I've always tried to avoid "communities". They're impersonal, too varied to be stable, and so full of those struggling to stand out that personality wars happen.
I've kept my friend base small for a good reason: quality. Quality comes in teeny tiny bunches.
I recently decided to branch out, join some online writing groups, see what the rest of the world looks like. I very much enjoyed feeling like I belonged to something again since I've stayed home for almost five years now raising small children. But it didn't take long before the "community" atmosphere grew hostile. Arguments and hurt feelings arose, secrets and lies were tossed around like confetti, email whispers were passed from one reader to the next like the juiciest snacks. There were mutinies.
I kept quiet. Then I tried to publicly raise my hand today and speak out for an unfortunate mutineer; I got cornered and told to watch myself. Not a friendly bunch after all. And I'm not comfortable with being the center of negative attention. A little cyber brawl can leave me feeling like celebrities when magazines publish their "fat" pictures, like Jessica Simpson when Tony broke up with her "publicly", or like a sumo wrestler with his "pants" down.
I've seen this in the workplace many times. Put a large group of people in the same room and factions occur, sides are taken, differences arise and hands get dirty. It's the nature of the human animal. There will always be those little kids who want to gather around to watch a "friend" get her butt beat. I've never understood it. I've always kept my mouth shut, stayed out of it. Until today.
My remarks regarding the mutineer? I wanted to stand up in her defense. My words were benign to me, but maybe not for those who don't have a clean conscience. It's not a pretty sight - the argument or "discussion" glowing before you in pixels. It's there for everyone to see. One lad who felt insulted tends to write blogs about cutting the fingertips off the women he hates - that and worse before he finally kills them. Hmmm.... I'd like to keep my fingertips please. We don't really know WHO we're dealing with in cyber world. I apologized for not being more ambiguous, or for being too ambiguous. I'm not sure which anymore.
I'm not fond of the lack of intimacy in a large group, especially online. In my personal life I tend to branch off to a tiny nest out of the way, hidden as well as possible in a dense fold of leaves among like minds. There aren't many birds like me, and sometimes it gets lonely in our remote part of the tree, but I tell you what, we don't sing just to hear the sound of our own voices. And when the economy gets rough, we share our worms.