Thursday, August 15, 2013

SM Johnson ~Thursday Morning Coffee ~ Group Dynamics

Good morning, Darlings, and welcome to coffee! I have a confession to make: Last week Thursday came and went and I didn't even notice, and hence, there was no coffee. I do apologize. It's summer. Life gets crazy, you know?

We humans are social creatures who adore validation, and as such, we tend to seek others of like minds. Some people find churches and community groups to feed this need, or regular gatherings of "girlfriends" groups, girls night out, boys night out, story time at the library. There are Real Life quilting groups, scrapbooking groups, bookclubs, singles meets, etc and etc and on to infinity.



There are writer's groups. Author of Hamelin's Child, Debbie Bennett, wrote last week about writer's groups; the good, the bad, the ugly. She talked about groups that fawn and pet and tell you what a great writer you are (bad), groups that make it a point to tear your work to shreds (ugly), groups that socialize and never get around to even talking about writing (good and fun, but not productive), and, finally, the ones that make you work your butt off and offer actual constructive, helpful, criticism (awesome).

So.... since she covered the topic of writing groups exceptionally well,  I'm not going to talk about those kinds of groups.

I'm going to talk about other groups. The ones you find on the internet, which can feed damn near any taste you have. Since there are millions, I'm going to talk about just two types: Goodreads and Facebook.

Let's go with the more positive first, shall we?

Goodreads

Goodreads, a reader social site, has all sorts of nifty groups. Whatever you love to read, you can find a group of people who also love the same kinds of books. Goodreads is a great place to find book and author recommendations, and the groups are great forums for discussing books you love, or hate, or love to hate.

The menu across the home page at Goodreads offers Groups, Recommendations, and Explore. If you click the Groups link, you'll land on a page where you can search for groups by title or description, which allows you to search by keyword, basically. Love M/M romance? Love Historical romance? December/May relationships? Dark, twisted, depraved stories? Search, and ye shall find others who have the same taste in books.

But - fair warning - like every online group everywhere, at some point someone is going to piss you (me) off (or you are going to piss someone else off) and you'll find yourself frantically typing your Strong Opinion and Defending Your Point of View... which can go on for DAYS. I'm not kidding.

And sometimes you get so wound up that you say things you shouldn't, or quote something from a private email that you had no business sharing with any group in the first place (yes, my bad, flog and forgive me, please?) and you can hardly help it because it proves that you are RIGHT.

And then, when you cool down and realize the error of your lightning fingers and copy/paste capability, you have to backtrack and delete your post, but someone else quoted the quote you never should have quoted, so you have to contact the moderators with the thread title and post number and eat crow and ask them to delete THAT... sigh.

Yeah.

I think where I'm going with this is that sometimes groups brim with negative energy, and there comes a point where you (I) need to remember the little box up in the corner that has a handy little X, and when you click on that, the window (and the negativity) goes away. Poof. Like magic.

Know when to walk.

Under the Explore tab on Goodreads you can find great book recommendations without the drama. It's a drop-down menu, and if you've never done, make sure you click "Listopia" in the drop-down and play around. I found GREAT books on a list called "Best teen books about real problems." What you find on Listopia are just lists, but you can click through and read the book descriptions, reviews, etc., and find a ton of books you'll want to read. Although to be fair, expect to get lost browsing lists for HOURS. (grin).

Okay, let's talk Facebook Groups.

I tend to get sucked into FB groups when a blogger I like creates a FB group that mostly includes people who read that particular blog.

This sounds like an awesome idea, right? Because that blogger is hella funny, or blows you away with their insight, or their mad parenting skills, or their handy do-it-yourself home organization tips. Or maybe you followed them on Pinterest, and their Pins were absolutely hysterical.

But - and this is an important newsflash - the group will be filled with a lot of people who are nothing like you, they just happen to like the same blogger.

Sure, go ahead and check out such groups. Really. Enjoy. But be prepared to find a whole lot of people who do not think the way you think, and who, once the original "clique" is formed, will happily pummel the shit out of you (verbally) if you don't embrace the group mindset.

I recently had to leave one of these. I still love the original blogger. When I joined the group on Facebook, it was an open membership group. Somewhere in the course of my being involved, it became a private group with membership by invitation only. I was invited to stay, and, to tell you the truth, felt somewhat pleased to still be included, like I was part of a private club.

Yeah.

Well. It developed into no part of a club that I wanted to be involved in.

The original blogger has a great sense of humor. She bitches and moans about the daily life stuff we all bitch and moan about, but she does it FUNNY. She brightens my day and makes me laugh out loud.

But the group turned into a cesspool of negativity, as the groups members are mostly stay-at-home moms who use the forum to bitch and moan and vent in non-funny ways about their terrible husbands who are always gone (at work to support them), who always want sex, and never help with the housework.

They validate one another, and do the cross bitch - i.e. "send that loser over here and I'll bitch-slap him FOR you," and if anyone dares to step in to say, "Hey, wait a minute, if he's a loser or an abuser, why don't you leave? You don't have to be a victim, you can change your life!" - that person gets tromped on, bashed, rolled, and very likely was kicked out of the group. I mean, how dare anyone challenge the notions of the earliest group members? And how DARE you JUDGE?

Wow.

I mean.... wow.

Let's stay helpless in our victimology, because that makes nothing about our situation our own fault.

I hung in there for a short time after recognizing the negativity. But then a member gloated about "setting free" a wild pet the family had domesticated. Another member replied with the notion that "setting free" an animal no longer able to survive in the wild was more cruel than just killing the animal outright (my thought, exactly)... and...

I watched her get tromped and rolled, and the whole group hive-mind became insulted because "It's just a fucking pond animal, take a pill, lady, and chill the fuck out."

Yeah.

I very quietly hit the button labeled "Leave this Group."

Goodbye.

These are NOT my people. These will NEVER be my people.

The moral of this story is... don't immerse yourself in negativity. And don't think you can change the hive mind. You'll only wind yourself up and wear yourself out trying. Well. You might try once or twice and see if the group is receptive to your message, but don't keep on with it if they are not. They will use your logic and careful words to build drama, and will go to ridiculous lengths (sometimes to the point of threatening you or your children or your family) to get you to shut up and go away.

It's not worth it.

If you want to fight, find a worthy cause. Stay away from the fat angry housewives, because you'll only be talking to a wall of people invested in their victim status. It will be toxic to you. And.... ew. Who needs it?

Find the X. Find the Leave. Click. Walk away.

I hope you have a wonderful, warm weekend filled with all manner of good things.

~SM

PS - Three in the Dungeon will be free on Amazon Friday 8/16 and Saturday 8/17 - so go grab a copy! And then tell your friends, and your Goodreads groups and your FB groups and everyone you Tweet to on Twitter, k? Thx! Ooooh, and here's a link, even!  Three in the Dungeon

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