Communities, echo chambers, fan clubs, Big Red Car? What?
Big Red Car here, holding down the fort while The Cripple (The Boss and his little ruptured Achilles tendon, suck it up, buttercup) is in New York with the elites. [I think he’s been rioting in front of the Trump Tower, but he swears he hasn’t. Who really knows?]
So, the Big Red Car has been thinking about the creation of communities on the Internet, blog communities, to be precise.
A community may develop around a blog when the readers form a group of folks united by the glue of the blogger (message, writing ability, style, entertainment, personality, wisdom, wit), the blog (content), the community itself, which may bind similar or disparate members into an association more intimate than a polite discussion amongst strangers.
Polite discussions — per my mother who championed such causes — avoid religion, sex, and politics. Communities are like a bar where such subjects are met with good cheer and are able to be explored, because one is safe amongst friends, even friends who do not rubber stamp your thoughts. This only happens if the blogger reflects such good cheer.
Commentary — the response of the community to the blog and the blog post — may create a second form of adhesive to create a bond amongst the readership. A blog becomes like a bar at which regulars drop by for a drink and a bit of discussion with friends. That discussion — if it is authentic and genuine — reflects the tensions of our society whether it is sports or politics.
In many communities, the blog post may trigger an intense discussion in which the energy of the discussion overpowers the blog post itself, with the commentary occupying the center ring of the discussion.
Taken to the extreme, the wrestling match amongst ideas may spit out winners; ideas which are the strongest of the intellectual combatants, which is, of course, the reason why confident people are willing to test theirs amongst other intellectual seekers and learners. You want to go where you can get a good convo, not where you listen to the same boring crap.
It is like throwing red meat into the cage and watching the lions fight over it. It is an explosion of energy and the blogger who can trigger such an explosion is skillful indeed.
This energy builds the community, binds the members, and, ultimately, creates a brand and a culture. Like a business, a blog can become a culture and inclusion in that culture can be a pleasant experience for the members who follow the blog.
One of the critical elements in the creation of such a bond is the participation of the blogger in the commentary and culture itself.
Like everything else in life, folks spend their time where they feel valued, welcome, and comfortable. If a blog is going to be “successful” then this is a consideration a blogger will want to consider. Under the covers lies the challenge to be able to allow your own ideas to survive the engagement.
An echo chamber is created when a blog is lacking in alternative opinions or viewpoints which reduce the commentary to an echo of the blogger and only the blogger. This also happens when the blogger is thin skinned or unwilling to engage in a real exchange of ideas. It is not a terribly bad thing but it does limit the engagement.
These type of blogs may have very loyal followings but they are unlikely to create much energy within the commentariat, as everyone agrees with the blogger, but there is no friction to create heat to warm the discussion. It is flat and lifeless. Boring.
A fan club is an echo chamber taken to an extreme in which the readership is reduced to being “fan boys.” Not satisfied with echoing a single voice, they sit in adoration of the blogger and simply tell them how great they are.
It is the Michael Jackson phenomenon in which the blogger can do no wrong.
The blog exists to feed the ego of the blogger and no other useful purpose.
The biggest compliment a reader can give to a blog or a blogger is the investment of time and energy to comment on the blog. We invest our energy in things that interest or inspire us and don’t invest our energy when things are unremarkable or pedestrian.
We engage with people who are engaging and whose personal conduct allows us to exchange ideas while risking either being correct or wrong. Being able to learn requires one to be able to be wrong for it often in the unmasking of error or the filling of an ignorant void that we grow.
When we invest energy, it means we care and are invested ourselves.
This investment is — amongst other things — what differentiates a vital community from an echo chamber or a fan club.
Evolution of community
Communities evolve over time and a community which was once vibrant may become an echo chamber or devolve into a fan club. The nature of a community is not a steady state and requires that constant energy to attract new members and to inspire the existing ones.
It is also possible to destroy a sense of community by a hasty or ill-advised act.
The recent election has provided an opportunity for all of us to visit our worst angels and to feed them. Some of the Big Red Car’s bad angels are looking a little overfed and in need of a diet of steady celery and kale.
Bloggers who have injected politics into their blogs and then have taken sides have taken a big hit, particularly if they were ardent advocates of either candidate. Let me be frank — the elitists who supported HRC and could not even remotely consider the actual outcome are both disconnected from reality and insufferable. Worse, they are boring.
In the end, we are all supposed to be gentlemen and gentle-ladies — people who strive to make others comfortable in their presence.
The Big Red Car took this to heart by reducing its total number of blog posts — political, in particular — over the last six months. That is not to say that the Big Red Car didn’t have a viewpoint or, even, a firmly held one, but rather that the BRC went out of its way to avoid the controversy. Go back and count the total number of posts since June and see if you agree.
To throw a rock or two, the thin-skinned liberal elite were and are the worst of this group; unable to conceive of a Trump victory, they have withdrawn into a “the-world-is-ending” meme because their candidate failed to win. Sack cloth and ashes are in short supply and they are wearying their friends with their funereal tone and conduct. Get over yourselves. Some of us felt the same way in 2008 and 2012. The world did not end (though the Middle East was set aflame).
It was their own insular elitism which precluded their seeing what was about to happen . But, that, dear readers, is a topic for another day.
What can be said with fairness is that such blogs, such bloggers, such fan clubs are boring, predictable, and uninspiring. There is nothing worse than being predictable and boring.
But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be good to yourself and turn an idea loose to wrestle with somebody else’s. This is now Donald Trump’s America and who knows? Maybe he can MAGA?