Online community, fragile or stable?

The events and aftershocks of Twitter’s current ownership change have brought up a consideration of mine for some years now-that online communities seem to be inherently fragile. Several of the groups I’ve been a part of, that have had a major impact on my life for years have closed down. Some of them gave a day or two of notice, or some excuse, but others were suddenly just gone.
The internets have been great at allowing marginalized communities to connect and aid each other-which might be the saving grace of having an internet at all-but those same communities are more seriously harmed when any given platform is disrupted.
I can’t possibly be the only person to consider this issue, so what do you all think? How can these communities create or utilize other means of staying, well, a connected community? Are there ways to protect a platform from seemingly random acts of malice? Would a return to older forms of connection work with a global population? Did Twitter become this hub because it became ubiquitous and was free? (A side question of how it achieved that ubiquity and how that fostered its grip on social commentary is also interesting)
I’ve had groups migrate from platform to platform, or just dissolve, or become invisible to me because I couldn’t figure out how to find their new homes. If there is a way to minimize that I’d love to learn it.


I dunno - I have been a member of the Boingboing community through over 20 years and I do not know how many comment systems and it’s still around and still probably my favorite place on the internet (with an ad blocker on).

I think the problem is one size fits all “put your entire social life on one website” systems that fail spectacularly in the end because people don’t socialize offline in that way (I do suppose that people that are super into LinkedIn are exactly like that irl though…)


I mentioned in another comment that several of the Gawker kinja commenter blogs were able to reconstitute on other platforms (blogger, discord, reddit) , but it was partly predicated on having some notice, and someone willing to be the “owner” of the blog (if it was a blog). We had refuges set up within 24 hours of the initial threat to close down, and when G/O Media shut them down suddenly a year later, these were already set up. These have been fairly stable for over 2 years on new sites, and had been stable on Gawker/kinja for 10 years or more. We tried to throw out lifelines to commenters, crossposting information on various platforms.

There has been attrition though, as people’s live change, they may participate less, or not at all and attracting new members is difficult. The kinja sites used to be linked to main pages (Jezebel, i09, etc.) and appeared on pull down menus, and were a source of new commenters. But the new sites are basically orphan sites, with little means of attracting new members and either growing or even maintaining the membership. It takes work and commitment to the other members to keep participating and and understanding that for some people, these may be a primary source of social contact.


Something I heard recently was enlightening-the comment was “it’s just a company”. People use/d social media because it has such easy access and wide reach and it’s basically free. Humans being lazy, communities formed at these convenient spaces. It wasn’t anything inherent to one particular space except it was larger than the others. Conflating the space and the community created the feeling that if the space changed the community must die.
So a good way to strengthen online community, especially for those communities that are much more dependent on online connections, is just to spread out and utilize many spaces, instead of becoming dependent on just one.
We realize here how much actual work it takes to keep a place that is safe but not a padded playground. It seems that the ease of using some social media spaces let people get away without doing that work.

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