You Say Community, I Say Cult

Would you like a glass? I made sure not to put too much sugar into it. It's delicious, you should try it.

Put down the Kool-Aid. You’re embarrassing yourself.

Community is big right now, isn’t it. It seems everywhere you turn, there is a new ‘community’ popping up. I bet you’re in a few. Hell, you probably read this blog because you know me from one. I belong to a few. I’ve been a member of a few in the past that I no longer affiliate with, and I’m sure there are a few down the road that I’ll join.

There is nothing wrong with that. But here’s the thing about community. If you aren’t careful, you stop remembering why you are there, and just begin to listen to whatever the leader says. No more thinking, no more analysis. Just following. Blind.

Hello. My name is Jim. Wanna chat?There was a reason you joined in the first place. Maybe you liked the topic. Or perhaps the people involved. You read and enjoyed the content, shared it with your friends and followers on places like Twitter and Facebook. You added the RSS, were eager to press that retweet button when a new post came out. It was exciting. You were a part of something good.

Then something happened. There were a lot of new people that don’t share the views you thought the community held. What used to be a fresh perspective was becoming stale. Repetitive. Recycled. But the leader still had that ‘something’ you liked in the beginning. So you continue to read, comment, and share. You’re still participating. You’re invested. And just like a junkie wishing to get the feeling back from that first time, you keep on jamming that needle in, hoping that perhaps, this time it’ll be better.

It won’t.  

For all the talk about how Gen-Y is independent, self-willed, etc we sure as hell follow a lot. We do something because other people are doing it. You want to get on-board in the beginning. Be a thought leader amongst your online crew. Pride and ego are a sonofabitch, isn’t it?

It’s time to stop. Stop following. Quit ignoring the signs. Question your leaders. ALL of them. If it’s a shitty post, say so. If the leader is wrong, make sure you share that just as loud as you did with the good stuff. If they’re a fraud, SCREAM IT. Better to be a loud asshole who’s right than a quiet one.

Remember, some people may be following you the same way you are to others. If you don’t say something, you’re just as bad.

{ 18 comments }

Tyler Hurst February 11, 2010 at 11:28 pm

Ha! This happened to Phoenix metro this year. 2006-2008 were years of huge growth and then it just stopped. 2009 was the end of it, because it was just the same thing and it was a copy of a copy of a copy.

We either become new people or join a new community. We have that choice.

Ryan Stephens February 11, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Don’t you despite pointless one word comments that don’t add any value to the conversation? Me too, but that’s all I got:

Refreshing.

Norcross February 11, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Yes (sarcasm is still my favorite tool)

Rebecca February 12, 2010 at 12:02 am

It would be more refreshing if we could all write really good posts that weren’t related to social media. Did I just hear an echo?

;)

Norcross February 12, 2010 at 12:06 am

That’s my goal. Let’s see if I can keep it up.

Oh, and if you add your email address to your account at Gravatar.com, you’ll get your image showing up on comments. If that’s your sort of thing.

Scott Bishop February 12, 2010 at 12:02 am

I know you’re speaking about online communities…but there are brand cults too. If anyone needed proof the last two weeks verified it. Steve Jobs could paint a dead bird white and stick it in an Apple bag and 2 million units would go out the door the first week.

And if i read one more god damn Tweet or blog post about Google Buzz being a “Game Changer” I’m going to take the Apple Dead Bird I just bought and smash someone in the face with it.

Norcross February 12, 2010 at 12:03 am

Yes, online communities were the main focus, but I agree 100% with the ‘game changer’ and Apple comments. But I bash Apple enough already.

David February 12, 2010 at 12:12 am

“For all the talk about how Gen-Y is independent, self-willed, etc we sure as hell follow a lot.”

FUCK YEAH! Preach on brother. Preach!

Duff February 12, 2010 at 12:16 am

For all the talk about how Gen-Y is independent, self-willed, etc we sure as hell follow a lot.

This is largely my complaint about all the self-proclaimed “unconventional” blogs that all agree that we white, privileged, young Americans should get into internet marketing, freelancing, raw food, and world traveling (ideally to countries with a favorable exchange rate)…because that’s what authenticity means, right?

