down or they’d rip you off for sure.
A4: Why would anyone hike in sandals?
A5: Hey (A3 person), if the government shut them down they’d just sell all the inventory to some other crook who would open it up somewhere else. Ha ha ha.
A6: There’s a place that sells good hiking sandals for cheap at the MBK mall on the 6th floor near the escalators. Just got some there recently. Good luck.
Have you seen threads like the one above? Especially in Thailand, there seems to be a large group of people (all guys) who spend their days scanning for new topics, only so they can insult the submitter or give out completely incorrect information or use it to complain about the country or make inside jokes with other bitter forum regulars.
I’ve heard some people say that these people are doing it to try to discourage new people from moving there by making it seem unfriendly, but I can’t accept that anyone would think this was a productive use of their time. My own guess is that there are a lot of people with very little joy in their lives and they can spread their unhappiness by being an active “expert” in the one thing they have left.
The Scorn Tree
At least thaivisa.com is confined to one country, but the Lonely Planet boards are for the whole world, and they are associated with the premiere independent guidebook company so it’s extra frustrating that the community is similarly filled with trolls.
A guy I know had a question about the consequences of overstaying a Schengen Visa of 90 days, so he made the mistake of asking on the LP boards. Within a few hours he was blasted and made fun of by many different board regulars who seem to be taking turns trying to amuse themselves and the other regulars at his expense. I find it kind of amazing that so many people have so much negative energy that they’d go out of their way to write a long answer calling the guy an idiot instead of a shorter answer that actually answers the question in a helpful way.
It’s sad because forums like the ones above are often the best, if not the only, way of getting up to date information from so-called experts about these destinations, so they do provide great utility. I’m sure this sort of thing frightens many people away from using the boards themselves because there’s a good chance that some people are going to unload on you or give you wrong information along the way.
Has anyone else noticed this?
Anyone else with experiences like this on the forums listed, or are there others that are as bad or worse? I find it to be a strange phenomenon that is weirdly common out there.