Writing a State of The Den has always been a sporadic exercise to help keep things in order, and remind everyone what makes this community worthwhile. It’s important to be reminded of you are, of who we are, because when there’s a lot of noise, we sometimes lose our bearings. We lose ourselves. (It still amazes me how frequently people still interpret “tone” through text).
With a rise in unnecessary personal attacks, and on the tails of yet another disappointing Detroit Lions season (those two things are rarely mutually exclusive), it’s pertinent to re-state a few things.
The Den has been around, in one form or another, since 2000. You could make the case for 1998, but who’s counting? In that time, we’ve witnessed tremendous growth in an online community that stuck with one another through various technical changes, and different collections of users that would come and leave. Some even passed away, like spike804, who wrote the forum tagline you can read atop the forum.
Really, the only things that haven’t changed are the fact we still follow this maddening franchise, and the fact this maddening franchise continues to lose.
So what is The Den for, anyway? Who is it for? It’s a place for banter. It’s a place for predictions. It’s a place to spread (but not start) rumors. It’s a place for dialogue. It’s a place for community. But those last two don’t mean a whole lot if we’re complete assholes to one another. If we’re talking at each other, and not to each other, and being so brave that we’re condescending to one another on an online message board (so brave!), then this whole experiment is pointless.
We might as well shut it down.
Wouldn’t that be the logical conclusion?
I’d being lying if I said I didn’t consider it. I re-started the forum at the request of a handful of users. It can go away just as quickly. That isn’t a threat, it’s simply the logical progression of #ThisIsWhyWeCantHaveNiceThings.
So what do we do? I’m going to recommend a handful of things that all of us (myself included) can all do to generate a healthier community.
Take a deep breath. This is an internet message board, in which people discuss a particular topic. This topic, the Detroit Lions, is a billion dollar enterprise and its employees are multi-million dollar athletes that – and as someone who was a credentialed member of the media can tell you – doesn’t care as much as you do. With little exception, they don’t lurk within online forums and argue whether or not the head coach should be fired, or if the QB is overpaid, or if they should have spent the last pick on an OT and not a TE.
This community is only as good as how you respond to the next post. There’s going to be things that you disagree with. There’s going to be takes that you find obnoxious or ridiculous. And, this might surprise some of you: you’re probably not going to change anyone’s mind by flaming them. At no point in the history of internet-as-a-medium has one user responded to another, “Shit, you know what? That’s a good point. I’m going to change my opinion entirely. Thank you, sir, for enlightening me with such a profound take, and the insult was just derogatory enough to convince me.” If you participate in flamewars, or start them, or even respond with a shitty, asinine remark, it makes this place worse for it. And if that’s all you’re contributing, why are you here? Why take the trouble to sign up for an account and spend endless hours? How miserable of a person does one have to be?
Mind the endgame. Sometimes I wonder what is the intent of this little slice of web. Seriously, think on this for a moment. We already know how bad things can get if we are the worst team in the history of the league; 0-16 happened. We lived through it. But if the Lions go 16-0 and win the Super Bowl, does this forum … end? “We did it! Time to close up shop. See everyone in the next life!” Do we pat ourselves on the back for the vibes we contributed to the franchise winning its first championship in the modern era? No. Nothing ends. Because the point isn’t whether the Lions win or lose, that’s merely a subtopic. The point is us. The community. The gathering of fans to discuss something we’re passionate about. That’s the whole game.
Look, passion can manifest in unhealthy ways. I’m no different, and have made mistakes on this forum myself. But if you target different users, or even different topics, with negativity, you’re just planting landmines that detract from the entire point of the community.
I don’t know what in the hell is next for this franchise. I really don’t. 2019 was a shitshow. We can all agree on that, regardless of what got us there. But while we cannot control the team, we can control ourselves; we can do a better job of policing each other. Instead of antagonizing another user, offer correction as a community. The moderators do a great job of this, but they’re not babysitters. This community is only going to be as good as you guys want it to be. So while our team of choice might be a colossal waste of time and energy, this forum doesn’t need to be.
Let me know if you have any questions in the responses.
PS – If there are users you just cannot simply tolerate, there’s a handy IGNORE function that you all previously begged for. Use it.