My oldest daughter has been part of various online, forum-style role-playing communities for the past several years. She has made quite a few good friends over the years, as the communities develop layers of interaction, social circles expand and she feels a real sense of friendship (unity) with individual members of each community. Over the years, one community has splintered into the next, dropping a few people while gaining new members – much like any other social group really.
She has talked to me in the past about the deep sense of sadness she gets when these communities die. Sometimes, the fact that she has not had any physical (local) interaction with her online friends, perhaps makes this sense of loss a bit deeper – in the fact that once someone logs off thats it. No bumping into them at school, or on a nostalgic whim, calling them up on the phone. I know for certain occasions, she has gone back to the old boards to read the threads and reminisce old friendships and good role-playing.
Last night, before heading off to bed, she checked on one of her forums to see if there was any activity and she noticed a big chunk of the site missing. Seems there has been alot of conflict on the boards over the last few weeks over various issues including mod powers. What was once a safe place where individuals felt a sense of security (through the powers of anonymity perhaps) to share things about their lives they may not have done so in their daily lives, was becoming a place where harsh words were exchanged, feelings hurt and alliances drawn.
The creator of the site, and key moderator, decided to deal with the community issues in his own way – by deleting massive amounts of the site. My daughter and I talked about it as she was quite upset that all of the role-playing content that she has contributed to the site over the last year and a half was gone in a flash on the whim of teenage boy. No collective decision making, no talking to the moderators or even leaving a post on the boards that remained explaining his actions. Only after this, did he decide to pass on head moderator powers to a close friend of his. My daughter was happy – as she also had her mod powers reinstated (she was one of the founding members of this site).
She told me this morning that she is thankful some of the community is still in tact. Although it’s primary purpose is for role-playing games, it has also become a place of solace for many of them – a (safe) place where they talk about the problems they are dealing with in their daily lives. Such an aggressive use of the delete button made a few of them realize how valuable (and destructive) these places can be.