You Can’t Guarantee Entire Communities Will Be Good

a mural painted on a rock face that says "community" and then has a scene of a coastal town with rainbows and hot air balloons over it
Image by Rebecca Siegel / CC BY

This past summer I moved cross-country to a new area, leaving the community I knew rather well and landing somewhere where I basically knew no one at all.

At first I was pretty darn shellshocked. The simple logistical process of packing up everything we owned, preparing the house for sale, and living in it while it was being shown to prospective buyers… well, it was a lot.

So was moving to a place with a completely new climate and culture.

The move had the unfortunate timing of coinciding quite neatly with my father becoming quite ill. And all sorts of upheaval associated with that. Both emotional and logistical, as I needed to make an unexpected trip off in another direction back to where I grew up.

Anyway, between all of this stress, I was pretty darn introverted for a while. I wrote a murder mystery. Went on short walks. And talked to my cats a lot.

Socializing was pretty much limited to talking to my husband and to my old friends via the magic of chat programs.

I’ve been working a bit lately to get more established. To find a new community. I plan to write more about this in the future, but I’ve been taking some classes, learning new things. Meeting some folks in the process.

Slowly but surely, I’m finding a community.

You Can’t Guarantee Entire Communities Will Be Good

And as I do, I’m amused. Because I’m receiving the same warnings that I always do.

That not everyone can be trusted. Not everyone is safe. Not everyone knows what they’re doing. That you have to use your wits and evaluate folks on a case-by-case basis.

And it’s true!

But every time this happens, it’s said to me like this isn’t obvious. That this community is special.

Because this community has trustworthy members and untrustworthy ones. Good parts and bad parts.

Here’s the secret: That’s not special; that’s every community.

Declaring a Community Trash Because Not All Members Can Pass a Stringent Purity Test

I have some folks I know who have a really hard time finding a community. And it’s not for lack of trying!

I can think of one just now who gets really excited about communities when she finds them… until she encounters one or two people she doesn’t like for some reason. They don’t even necessarily have to be dangerous; they can simply be disappointing. Or stray too far from her idea of how things should be done.

And then she gets upset, declares the community trash, and sets off to find another one.

Bless her heart, I don’t think she’ll ever find what she’s looking for. I don’t think she’ll find a perfect community. Not a large one anyway. No one will ever pass that kind of expansive, oddly specific purity test (since it seems to be based mostly on her whims).

It’s Why I Don’t Usually Recommend Groups or Communities to People

And her attitude isn’t all that uncommon. I can look at other folks doing the same thing. Who all have their own purity tests with different criteria that others around them are simultaneously failing.

It’s why I don’t usually recommend groups or communities to people when they ask me if I know of any good ones.

Because my sense of “good” is typically a realistic one, one tempered by the notion that there are going to be janky folks in any group that gets large enough. And practices that I might find disappointing or strange in groups that I’m not in charge of.

That being part of community involves accepting that I don’t have total control over who gets to join or what the rules are. (But staying out of leadership has the upside of less responsibility, which helps.)

And while I might make recommendations based on my notion of “good,” it’s going to be all wrong for someone whose notion of “good” is closer to perfection, purity, or an ideal scenario.

I’ve found you can’t guarantee entire communities will be good — or even good for you.

But if you’re lucky, they might just be good enough for you to benefit by being involved with them. And that’s enough for me.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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