Creating Online Community

Every now and again the online gifted advocacy community senses “a great disturbance in the Force”. We have our gifted intensities, and we have no immunity from other foibles of humanity to offset this. What I suspect this means, is that if we are to have the truly cohesive kind of online community that will be effective in advocacy, we will always have to work at it.

Social Network data visulisation showing many connections.

Online communities can be vast webs of connections. Let’s nurture ours and help it to work well.
CC-BY Andy Lamb

Here are some ways of engaging with the online community that usually work well:

  • Give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge those people online who inspire you, who make your day, who find and share great information. It lets them know they’re making a positive contribution, and it helps others to find them. Quite simply, it strengthens our online network.
  • Share problems positively. Advocacy movements don’t emerge without shared problems to solve. We’ve got troubles, or we stand for kids who do. Let’s help each other understand those problems better; let’s celebrate the discovery of others who empathise; let’s share possible solutions; let’s keep on sharing some of the very best humour there is about people like us with problems like ours! But hey, let’s not drag each other (or anyone else) down.
  • Build bridges. Put people in touch with other members of the gifted advocacy movement who share special interests. Advocacy is lonely work. We all value positive connections.
  • Be irrelevant deliciously! We are complex people. We have many interests. On the other hand we often sense the worth of logical flow in our online conversations. So when you can’t resist an inspirational tangent, share it really well. Make it worth our while!
  • Advertise with sensitivity. Many of us have a connection with publications, products or services to meet the needs of the gifted community. Most of us are still not incredibly wealthy, and we have to advertise now and again. It comes across a lot better if we advertise far less frequently than we interact with the gifted community as a friend. Even if we’re really feeling the pinch of the economic downturn, this remains true.
  • Keep each other safe. If you see someone being bullied online, and they handle it appropriately, like or support their post. If you see someone being bullied online and they take no action, consider at your leisure what might be an appropriate response in the interests of the gifted community as whole, perhaps asking the advice of a trusted friend. But please do take action, if the risk to yourself is reasonable.
  • Disagree passionately, but let your passion be to learn from the exchange of ideas, to ignite deeper thought in your worthy adversary and yourself. The rich variety of viewpoints in our field is one of its strengths, so long as we avoid collateral damage when we combine them.
  • Be contrite in error. We’ve got a cause to fight for, and sometimes that energy, that intensity, that fight, does blow out in the wrong direction. A simple apology, combined with a humble and sincere effort to contribute more positively, goes a long way. We’re all cut from the same cloth, and few of us are strangers to the experience of that inner drive going astray.

Our online gifted advocacy community is a precious thing, with a huge impact now, and even greater potential in the future. We are changing the lives of the students we interact with, of teachers and administrators, and of parents who desperately need to know that there is a safe community who will stand alongside them as they raise kids who don’t fit the mould. Let’s make the well-being of this community a priority, and all play our part in keeping it strong and safe. After all, together, we’ve got a job to do!

With grateful thanks to the online friends who have read the draft and added their thoughts. We do better together!

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About Mary St George

I teach in gifted education, both online and face-to-face.
This entry was posted in online resources, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Creating Online Community

  1. Mona says:

    Completely and 100% agree! Working TOGETHER we get so much more done, but those intensities sometimes get the better of us even with the best of intentions. Keeping ourselves in check with common courtesies can go a long way to making our united voice stronger and more effective for those for whom we strive – gifted children and adults.

  2. The diagram is very metaphoric. It’s important to remember the difference between gifted and nongifted communication: nongifted tends to be hierarchical where as gifted communication tends to be a network of minds. When there is concentration of communication, it is at “information centers” as opposed supreme leaders. The mesh topology is from the fact we all have strong ideas and hate being told what to do. We like to thrash it out. We just have to remember that we are still friends when we are done (more likely tired of) arguing.

    • That makes sense in terms of our very democratic classrooms at One Day School, but I’m interested in you applying it to more of the gifted world. So, if someone within an online gifted community was expecting a hierarchical pattern while most were expecting a network of minds, that could cause friction all by itself, couldn’t it? Especially if they expected to be near the top, and felt that it wasn’t working out that way. Very thought provoking. Thank you!

    • innreach says:

      Very interesting visual concept Rusty.. food for thought… ;-D

  3. Rochelle says:

    Thank you Mary. Beautifully and eloquently written – as usual. As Mona says, if we’re all able to keep our intensities and sensitivities in check (yes, I know that can be a *big* ask at times!) then we can achieve so much more by working together in a co-operative, respectful way.

  4. Based on discussion of this post elsewhere, I’d just like to clarify something in my post. I’m not saying that if you see bullying online the best approach is to call someone out as a bully. I’m still learning in this area, but I suspect it often isn’t, because it can escalate tensions. Sometimes posting a question, such as, “Is this the best forum for this conversation?” seems to have helped. Sometimes criticisms can be defused. Sadly, there are more descriptions of bullying than of solutions that ring true. In depth descriptions caution us that most bullies will move on to new targets if current targets become less malleable or available, so looking out for your online friends seems to be one of the best things you can do.

    On a personal level, we can do far more about our own behaviour than that of a bully. We must have sources of happiness in our life that have absolutely nothing to do with the bully, and turn our focus to these as much as possible when bullying occurs. This also sheds light on what we can do for friends who are bullied – we can partake in some joyful activities with them in an emotionally safe environment.

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