I hear stories from other people quite frequently, about how they joined an online community but were booted out. They were either kicked out and refused further access, or they faced so much social rejection that they made the decision to quit. The latter is, of course, covert means of kicking someone out. The effect is the same, though. The person is effectively no longer participating in the community.
I have seen this in “in person” communities as well. Some communities literally ask a person to leave or stop allowing the unwanted person entry to their meeting place. Perhaps the organization can pinpoint some trivial policy that the unwanted person has violated. Or new policy will be made to ensure that the unwanted is effectively kept out.
Oftentimes, though, the community doesn’t want to look bad, nor do they wish to appear unethical in any way. So they will make the person feel useless or unworthy. The person will be assigned tedious, boring tasks that require no skill. The person will never be given any responsibilities or meaningful duties. Thus, the community, or more likely, its higher-ups, effectively let this person know that he or she is not at all valued by them.
Another technique I have seen to effectively get rid of an unwanted member is to casually suggest that the member “take time off.” One or two members with good coercive skill will tell the unwanted just how badly she needs a rest, that perhaps she’s suffering too much under the burden of demands from the organization. There may, in fact, be no demands at all on the unwanted person, but this “feel good” method works quite well. The person leaves and is unlikely to complain, thinking she is being treated with respect and consideration. In truth, though, the community is rather glad she’s gone and are wiping their hands clean of the whole affair. What they have done isn’t respectful at all, but no one has to know.
In this recent incidence of my being booted out of an online community, a covert method was used. Not all members of the community participated. It was actually a minority as the community was large and in fact, I’d met very few of them in person. However, the offending members added up to enough of an overwhelming number that I made the decision to leave.
Everything was cool when I first joined. As it is usually for such communities. One problem I saw right away, and in fact, anticipated, was that there were very few people even close to my age in this community. Most were in their 20’s, many were teens, and a few were in their 30’s. I think there were a handful already into their 40’s, but very few. That meant I was old enough to be many members’ grandmother, since I am 56 years old. I felt awkward, of course, but made light of this. Most everyone was female in this community.
I felt quite good about it at first. Didn’t we have so, so much in common? Of course we did. I got chummy with some people and assumed I had new friends. I assumed these people even liked me. I had no reason not to believe this.
Keep in mind that people like me, who don’t have supportive family, put more emphasis on friendship than those that do have supportive family. Many people who are in stable marriages or who have regular contact with family members don’t really understand the need for friendship that a person like me often has. Perhaps, therefore, I tried to be a bit too chummy with people that simply didn’t give a damn.
Because I am older and more experienced, I have seen more than these kids have, simply by having been on the planet longer. As far as the common denominator went, I also had extensive experience with our common suffering that held us together. Therefore, I often found myself in a position of having to relate an experience of mine or viewpoint that perhaps no one there had yet considered.
I am not alone in my thinking. I have found plenty of other people who have seen what I have seen and who have similar opinions. Nothing about my own experience is exceptional or unusual in any way. However, this online community assumed that what I was saying was highly unusual, or even impossible. This, I suppose, was the first way they rejected me. I am not speaking of the community as a whole, but of a portion of this community. It was enough, though, to cause me discomfort. I tried to keep up the humor to smooth all this over.
Things progressed from there. Select members began to bully me. As many of you know, it’s best not to associate with people intent on bullying. It often took me far too long to come to my senses and realize that this person was going to be cruel no matter what I said or did. This is what bullies do.
I was called names. Some were quite nasty and rude. I tried to fend it off then realized it was best to cease communication with those particular individuals. In fact, other members who felt empathetic toward me (or had actually met me in person) advised me to cut contact. I did so.
I received the following rude comments. I am listing them in no particular order, and some are paraphrased.
“You are disgusting.”
“You are a disgrace and shouldn’t be in our community.”
“You have no clue what it’s like to have an eating disorder. You don’t know what we go through.”
“You are clearly against recovery.”
“You are bad for my recovery.”
“I fear you will cause me to relapse.”
“You are negative.”
“I know what you are saying is true, and in fact, rather insightful, but I don’t think we should have to hear it.”
“You must be paranoid.”
“You are a danger to our community.”
“You challenge us too much.”
There were many other similar remarks. I was tired of it, but put up with it for the sake of those who weren’t participating in the bullying. However, these remarks wore on me. This was bound to happen even though I knew what they were saying wasn’t true. I tried to focus on those members who seemed supportive. At first, there were many, but this number dwindled.
I had one good friend in this community. She was one of the few that I had actual spoken contact with. I have no clue what happened between the two of us, because there wasn’t any argument or friction between us. She’d initiate contact with me as much as I initiated contact with her. I thought she was a really good person. I still do.
As the number of supporters dwindled, and more and more members turned away from me, I noticed this one friend periodically dropped contact and I wouldn’t hear from her. I feared something had gone terribly wrong in her life. I’d re-establish contact and she’d tell me she’d been busy, or some account had been hacked.
This kept happening, though. After a while, I began to recognize excuse-making, even lies, though I didn’t want to jump to wrong conclusions. Sometimes, a person becomes caught up in things and they forget to let one or two friends know they are okay, just involved in other stuff. However, this kept repeating. I didn’t want to be a nag.
Finally, I thought of something. Maybe this person wanted me to give up trying to re-establish contact. I was getting tired of this person not answering when I called and not calling back after I’d left messages. I tried contacting by another means and the response I received didn’t hold water. What if I just stopped asking to reconnect? I decided to wait for this person. After all, if she was really my friend, and she wasn’t being dishonest, I’d hear from her shortly.
Nothing. No word. No apology nor explanation. Dropped out of sight. Silent treatment.
It saddened me that this person had been influenced by my reputation, that is, what others thought of me. I was heartbroken that this has occurred. What happened at this point was that I made the active decision to walk out. I have not participated in this online community since.
I feel terribly sorry for many of those folks that are truly struggling. It seemed pointless to reach out to them, because they’d made up their minds that I was a “dangerous” person to associate with. This, of course, was based on rumor and not fact. There were a number of these folks that I fully intend to stay in touch with, but not within the context of this online community.
I will never really know the origin of the rumors. At this point, it’s not even worth wondering about. I refuse to associate with people who insist on calling me nasty names. Also, I don’t want to associate with anyone who is pretending to like me, but deep inside, believes the rumors and actually thinks I’m nuts. Why associate with someone with whom I have no credibility? Essentially, what this person is doing is faking it and lying to me. Who wants fake friends? Fake relationships end up destructive, do they not?
I still do have friends, but I make sure that the folks with whom I associate are honest and sincere. I make sure they truly want to be friends. I realize that anyone may choose to change their mind. I also have that option. Friendship isn’t a legally bound agreement nor is there any obligation to stay friends forever. I believe that love and trust is what holds people together. Obligation alone won’t work. Friendships may wax and wane, as well. I try to keep an open mind and allow a person to grow and change. I sure want other folks to be open-minded about me as well.
I am happy to be out of this online community. It was stifling for me. I wonder if anyone from there is reading what I am writing right now. Maybe. I guess I have moved on.