GTA Online is an immensely popular multiplayer game, however it has gained some measure of negative reputation due to the general behavior of the community. We're talking about a game that is still selling insanely well almost 4 years after initial release, having recently broken 75 million shipped copies - with that many players, of course there will be some bad apples, right? Thing is, as far as the internet is concerned, the game has one of the worst communities second only to League of Legends.
Why So Many?
Now, there are two things we need to consider here. First of all, there is a reason for this effect, and second of all, it's actually really easy to avoid. So it's not like this is reason enough to give up on GTA Online. We know the griefers can be more than just frustrating by causing actual, real monetary damage, but there are ways to get together with amicable players and have a good time. This is, after all, a game where saying hello will get you shot.
Before we get into this, let's remember for a moment that no multiplayer game is free of asshats. Everywhere you go, there will be a few players who get their kicks out of messing with others incessantly, going out of their way to piss on your parade. Depending on game, there will be fewer or more of them around, since not all environments lend themselves to low-effort trolling. Some games actually require you to put some work into being a dick.
Countless terms for the undesirables of gaming have cropped up across genres. Campers, griefers, trolls, and many game-specific terms are floating around out there, but they all come down to the same meaning. GTA Online is no different in this regard. However it stands out from the ground by virtue of the perceived ratio of griefers to legitimate players. Many players will say that Online has an unusually large amount of assholes running around. Some even claim it has the worst community in gaming.
Now, there are a handful of reasons for this. While there are exceptions to every rule, it's true more often than not that hardcore players have a lower tendency to grief than casuals, and the latter group makes up the vast majority of GTA Online's playerbase. Hence the generally larger chunk of players who tend to grief.
The immense popularity of the game is also to blame for this phenomenon. With this many players in the game, every kind of personality will be encountered more times. There are more people sharing stories about their experiences on various community boards and sites, and if we actually take the time to tally things up, the stories about negative player interactions aren't present in such overwhelming numbers comparatively. It's just that these are the ones we notice, the ones we remember, and thus we feel there are more of them.
Don't get us wrong, this doesn't mean that the GTA Online community isn't actually as dangerous as it's made out to be, because it is. Pretty much every public lobby will have at least one griefer in it, and that's if you're lucky. With the recent update removing completion restrictions from heist vehicles, people can buy a Hydra without completing the EMP set-up mission of the Humane Labs heist, so a hell of a lot more of them are in the air.
Griefers will be killing you when you're driving around, when you try to deliver vehicles or crates, when you're standing around on a corner somewhere, when you're doing your dailies, when you're mucking about on your phone, when you AFK to take a piss or the exact moment that you spawn. They will abuse the passive system to get away and prevent you from retaliating. They will ruin your gaming session.
There isn't much use trying to go after them and get revenge, since if you succeed, they'll just switch lobbies and continue doing the same thing to some other schmuck. You can't ignore them and move on since they'll just continue doing it until they provoke a reaction. If you jump lobbies, you'll just encounter another griefer. If you keep jumping lobbies, you'll get a fine helping of GTA Online's loading screen art but not much else.
We did lead into this article say that there is an effective method to avoid these kinds of players. The straightforward methods most of you likely thought about are using passive mode or playing in private lobbies, however both of these methods present issues of their own. There are a number of activities in GTA Online, notably the most lucrative ones such as CEO work, which cannot be done in private lobbies, and doing them disables passive mode as well, leaving you easy pickings for a griefer.
Public Lobby Alone
One method which doesn't have these downsides is getting into a public lobby alone. Depending on how stable - or unstable - your internet connection is, this might be happening anyway on its own. There is a way to induce it, though, which is described in this handy guide. The end result is a public lobby where you're the only player, meaning none of the private restrictions, but you're free of any griefers.
When it comes to Import/Export, purposefully lagging yourself into a public lobby where you're the only player isn't that big a help either, since that means that there will be significantly larger NPC opposition - a lesson Rockstar learned after so many players used the method to deliver crates undisturbed. This way the repair cost on the cars you source and deliver will be significantly higher, cutting you out of a lot of profits - not to mention some people play GTA Online for the "online" component, thus playing solo kinda defeats the purpose.
Join a Crew
In this case, the best thing you can do is join a crew of friendly players who enforce strict rules in their lobbies preventing griefing. Many such communities have sprung up among GTA Online's players, but comparatively few people go looking for them. Here, the players usually help each other out and only engage in PvP when it's organized on common terms. They have members dedicated to the role of law enforcement, hunting down any stray griefer that finds their way into a public lobby dominated by the crew in question. Crewmembers will invite you to specific lobbies where they make up the majority of the population to make this work.
Find Friendly Lobbies
Depending on platform, you have various communities to help you out. PC players can go check GTA Cartel, Xbox players are welcome at Peaceful CEO while PS4 players can join CEO Friendly. There are alternatives on all platforms, but these are the three largest and most active of the crews which promote friendly, co-op play and enforce lobby rules.
GTA Online's open public lobbies are lawless, and while that seems to fit the subject of the game quite well, the various systems in place can make it an oppressive kind of lawless instead of the wacky fun kind of lawless that we've all come to expect from the GTA franchise. Sure, we want crime, weapons, explosions, murder, fighter jets, theft and more, but we want to have fun while engaging in all of this too.