This is the kind of post which usually gets me in trouble with some people. Yet, it's the kind of post which has to be made. A topic which must be covered once in a while, in all of its frightening ugliness. It won't win me any friends, but it's the price I pay for telling you what's on my mind sometimes. I won't sugar coat it.
There is no nice way to say it: Some people who haunt the forums and online groups of the world are just assholes, who seem to take delight in trying to thwart the ideas of others.
No less than 5 of my friends have brought to my attention some rather unwarranted criticisms and attacks they have received on various Facebook user groups and forums when they brought up some "non-status quo" ideas on approaches to natural aquariums.
I've seen this stuff in the hobby for years, but I'm seeing it more and more now, as some of my friends are starting to share their efforts and new ideas in these spaces. No sooner are these ideas brought up than the "winged monkeys" who inhabit these spaces descend and commence their pointless and misguided attacks.
Yeah, there is a sad phenomenon which has emerged on hobby forums and groups in the past decade or so:
The continued emergence of...assholes.
Yup. You heard me.
Assholes. Jerks. Know-it-alls.
The real problem that we have with some people in the aquarium hobby is that they are just plain arrogant...And negative. And, well- shitheads. These people abound on forums and Facebook groups. People who believe that they have all the answers about everything, and that everyone else is a fool or a "sheep" or whatever...They're the masters of false bravado."
And the way they seem to rear their ugly pathetic heads is always the same.
Here's how it goes:
You share something on a forum or somewhere else online, and seemingly from no where, these people appear, and they're the first to tell you it's a stupid idea. They're the ones who jump all over your idea with negative feedback, ignorant "challenge" questions, and outdated or non sequitor assertions. They tell you why you can't do whatever it is you're doing. Now, lest you think I'm being a "snowflake" or overly sensitive, or whatever, I DO know what constructive criticism is-and this ain't it, folks!
These people seem to delight in telling you that what you're doing can't be done. They think they know everything, and they're damn afraid to have someone else come up with an idea, or worse- show some work- which challenges what they are comfortable with. So they lash out and attack.
These people are sad.
Some are flat-out assholes. They literally are the reason why the hobby sometimes faces high rates of attrition, or why progressive ideas which challenge the status quo are sometimes shot down in some quarters before they ever get off the ground. It's why many forums and groups simply are toxic sinkholes of ignorance and arrogance, rather than being great places to exchange experiences and ideas. The jerks are usually louder than the innovators in these places.
A lot of these awful people don't even have firsthand knowledge of what they are attacking, or come from a place of not even understanding the concept, intent, or methods behind the other person's idea. Rather, they make assumptions based on how the idea presented squares with what they know. Anything which deviates from that, in their view, is "nonsense"- or a "waste of time" (actual words used in a recent attack on a friend of mine, btw). It's almost like a reflex for them.
Their ignorance- and hubris- are staggering!
They're scared. And they feel better attacking other people to feed their damaged egos. It's painfully obvious. I feel sorry for them...although many are such jerks that it's tough to be compassionate for them, lol.
And the sad thing is that many of these people attack others based on ideas or information they personally have limited experience with.
Often, these people simply regurgitate second-hand information, which they see and hear all over the internet, and act as if they have been appointed as the guardians of sacred aquarium hobby knowledge that is somehow being "blasphemed" when new ideas are presented which may challenge the prevailing narrative on a subject.
Just be wary of these really arrogant people, who simply parrot what they hear online or elsewhere, with an air of undisputed authority. People who simply shit on anything which doesn't fit their narrative. Some people don't even read carefully what the other person is suggesting before they bring on the trash talk, making it painfully obvious to those who do that they don't have a clue what they are talking about!
It's a horrible thing.
We need to be much more open-minded as a hobby. To entertain all sorts of different ideas and orientations. We shouldn't simply accept all advice or ideas as "the gospel"- but we shouldn't outright trash anything without due consideration.
The bottom line is that you need to take all advice-from anyone-yeah, even ME- with a grain of salt. No one knows everything about aquarium keeping. No One... Regardless of their educational pedigree, or even regardless of how nice their tank looks.
However, you don't have to completely trash the other person, either.
Something to contemplate.
There are a lot of great people in the hobby who will support, consul, and join with you when you're trying new and exciting things. However, there are a smaller, but vocal minority of hobbyists who may be more destructive, and they require a bit of awareness on your part.
During the course of your aquarium keeping “career”, you will meet lots of different people who are also into fish. Many will offer advice- some welcome, and some unsolicited and not so welcome! I’ve noticed this since we've been in business, as well! People tend to come and “consult” with you, even if you’re not asking for it. It’s a good and bad aspect of aquarium keeping- fellow hobbyists are always willing to help. The problem is, some people are just not all that helpful, and can even prove detrimental to your enjoyment of the hobby! Some are just "keyboard warriors" looking for a fight.