Either we should start doing things that are different (especially questioning hidden values of patriarchy and neo-liberal capitalism embedded within social media and personal development), or we should admit and embrace our conformity.

Norcross February 12, 2010 at 12:26 am

It’s certainly a gray area. I’m a freelancer (after working 10 years in corporate finance / banking) so part of the ethos of the ‘unconventional’ life matches me. But then again, I’m a middle class white kid from the suburbs. Life hasn’t been that hard for me.

That being said, you’ll get my bacon when you pry it from my cold dead hands. And I’m not leaving Florida unless all hell breaks loose.

Mrs. Micah February 14, 2010 at 6:05 pm

You’re in Florida….it’s only a matter of time. ;)

(she said, as she surveyed the nation’s capital around her and pondered the desolation that two storms could wreak)

Got space for a few weeks?

Norcross February 14, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Well, it’s been messed up for a while here, yet Florida still managed to keep on truckin. So I think it’ll last a bit longer. How long? No clue. But at least it’s not snowing here.

Susan Pogorzelski February 12, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Andrew: When I first started blogging, I was among many of the same networks that you were in. In fact, I credit those networks for introducing me to people like you. And yet, I’ve noticed in the past year or so that so many of those networks and communities have changed and it makes me a little sad. Because before it was about sharing ideas and helping each other and relating through experiences. And yet now you’re exactly right — there are individuals that people follow no matter what is said, where their word is golden currency.

It’s bullshit, in my opinion.

For awhile I felt really bad about myself because of it. I’m a damn good writer, I’d think — so what is this person doing that I’m not? What could they possibly be saying that has people flocking to them? And what am I doing wrong? But then I realized that my reason for blogging is not to get followers and comments. It’s to make connections, it’s to learn. It’s to understand. And I have made some of my closest friends thanks to that.

So can a community be a cult? Yes. And in some cases it very well is. But if you take a step away from that, refuse to participate, keep doing your own thing, you’re going to succeed and feel far better about it. I think you’re succeeding, Andrew. And for what it’s worth, I’d rather turn to a friend than someone on a pedestal.

Brian February 14, 2010 at 9:54 am

The first community i belonged to was because of one specific blogger. He personally convinced me to start my own site and i really credit him and his book for turning my life around financially. However, now i see his game, and for the most part i only give him a passing glance.

Those first few days, frantically reading his entire archives were so enlightening and eye-opening. But after reading what he had to say in all those posts, all of his new content became repetitive. I can’t read his site anymore, because i see him for what he is. However, i find myself in a conundrum as anyone i meet that is in the place where i was over a year ago can desperately learn from this individual, and needs to hear his message. So he and his community remain in my life as i pass others off to him.

The real bitch of it is, i can’t/don’t call him out on what he has become. He has a huge following, and you can’t go around pissing people off that matter (especially not one that i owe so much to, even if his voice has grown stale). Maybe its just the pansy in me, but i don’t want to call people out for making money and driving traffic with their community. Maybe one day though i will man up and make that dream site, “BloggersILoveToHate.com” and try to wake some of their blind followers up.

Norcross February 14, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Without naming names, I know exactly how that feels. There’s a sense of debt to those people that give you the initial spark. But I’m a firm believer in doing what’s right, not what’s popular.

And I’m all for that site. Hell, I’d build it.

Brian February 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm

I am super tempted to take you up on that offer! Problem is, i only have 3 names i can think of off the top of my head that i can write a full on quality post about… i am sure it would just take more reading for me to find others!

Matthew February 15, 2010 at 4:09 am

Are you really complaining about bloggers whose message does not continually change? Surely there is room for a blogger to have a message and to get that information out there. Information may or may not become “stale”, some does, some doesn’t. Truths generally do not become stale, if you feel the information is stale, perhaps you should examine its truth.

Norcross February 15, 2010 at 4:54 pm

If it were just an issue of stale content, I’d simply ignore it and move on. What I see happening more and more is something beyond that: manipulation.