I can see why so many people I know are staying away from online communities, even though they provide such great ways to stay in touch, make new friends, and feel less isolated. It just seems IMPOSSIBLE to create a community where people treat each other with respect and dignity. Name calling and blaming seem to be the rule rather than the exception in today’s society in this country.
Case in point
I’m a member of a fiber arts community called Ravelry, which was founded in 2007. Back when I spent much of my time knitting, teaching knitting, and designing patterns, this was like a second home to me. I’m sure many of you readers feel the same, since I have so many knitting friends (before Ravelry we had some wonderful email lists, and some grumpy ones).
I’ve been very proud of the founders and their team, who have truly created a wonderful resource for fiber artists, and have continued to add features and branch out. It’s like Facebook, but with a focus…and generally with more kindness.
I feel sort of qualified to express opinions on this, because I once helped found a social community based on a common interest. Boy, did I ever have heaps of good intentions with the LLL Community Network. You’d think a bunch of La Leche League Leaders could get along and discuss things of interest to them. [insert maniacal laughter] Anyway, I’ve seen a thing I built for people go wrong, big time.
Ravelry was different. It’s endured. It’s been chugging along for almost 12 years now. People who like dogs can chat in their groups, people from Texas have theirs, etc. It’s community centered around a common interest at its best (even if the knitters and crocheters get testy occasionally).
People being the way they are these days, it couldn’t last. Apparently the name-calling, judgmentalism, and their friends showed up so badly (and I do NOT know exactly what happened) that the management had to post this:
We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry.
This includes support in the form of forum posts, projects, patterns, profiles, and all other content. Note that your project data will never be deleted. We will never delete your Ravelry project data for any reason and if a project needs to be removed from the site, we will make sure that you have access to your data. If you are permanently banned from Ravelry, you will still be able to access any patterns that you purchased. Also, we will make sure that you receive a copy of your data.
We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy.
Oh my gosh, I didn’t see that coming. I KNOW it must have taken a lot to get them to come up with such a proclamation, and I certainly know they were aware there’d be a backlash (which there has). And I’m not here to talk about whether what the Ravelry team did was right or wrong. It’s their private company. They can do whatever they want, just like Chick-Fil-A can refuse to hire me because of my religious beliefs/non-beliefs.
Well, do you have a BETTER idea?
I’ve been reading lots and lots of thoughtful commentary by my knitting buddies, nodding my head a lot, and even tweeting my support (and I rarely tweet anything other than blog links).
What has bugged me, inside my little do-gooder heart, is what would I have done if I ran the site? Stuff like this can easily happen in groups I participate in, where people with different backgrounds and philosophies unite around a common interest (like our animal rights group, or Master Naturalists), where people will start veering WAY off topic and into bigotry or worse. I feel fortunate that it isn’t happening at the moment.
I’ve heard suggestions that they shouldn’t have banned one political entity, but instead banned all political talk. That sounds more even-handed to some. But where do you draw the line? And what about other potentially divisive topics? If you ban anti-gay knitting speech, do you also have to ban pro-gay knitting speech? Gun-toting knitters vs. pacifists? Eeek, I see a slippery slope approaching fast, where everyone ends up walking (or in this case, typing, on eggshells). And no one’s happy.
I predict that once the prohibitions about sensitive topics kept growing, the community would no longer feel safe, and more and more people would leave. I wouldn’t want that. I also don’t want to encourage people to engage in hate speech and make others uncomfortable…so I want to know how to make this happen without endless rules?
Back to my favorite topic
My favorite topic is the Golden Rule. Treat others like you’d like to be treated. Do you like being called names? I don’t. Do you like being treated like you’re unwelcome in your community? I don’t.
So, let’s not do it. If you’re on Ravelry, be kind to your fellow Ravelers and talk to them about yarn, patterns, colors, and great designers of great patterns. It doesn’t matter if the yarn manufacturer is a conservative or the designer a socialist. How’s their work? Does it bring you joy? Then celebrate it.
Unsolicited advice to my fellow Ravelers: treasure your community and be good to its members and the management. They are doing their best, even if you disagree (I was actually just talking about this about my jobby-job; somebody’s got to make decisions or nothing will happen one way or the other).
We are all stuck here on this planet together, in this country together, in this city together. We don’t have to be exactly alike to have good lives.
End of sermon. Geez. I guess I have some feelings on this topic.
What do YOU say? Am I full of it?