I recently joined a plant identification group while trying to identify a plant I found in the woods. There are currently, I believe, around four thousand international members of this group.
I also belong to a writer’s group, which has thousands of international members.
It’s hard to avoid comparing the two. And it’s been a bit of a shock.
Within the plant group, a person can seek all sorts of help around identification, habitat, and so on. The members consist of those who can easily list off the latin names and those who know only the common names. But wow. The rudeness. And I’m not one of those types easily offended.
Recently a person posted a photo of a plant that looked suspiciously like blueberries. She found it in a raised bed where she had planted blueberries. She thought it was one of her plants. Who wouldn’t? But when she ate a berry, she realized it was different. She sought help identifying the plant, and instead was slammed with hundreds of people belittling her for eating something she didn’t know. Many of the responses were quite cruel.
Within the writer’s group, members run the gamut from experienced journalists and novelists to raw beginners.
Recently a person posted a question about her fear switching from freelance journalism to attempting a novel. She sought help and advice. She was slammed with hundreds of people offering help, listing resources, encouraging her to try something new, and excited on her behalf.
Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t one of those broad generalizations. There are rude responses in the writer’s group once in a while, and there are kind responses on the plant site. But the percentages are skewed. On the plant side, the kind responses are in a minority. It’s the opposite on the writer’s group.
This has me wondering what makes the difference. I don’t think it’s tied to ‘writing’ or ‘plants’.
Is it social media? The freedom the internet gives one to say things they wouldn’t to another’s face? That’s simplistic and an overly used excuse.
Is it art vs. science? The rude responses on the plant site seem to overwhelmingly be from those who can spout Latin names without typos. Is an artist more willing to share, and learn from sharing, where the science type leans to snobbery? I don’t believe this for an instant.
So what’s going on?
It’s the administrators. Those who do the writer’s group monitor things closely. If a comment is uncalled for, the person is called on it. I had many years as a facilitator of a writer’s group to understand the need for quick involvement. In the plant group, there are rules you agree to when you sign on, and supposedly there are administrators out there somewhere. Occasionally, like the thread about blueberries, these guys step in and put their foot down. But by the time they do, the thread has gone on way too long and the damage is done.
In other words, it seems we can’t be left alone in our play groups without our parents. Or at least some of us.
So I’m going to drop the plant group. Who needs that in our short lives? I bet there are other plant groups out there that are more professional, and that have members more like writers.
Then I’m going to go soak in the writer’s group for a while to clean off the plant group.