Social Media and the Great Divide – Healthy vs Un-Healthy Communities

Social Media is an amazing opportunity. As a Musician I can be talking to, working with, someone on Jupiter – or anywhere that the Internet exists. Ideas and activities don’t have to be relegated to physical location. Communities are built around shared ideas and interests far more than accident of birth location, or where your car broke down.

That’s the theory anyway. And you know it largely was that way for a decade or so. Sure IRC was full of chat rooms with people “kicking” each other every few seconds but Musician Forums were generally pretty positive places. Even KVR Audio which had a terrible reputation was a good place for me. I ran a tidy little empire there where I had loyal customers and any trolls who reared their ugly little heads were commonly hammered before I even got there.

Let me show you what a healthy community looks like:

Healthy Community

Now before you think I am just making stuff up, This is not at all unlike the material presented in Sales Training where we were taught that the breakdown of customers, positive to negative, was somewhat like:

  • 10% you’d love to photocopy, they become repeat customers and even friends. These people are your advocate without you asking or incentivizing. These people appreciate what you do to make their lives better. They let you know verbally and financially. If there was a problem, they sat and talked about it, looking for a positive outcome.
  • 80% who were just average. These people are reasonably easy to please. With a bit of care (or luck) you might swing some a little closer to the top 10%, but some want to be like the bottom…
  • 10% who you needed to fire ASAP as nothing you ever do will please them, even if you sold them a shiny new Rolls Royce for $1 they’ll be complaining that it is the wrong color & the wrong size for their driveway. If you remodel their driveway & repaint the car free of charge, they’ll complain that their house isn’t big enough…

Back to the info-graphic I made above: in a community of about 500 people you have around five people who do good quality work and show it in the community. Further, these people often give help to the community in general and to specific individuals from time to time in form of a collaboration or taking their work and adding something that helps the member improve.

These Productive people lead the community as a whole as they set the tone that here is a place where we all build things, not only our own things but each other. Further, because of the positive tone, there is always a fair percentage of people in the Ordinary member section, aspiring to be one of the Productive types. Mostly that is a positive thing.

Sadly human nature being what it is there are a few people driven by that special curse of laziness/greed who will seek to disrupt the community to feel that they are one of the special ones seeing they are too afraid of getting better at their chosen craft to do any real work. They will seek opportunity to damage what others do, with a special focus on pulling down those who are Productive and do things that are generally admired. They are the Angry Few or Trolls. They specialize in stamping their feet and making demands about how everyone is equal, and feelings are more important than facts: all the usual Socialist/Victim stuff. From this platform they seek to control the community.

In a healthy community, the Leaders (and many of the Ordinary members too) will stamp on trolling very quickly, it isn’t a useful thing to upset those who add value to the community as a whole, and for any individual who asks (fairly). Trolls reform or get thrown out fast & publicly to make it clear what sort of community is being had. Ordinary people are happy at this outcome. Possible trolls are shown that this is not a successful strategy.

Mob Roles

Close the city and tell the people that something’s coming to call
Death and darkness are rushing forward to take a bite from the wall, oh

You’ve nothing to say
They’re breaking away
If you listen to fools
The mob rules
The mob rules

Kill the spirit and you’ll be blinded, the end is always the same
Play with fire, you burn your fingers and lose your hold of the flame, oh

It’s over, it’s done
The end is begun
If you listen to fools
The mob rules
You’ve nothing to say
Oh, they’re breaking away
If you listen to fools

Break the circle and stop the movement, the wheel is thrown to the ground
Just remember it might start rolling and take you right back around

You’re all fools
The mob rules

Mob Rules by Black Sabbath as a quick interlude to show you what is about to be shown and that again I am far from alone in this.

The Angry Few have managed to move from being the few to the controlling force. This is what the average social space has become over the last 10+ years.

Unhealthy Community

What we now see is that the community is controlled by those who rant rather than produce. Their aims are solely to play power games in which they jostle to be top dog by belittling others, namely those who genuinely Produce value.

Productive people need to be removed as they are the threat. We all instinctively value those who can give us great works of art or inventions that make life better. So that has to be subverted so as soon as anyone says anything of value they are attacked by one of the trolls and then all the others pile on.

You’d think that the Leaders would still be hammering trolls. But they don’t! They actually turn coats and support them. It is insidious as the trolls seep in through calling “Fair” & “Feelings” and Leaders are scared that their community is shrinking so they appease.

What actually happens is threefold:

  1. The best, most Productive members of the community start to leave. They may not say anything about it, but you notice that they are there less, then suddenly you realize that you haven’t heard from them directly for a long time. They saw the writing on the wall and just walked away.
  2. This makes community owners scared about a dwindling community so they start to appease the Angry Few in what seem like little things. But those little things grow and the community develops a very nervous cast. You see the hole left by departing Productives filled by pseudo-Productive, people with limited talent but vast ability to be arrogant and offensive. Other trolls appear to love them as they say that you can be a winner without doing good work. The pseudo-Productive seek to dethrone any remaining honest leaders. There are a few (like me) who will try to fight it and give advice to the leaders and even the community at large but it is only a matter of time before the same scene plays out: trolls attack, leaders do nothing, and then seem to give more support to the freedom of speech of the trolls over the right for the productive person not to be savaged, insulted…
  3. The community fades as trolls & tyrants (same/same) are never allies for long. There can only ever be one top dog, all others must die. The Ordinary people in the middle are fully aware of this power-play (that cannot be named lest it upset the trolls) and either ghost away or decide that this is a great way to enhance their status. a) they rarely interact anymore or simply give up and leave, or b) see the opportunity to increase their social stock and join the trolls. Either way, the silent majority allow the trolls to take the castle.

I have seen this play out more times than I would like to admit. I have been on the wrong end of trolls & enabling community leaders more than any would like to know. I have gone from being a pillar of a scene to somewhat of a pariah.

Attempts to find and build community with those Productive people who have had the same thing happen either goes nowhere or it is only a matter of months before the whole cycle starts again.

If we don’t work at making ourselves, and this world a better place, it never will be. If you hope to be a better musician (painter, writer, racing car driver), being a more successful troll won’t help that to happen. Your outcome will always be destruction.

Learning from truly good people is proven strategy. If you have read this far – and aren’t looking for my address to post me a hand grenade – then why not be in-contact. If you are a genuine Productive type, or genuinely aspire to be, then perhaps we can build something of our own in our own Galt’s Gulch.

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