The bottom line: You have to be downright careful about who you let into your home or aquarium “bubble” to “check out” your tanks and render advice. This is not rocket science, but in this social media-fueled, “everyone-knows-everything-because-of-Google” age, it’s pretty important to grasp.
I’ve actually classified the types of hobbyists who dispense advise and perhaps can make you feel bad, who you’ll run into now and again. They are, of course, generalizations, but they seem to be somewhat accurate, based on my experience.
2) The “Deviant”- Fortunately, this is not a hobbyist that you will encounter often- but they are out there. “Deviants” seem to have all of the cool ideas and talk a big game- and they’re lucky enough to get away with some less-than-smart decisions in their fishkeeping, so they are always willing to send you down directions that are risky, and very contrarian. Although I’m a big fan of doing things your own way...I’m less interested in doing things that someone else was lucky to simply get away with. If you find yourself continuously making bad moves every time a “Deviant” pays you a visit, best you steer clear of them!
3) The “Taunt”- This type of hobbyist never seems to let you live down your errors or mistakes: “Remember when you tried to keep all of those Marble Hatchetfishes in your Discus tank? How well did that go?” Don’t let these people pull you back to the mistakes you might have made. What are they doing that for? To help you better yourself, or to express their own insecurities? Everyone screws up in fishkeeping. If you’ve messed up, it simply means that you’ve learned how not to do something. Keep moving forward- you’re good.
4) The “Hater”- We all know a few, unfortunately. This is the type which prompted today's rant. These people lurk on forums and discussion boards, ready to strike. They want to be respected and admired by the fishkeeping community for having a great tank, etc., but don’t seem to want to do any of the work to get there. Rather, they simply want to put down the work being done by everyone else. These are decidedly negative folks, but they can sort of motivate you in a weird way. Just don’t be like them. Share ideas, successes, failures, and render help to others based upon your experience. Use these negative thinkers to be the “anti-Hater” in the aquarium world. We need more "anti-Haters!"
5) The “Instant Gratification Specialist”- Yup, the internet aquarium keeping community abounds with these people. They’re the ones who put up those crazy, mega-priced build threads” that leave everyone in awe, and some people even feeling bad that they are mere mortals. These people often have the stated goal of building a tank that gets named “Tank of the Century” or whatever, as if that offers some legitimacy and “cred” to their existence in the hobby.
I’m not hating on build threads that are started by genuinely excited hobbyists who want to learn and help others. This is a different breed of cat. “IGS” types seem to have very little patience for anything but instant gratification. This will be evident in the speed in which the tank seems to come together, and the outlandish purchases that are posted regularly in their build threads. These people want to be liked. They are “fun” to be around in that respect, but are oddly sad in others. Many of them want be part of something bigger- they just don’t know what. The reality is that many of these people would be awesome friends, embraced by fellow hobbyists if they would just put their heads- and hearts- in the right place.
6) The “Buzzkill”- Okay, everyone has seen this type of aquarist. These guys have a dark cloud following them, and seem to want to pull others into the cloud bank with them. A lot of them are extreme DIY-ers, who spend vast amounts of time and money trying to come up with fancy automated ways of doing the most basic of tasks, or trying to save a few bucks on stuff you'd normally pay for. When these things fail to do the job, they blame luck. Maybe they’re unlucky, but they are almost always possessed by a “Why is this happening to ME?” attitude. Many of them feel that the basics of aquarium husbandry just don’t apply to them, because they know a better way to do it.
“I don’t know why I’m having this algae issue. My automatic constant frozen food feeder and homemade fertilizer solution are working, but all of my parameters are off. The auto water conditioner/changer keeps sticking on me. And the computer that controls my RO/DI membrane assessment keeps telling me the water quality is fine. I’m at wit’s end.” It’s kind of hard to feel bad for these types, really. They seem to like to be in “Negative Land.” They must like the attention that the hobby community gives them. They may never change, because their arrogance won’t allow it. A pity, as they can offer a lot to the community with their skills.
Damn, the tone of this article is actually kind of dark and negative; I realize that.
You've just read my concise guide to the people you want to be aware of- or even avoid in the fishkeeping community- online or elsewhere. It's sad I had to write this. Sure, these are generalizations, and there are others, no doubt. However, this will kind of give you a more detailed warning than perhaps you might find elsewhere…Hopefully it can help you avoid wasting valuable life energy with people who really have nothing positive to offer, and help you enjoy your hobby even more.
Now, these are just some guy's (mine) assessments of archetypes that can be pains in the ass in the hobby. The real problem that we have with some people is that they are just plain arrogant...And negative. And, well- shitheads. Those people abound on forums and Facebook groups. People who believe that they have all the answers about everything.
However, don't shy away. Don't fail to share or experiment or progress in the hobby. Just learn to recognize when you're dealing with people who, because of their own issues, are not worth listening to.
As always, take any and all advise with a grain of salt. Have fun. Grow. Share. Avoid THOSE people whenever possible...
And Stay Wet, regardless.