On-line Community – “a virtual community is defined as an aggregation of individuals or business partners who interact around a shared interest, where the interaction is at least partially supported or mediated by technology (or both), and guided by some protocols or norms” (teligent.com/
I came to blogging quite late on in life. Chat rooms were not really my thing, and writing reminded too much of school, at which I achieved very little. When blogging did become a thing I did it because it was about freedom of expression, which is exactly what I am doing now I guess. One thing that put me off on-line communities is the virtual structure of them. It is not a club house where you look people in the eye to discuss stamp collecting or engage in a physical activity. Real-life venues are certainly not places where people can hide, disguise their appearance or be anti-social without some form of accountability. On-line, however, people can choose who they want to be on rotation if desired. . They can hide, choose a pseudonym for anonymity and can be as anti-social as they wish, and all hidden behind a 15 inch rectangular piece of plastic and gadgetry. To some, this screen is armour platted, lead lined and impervious to accountability.
It strikes me as counterproductive that communities that are formed around a common culture can become particularly horrible and create a mini mob culture wrapped up as solidarity.
Please don’t get me wrong, the internet benefits a large amount of folk who seek like-minded people, moral support and of course, information. Unfortunately the internet will always be a dangerous place for some. Most communities are organic, they have no leader and just exist with the group energy. They are not cults, and yet the internet does draw in people with concerns, fragile mental health and sometimes damaged folk who are susceptible to those who use a key board an instrument of cruel entertainment. It also gives home to narcissists and manipulators who have ideals of ‘us against those who aren’t,’ self proclaimed mentors, people who resist any form of criticism, and those who start fires and allow others to burn.
There are many communities out there that generate interest of vulnerable people. Weight loss and fitness must be one of the highest cash generating businesses on line and the internet is awash with groups, many of which are extremely genuine and honest. The flip side are those who know they are dealing with people who are susceptible and easily manipulated for the purposes of making money. Religious and political groups can be petri dishes of cult methodology and hammering home messages in the name or belief of an ideology.
Not all on-line communities are like this of course, and some do not go out of their way to become like this, however, they do attract these people. The internet enables these individuals to become aggressors or victims, it is an open door for anyone with a cause to throw rocks and give not one thought of the damage caused all in the name of their opinions. Most people who share an opinion do so knowing when it lands it will cause a ripple, or discussion. Unfortunately, when one of these ripples upsets someone in an unstable boat on ‘Lake Internet,’ they respond without accountability until they feel better. It’s akin to parent smacking a misbehaved child: the smack is an uncontrolled response by the parent, for sure not one benefiting the child, but some people do like the sound of smacking far too much for they own good.
An on-line community should, in my opinion, be a place where it serves a natural balance. It should not be a kangaroo court where jail house lawyers throw their crafted one sided arguments to pursue others in what is their right or their wrong. There should be discussion, civility, tolerance, and above all, grace; the ability to embrace imperfection and not use it as a hammer to brow beat people. At an MTV award ceremony, Actor Chris Pratt, made the following speech.
“Nobody is perfect. People are going to tell you you’re perfect just the way you are, you’re not. You are imperfect. You always will be. But there is a powerful force that designed you that way, and if you’re willing to accept that, you will have grace.”
Not everyone is going to think like you or for that matter like you, no matter how much you think they should. Having the grace to accept that and not whip up emotional feelings in others to join your blood sport is a strength, not a weakness.
The internet is a very dangerous place for anyone who has a vulnerability and due to the nature of the on-line groups, personal human interaction is detached. A persons life can be destroyed by play ground antics of harassment, name calling and goading to get a response that quite often is only a trap for more punishment.
If anything, the internet affords us the time to examine what is before us before making our next move and trying, despite any provocation or coercion, to be a better person and offer support without an agenda rather than force feed your version of an ideal.