On Groups and Fitting In

I recently found myself a bit perplexed about why I was not enjoying an

online networking group that I had really looked forward to being a member of.

While I thought I had put in the necessary time and effort (and money) to fully belong to this group, I just couldn’t get to the point where I truly felt like I belonged there.

Was it me? Was it them? I just wasn’t sure.

The educational aspects of the group were indeed worthwhile, but the community aspects just weren’t working for me.

Even acknowledging some anti-social tendencies of my own (which is less of an issue in the online world than in real life anyway), but even so, I just wasn’t able to warm up to this particular group.

Something Just Felt Off

Things simply just felt off, both in the feedback I was receiving on my own contributions, as well as in the conversations I was observing amongst others on the group’s Facebook and Google+ pages. Very little was resonating with me.

I rarely found conversations or interactions that held my interest. And, for those that did, I just didn’t feel like my counterpoint curiosities would have been well received.

And, in all honesty, this wasn’t the first time that I felt this way in a group such as this. So, I even considered the possibility that maybe it was I who was the common denominator to the problem here.

At the same time, I was also weighing the possibility that this particular community had morphed into groupthink, simply echoing the language, behaviors and tactics of the leader(s).

Newbies either loved it and championed every word or they seemed to quietly disappear or go silent.

The diversity of the group-members’ backgrounds didn’t seem to contribute to a diverse conversational environment.

Somehow discussions were somewhat superficial and/or didn’t involve much situational analysis, experimentation or innovation.

The Search For Answers

So, I decided to ask around outside of that group to see if I could get to be bottom of why I was having such feelings of discontent about these serendipitous online group-networking experiences — and ultimately, to try to figure out if there was anything I could do about it.

It turns out that I probably didn’t do enough research about the group before I joined. I came to realize that even though the sales copy was appealing to me, that didn’t guarantee the membership it attracted would be a good fit for everyone who signed up.

Along the way, I uncovered the following 10 questions that would be helpful for assessing one’s fit with a group before joining. I will be sure to ask myself these questions the next time before I invest in joining a new group again, physical or virtual.

What is the purpose of the group?
Why do I want to join the group?
What do I want/expect to get out of the group?
How established/fluid is the group?
How frequently does membership change?
Who are the loudest voices in the group, and do their ideas resonate with me?
How deep or superficial are the interactions among members and/or leaders?
Who are the leaders and what are the ideas that the group rallies around?
How open is the group to engaging in (counterpoint) discussions?
How long do I want to be a part of this group?
The next time around, I believe that asking myself these questions beforehand is good way to get a better understanding of whether or not a longer term fit between the group and I is likely to exist or not.

What I Learned

I also learned that groups, just like individuals, are living breathing organisms, each with unique lifecycles. Groups evolve and devolve. They are a reflection of the times, membership, and/or leadership at that point in time. So, it is also important that I understand where I am in my development lifecycle and where the group is in its lifecycle as our paths cross.

Ultimately, if the group of seemingly like-minded individuals that I belong to no longer feels like a good fit, then it is up to ME to be aware enough to recognize that and do something about it.

Another key point worth considering is that feeling uncomfortable in a group is not always a bad thing. Maybe there is more danger in feeling comfortable in a group than there is in feeling uncomfortable in a group. Being in an echo chamber of back-slappers and group-thinkers might feel like a cohesive support structure, but at what point might that supposed homogeneity block you from seeing or considering other perspectives, viewpoints and ideas? Just something to think about.


The above post was inspired by Brainstorm Ideas from the MyBlogU.com community (via Brainstorm Requests), namely: Phil Turner of Teaching Escape; Jessy Troy of DIYGadgets.com; Alex Yong of Techmania411.net; and Don Sturgill of DonSturgill.com. Thanks, All!


Image Credit: via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/3Krudh

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