Everyday Ethics

Everyday Ethics

Is Craigslist Who We Really Are?

Raise your hand if you’re familiar with  Chances are, there’s one that serves your community.  And it’s extremely handy for job listings, housing, dating, selling your old crap or buying new old crap.

Really, it’s ingenious. 
But why’s it also so darn discouraging?  As great as it is for selling your car or finding a roommate, it’s also astonishingly chock-full of scam artists, sleaze balls and assorted other unsavory elements – from the criminal to the just plain kinky.
Honestly, what Craigslist says about us humans as a whole really makes me shake my head. Take just a few moments to peruse the ‘services’ offered or the ‘casual encounters’ section, and your eyes may pop. Tales also abound of robbery schemes set up through the site, rip-offs, hook-ups, prostitution and etc.  The bigotry, ignorance, and, heck, just generally appalling grammar casually displayed on some of the discussion forums (like ‘rants and raves’) will make you want to flee to Timbuktu and change your name – unless they’ve already got a branch there too.  (So far as I know, CL hasn’t spread to Mali yet.)
In my own experience buying and selling stuff, I’ve seen just how thoughtlessly people behave toward one another when their only connection is through the internet.  I discussed this issue before in my post about blog commenting courtesy, but I believe it bears another mention.
Let me give an example: 


I’ve sold a few pieces of furniture through the site.  I’ve bought a couple too.  Sometimes my experiences were just fine. People were who they said they were and their items for sale were as described.  But I’ve also had several scam artists approach me, as well as receiving more rude, abrupt, garbled emails than I imagined possible.  Several people have made appointments to view items for sale, and then simply not shown up, not called, and not emailed to explain why they left me waiting all day long when I could have been out and about.
And the dating horror stories my friends have told!  Oy.  The less said about these experiences, the better.
So I’m just wondering… does Craigslist really represent our true natures?  If it does, I’m really, really saddened.
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posted December 18, 2009 at 10:43 am

I haven’t used Craigslist much, but I went on a Freecycle binge during the summer, and really fell in love with it. Great way to get rid of excess stuff without feeling guilty about landfills etc., and you meet a lot of really nice people.

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posted December 18, 2009 at 11:22 am

I’m going through the same thing right now, trying to sell a TV through Craigslist. And you’re right–some people totally suck. They say they’re coming to get it and then don’t. I found a roomate through the site who was a HORRIBLE. But then I have to remember–I got my job through Craigslist so at least one positive thing has come out of it.

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posted December 18, 2009 at 7:13 pm

I think you’re right about the problems with Craiglist. I’m actually trying to solve some of them with the application I’ve been making for searching Craigslist.
I just finished a feature that helps remove some of the sliminess from communicating with sellers. Basically, when you contact sellers from my app (, your message gets sent from an obscured email address, just like craigslist does for sellers.
This helps in two ways. First, it eliminates spammy auto-replies that scammers use to target buyers. And second, when a real person does respond, my software geo-locates them based on their IP address and shows you where the message originated. That way you know you’re dealing with someone nearby and not in Nigeria.

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posted December 26, 2009 at 3:41 am

I agree, it’s a shame that so many people take advantage of others whenever they think they can. But overall Craigslist is a good thing.
We are all free however.
Bad people are free to do bad things, and good people are free to do good things.

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Rick Supplee

posted March 1, 2010 at 9:52 am

I must go to a different craigslist than you. I have sold a variety of things there and find the people friendly and often serious about buying what I have to offer. Granted, you could find some weird postings to explore, but I just stick to selling stuff and it works great.

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posted April 14, 2010 at 4:51 pm

I would say that is an example of postmodern ethics that are shaping how we interact and perceive others to be. The scam artists, sleaze balls and other people that one sees selling their services online may not be so fraudulent or wrong in the eyes of the one who posts the item for sale (though I agree there are numerous people that are trying to scam and defraud the unsuspecting public).
Ethics that we see practiced in sales online such as are not the same ethics practiced a hundred years ago by salesmen or even necessarily practiced by all societies around the world. Our nature and ethics in a postmodern society are being challenged and shaped to fit what you or I have been taught by those around us. This is called Character or Virtue Ethics. In this view Hollinger stated that, “…we develop moral virtue in a concrete community through the stories or narratives the community tells.”1 So what one person lists as junk on Craigslist may hold value to that person based on how they were taught value of possession while growing up, and therefore has a different opinion than when you or I read a particular description online that does not match the actual product.
I do not think that fraudulent sellers or people represent society’s true nature. I still think that at least from a Christian standpoint we can make healthy ethical choices that are derived from knowledge in God. This form of ethical decision making is called the Prescriptive Motif. In the Prescriptive Motif, Long states two forms to this as, “adherence to principles, such as ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ and adherence to codes, such as ‘Give a cup of cold water to whomever asks.’”2 If we treat others as we would want to be treated (such as giving a proper description on a sale item and asking for a fair price) then others hopefully will pick up on the honesty as well and do likewise. I feel though that we are seeing more of the deceptive nature of people because the Internet allows people to hide behind computers and not be held responsible for their actions.
So do not give up hope, and hopefully the next time you are looking for something online remember not everyone is trying to scam you.
Hollinger, Dennis P. Choosing the good: Christian ethics in a complex world. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002.
Dennis P. Hollinger, Choosing the good: Christian ethics in a complex world (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002), 46.
Dennis P. Hollinger, Choosing the good: Christian ethics in a complex world (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002), 135.

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posted June 18, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Pretty cool blog to read it at least as for me. I have a question, why don’t you add that post to social media? That might bring rather big traffic to this page.

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Avril Kuree

posted September 23, 2010 at 3:48 am

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People in general are better

posted December 9, 2010 at 8:52 pm

My guess is that no, craigslist is just an area where scam artists and hookers can flourish because there are few, they not representative of the general population. The simplicity, lack of rules and no-cost aspect of craigslist are what makes it attractive.
It’s like what a public park would be without any police patrols, you would expect illegal activity like drug dealing and prostitution to flourish there. And like the denizens of that hypothetical park, craigslist ad-placers do not represent a cross-section of the community.

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People in general are better

posted December 9, 2010 at 8:54 pm

I meant there are few RULES on craigslist.

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posted September 11, 2011 at 4:22 am

I have used Craigslist a few times ,it’s good

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