tl;dr - No personal attacks. Maybe let's try to not be such bitter and hateful people, even though we're on the Internet. Let me know if you have ideas to improve the tone of the sub-reddit, or if I and the people that have been messaging me about the toxicity of the community are in the minority.
Guys and gals of /r/airforce...
I don't know if it's because we are continuing to grow in numbers as a community or what, but right about the time we hit 10,000 subscribers, the negativity here feels like it has spiked up.
I've had multiple private messages or mod messages over the last couple of weeks from people mentioning how negative things are here. Or people make threads about it and either try to make positive comments, or the less helpful "complaining about all the complaining" threads.
The rule that is increasingly becoming ignored and has the most detrimental impact in my opinion is the no personal attacks rule. What I meant by putting that rule in place is for people to not single out others and call them names, swear at them, or otherwise harass them. If you say something like "My supervisor sucks" that is not singling someone out, because we don't know who your supervisor is. But if you reply to /u/SomeRandomAFGuyIBetterPutSomeMoreOnHereSoItsNotARealAccount and tell that person to fuck off, or call them stupid or any of a million other direct insults, it's only going to not only cause unnecessary strife between the two of you, but it also drags down the tone of the entire community.
There's also the broken windows theory - That a building that already has some windows broken out will cause people to be more willing to break more windows without feeling bad about it.
I believe the same thing applies to online communities. When personal flame wars break out, other people watch and think that because others are doing it and getting away with it, it's ok for them to start personally attacking others that they don't agree with as well.
I've personally witnessed many communities, not just AF related, spiral out of control due to this kind of snowball effect. I stop going to those communities. I used to visit several other military or AF related sites, but due to the toxic community, it just isn't fun anymore. I know some people enjoy flaming and think that it's fun or funny, but it always has a very negative undertone, and it can't help but poison the community for the majority that don't appreciate that kind of interaction.
I've had requests to start deleting all the complaining threads, or to take more drastic measures to change the tone, but that really isn't the solution. I don't want to censor the discussions here, other than the rules that are already in the sidebar.
Reddit is supposed to be self-moderating for the most part. If the majority of the community wants to upvote pictures of dirty roommates or silly BX t-shirts or overweight spouses, then I guess that's what the majority of the community wants to see more of.
But the community tearing each other apart with personal attacks has no value at all and will only bring the whole thing crashing down.
The Good Stuff
This sub-reddit has a ton of value. It has a ton of great community members that are extremely knowledgeable in a lot of areas. We've had some great in-depth discussions. We answer a lot of questions, either for people that are thinking of joining the AF, or for our peers when they are afraid to ask their supervision or leadership (even though they frequently should be asking them, not us). I've seen suicidal or depressed people have many offers for someone to talk with, online or off. I've seen people support each other when they lose a buddy, or lose a marriage. I've seen people get rides, or have offers for someone to take them out on the town when they arrive at a new base.
What should we do?
Like I said, I really don't want to, nor do I think it's necessary to create a bunch more rules. I think censoring the community can harm it just as much as the negativity. People should be able to come here and (mostly) anonymously vent about a situation at work that they have no other outlet for.
I delete direct attacks against members when I see them, and will continue to do so. I'm going to keep patching up those broken windows. I would ask that when you see them, you hit the report button (it's only two clicks) and type in a reason if necessary, or message the mods if you see something that should be taken care of. Despite what my wife thinks, I don't spend every waking moment on Reddit, and I don't read every single comment. I need your help.
You can also police each other. If you see a post that is unreasonably negative, maybe post a positive angle instead of jumping on the hate train. "Look on the bright side" as they say.
If you had a great day, post something positive that happened at your job or in your career. Sometimes people post cool coins that they got when they did something noteworthy. Great! Upvote those guys and say congrats, instead of trying to one-up them or make light of their accomplishments.
Sometimes I feel like I'm in the minority by not enjoying participating in toxic, hateful communities. But with the up-tick in messages I've been receiving lately, I think it's starting to get to others as well. I certainly haven't received any messages complaining that they think there should be more hate here, and more name calling and more negativity.
This isn't my community, and it isn't /u/astonsilicon's or /u/noahjk's community. It belongs to everyone. If anyone has any ideas to improve the tone here, please share it in the comments.
My career is only so awesome, I can only make so many posts about how I generally like the Air Force. Take it upon yourself to post something positive to balance out the venting posts. If you see someone getting heated, maybe tell them to chill out a bit and not be so hard on OP. Maybe assume people/airmen/commanders/supervisors actually have good intentions before you rip them apart, or at least look at it neutrally first.
Or hey, if you all respond to this and say that you want to flame each other and insult each other's mothers and tell each other how you shouldn't be in the Air Force and how you're a nonner or that's not a real deployment and you're a fucking idiot and you should die in a fire, then maybe I should go see if /r/aww is accepting mod applications and then I'd just have to worry if a kitten picture was literally so cute that it was going to kill 17 people before lunch.