Why do people downvote when someone says they are learning a new language? It is so stupid. People should be encouraging not discouraging.
Folks can downvote for all sorts of reasons. One of which can be that if a person posts on the forums "hey I'm learning a new language" without anything meaningful and useful to the community at large, downvoting will make that post disappear quickly.
Having a bunch of "chat" type posts will flood the forums and hide others' posts who are asking language help or help in navigating the website, or otherwise require actual answers/discussion rather than a simple "yay you!" sort of response.
DL forums aren't really much for chatting on - that should be kept to individual streams of your friends/followers. Even celebratory posts ("I got a 100-day streak", "I finished my tree" etc., etc.) aren't really useful to the community, so they can get downvoted for that, too.
Downvoting can be taken advantage off. People use it to be rude...but some posts are useless and dumb. I think we all should think before we just downvote someone!
What I downvote: inane 'dare' type chatter between different pupils of a single teacher who are obviously forced to be here; idiots pretending to be US politicians and thinking themselves hilarious (we're not all American and the US president is no longer even the 2nd most powerful person on Earth according to Forbes, so no reason we should all be interested) - try 4Chan instead; contests (not because of what they are but because they seem to believe they have a superior right to be in the forum)
Many others will downvote repetitive posting (whether by a single user or not), for example - if there's a new "I want Latin" post. I don't downvote these unless there are 2 or 3 in the same day - it wouldn't take much effort to see someone else has just posted the same thing, but I don't think users should be forced to wade through days and days of posts to check if anything similar has been posted recently. Also the search function is a bit iffy. It is likely the people who downvote this that downvote the "Hello" and "I'm learning a new language" posts. They are clutter, but they are harmless clutter.
As for the contests - I think there should be a separate forum for them; they are constantly appearing, claiming to be related to some children's tv show or other and then disappearing. When one person sees one, everyone thinks they should create the same. They become highly annoying for other users. My main reason for checking the forums is I am waiting for 2 very specific announcements and I don't want to miss them in a sea of spam. It's particularly annoying when these contests are posted under "troubleshooting".
As such, it would probably be a very good idea to add some new forums to Duolingo, off the top of my head: 1) Official announcements 2) Contests 3) Anything goes - where there's no downvote button (but there's a report abuse button) 4) A discuss in your target language forum (one per language) where you must use your target language, but you can talk about anything you like.
and probably more
Then we could subscribe to what we are interested in and ignore all the rest of the junk.
I agree. The world is such a frightening place right now; why can't we all just try and get along? Small things matter.