In the previous editorials I have written you will have read about the inherent dangers, conflicts and difficulties that dog the online communities and, as someone recently pointed out, there is probably no group ~ or at least very few ~ that have zero problems or “drama” within their ranks. I have detailed examples and made suggestions on how to avoid getting caught by untoward things. After all, as Richard Jordan’s character in the movie Dune observed;
“Now remember the first step in avoiding a trap, is knowing of its existence”
It is my hope that I have provided some sound advice in that arena.
Now, you may be thinking, “Is this guy a professional cynic or what?” The answer would be that I am a pragmatist rather than a cynic and as a pragmatist I can also see some of the tremendous benefits that are afforded by the online communities. Let’s face it, if there were NO benefit to be had, by being here then the communities would not exist, right? So, what are some of the benefits and the positive things that the online communities have to offer? Firstly, allow me refer you to an earlier article here at RVN, an article dealing with the importance of community. 
Information and resource sharing is a cornerstone of the communities. In the sharing of knowledge we are giving the uninitiated a chance to better understand themselves and how they fit into the “grand scheme” ~ if there is such a thing of course. We have, at the tips of our fingers, the ultimate avenue to provide sound information to those who are new to the communities and the chance to reconcile, within themselves, the reason for why they are the way they are. Information, freely shared, leads to education and the better a person’s knowledge of themselves and their surrounds, the better integrated and the happier that person is.
Ideas sharing ~ a cornerstone of learning and the development of knowledge bases, the chance to learn from one another cannot be overstated. Sharing ideas can often lead to breakthroughs of thought and theory that transcends individual experience and knowledge, and leads to the development of new concepts that may lead to the solving of certain long-held questions and mysteries.
While it may seem, on the surface, that many ideas are ‘fanciful’, ‘ill-constructed’, or, ‘insupportable’ the seeds of these ideas can, and do, lead others to develop, refine and re-define ideas to be productive and useful to the community as a whole. Ideas are things to be examined and nurtured no matter what they first appear to be and in many quarters; sadly sometimes not all, of the OVC this is a practice that is both encouraged and followed.
Communications between people of like minds and beliefs is a vital element in the maintenance and survival of any “community”. Within the OVC, and beyond to encompass the other online communities, the most benefit and the most support comes from effective communications between people. It is vitally important that people are able to share their thoughts, ideas, concepts and opinions freely in order to learn and improve their own circumstances. Communications free of harassment, pressure or judgmental condemnation is, arguably, one of the most beneficial things that the greater proportion of the OVC can provide. It is unfortunate that in a number of places online there is a preponderance of negative reaction especially to newcomers and rather than taking time to introduce, explain and assess the needs of people there is a predilection to dismiss those whom do not ‘fit the mold’.
One of the comments to a previous editorial pointed out something along the lines of, show us a group of people bigger than ten where there is no drama, which in itself is a fair enough statement but does not address the core reason for the interaction between people in the OVC, that is, mutual benefit. The level of “drama” is solely attributable to personalities and disagreements of opinion and, as earlier described, this can never be entirely avoided, however, with the proper introductions and quality information received early in one’s exposure to the OVC, it is possible to greatly minimize the negative effects of the inappropriate.
The thrust of any community contact and information sharing process, the inclusion, education and guidance of those whom are not fully aware or properly informed of the realities of the situations in which they may find themselves embroiled. There are, across the OVC, splendid articles of introduction and information to be read, such as:
“A letter to EVERY person who Ever wants to become a vampire” , “An important note about blood testing” and “Awakening, what’s wrong with me?” at Smoke and Mirrors. 
Anti-isolationism and support structures are important to people everywhere, especially to people who believe they are of a “special interest group” or are of the belief that they are “different” from what human society in general considers the norm. These “differences” can, and do, bring about increased feelings of isolationism and one of the most important aspects of the OVC is that it affords its members the opportunity to communicate with others who feel as they do. In short it let’s people involved know that they are not alone.
In 2000, political scientist Robert D. Putnam released the book “Bowling Alone,” in which he surveyed the declining participation in organizational groups in the United States. The OVC provides, for many people, the opportunity to involve in social intercourse with others of a like mind and allows them to explore the realities of their thinking and perceptions. According to one researcher, John Cacioppo at the University of Chicago, 20 percent of all people are unhappy because of social isolation at any given moment.
In recent years, Cacioppo has turned his attention to the minds of the socially isolated, and his team has found that the brains of lonely people react differently than those with strong social networks. 
A supportive environment is one of the keys to establishing and maintaining a strong community.
From a sociological perspective, it has been said that we cannot adequately form a sense of self or personal identity without intense social contact with others. This “self” represents the total of the perceptions and feelings that we have of being a distinct, unique person – a sense of who and what we are. Noted sociologist Charles Horton Cooley referred to the “looking glass self” which outlines how a person’s sense of “self” is derived from the perceptions of others. 
The OVC can, and in many cases does, contribute positively to the development of the “vampyric” self for those who are undergoing the processes of self-awareness, or “awakening” and it is at this somewhat critical stage that many newcomers need our help, as a community, to come to terms with the changes in their lives.
Apart from the obvious “online” interactions, which are comparatively easy to maintain, there are also local events that allow members of the OVC to mingle in a social fashion. “Meetups”, a popular term, that allow real vampyres to associate freely with others of their kind, are held in many places. This can also help in preventing “isolationist” feelings in people and engenders cooperative approaches and free sharing of ideas. Unfortunately there are a great many in the community who do not have, or cannot afford, the luxury of attending such events and may be in a geographical situation that does not allow for them actually meeting with others of their kind. In this respect the OVC provides a vital link to the world that these isolated members could not otherwise experience ~ another positive approach to the problem of isolation.
These “meet-ups” also engender the establishment of community cooperation and projects. Combined efforts not only aimed at improvements within the OVC but also outside of it. Combined efforts at positive media release, representation and the like will undoubtedly benefit any community.
In the previous series of Crossroads editorials I have dealt, somewhat extensively, with the possible dangers and pitfalls of interactions in online communities and personal safety is something that can never be taken for granted; having said that, however, there are ways to meet people from the OVC safely.
Let’s assume that you have been communicating online with someone for a time and both of you decide it would be a good idea to meet in person. In essence we are talking about a “blind date” type situation. So, employ the same safety measures as if you met someone in a pub or nightclub.
When you decide where to meet, make it public, very visible, out in the open.
Tell at least one or two friends where you are going, when and for how long. It might even pay you to make up some sort of “check-in” system with a friend, say by mobile phone.
Don’t leave the public and visible place of meeting alone with a person that you don’t know. Maybe after two or three public meetings you might like to think about it but still, consider making it a double date with friends at first.
Basic safety does not need to get in the way of a good meeting and a welcome friendship.
We, as a community and I include the entirety of the OVC, are not perfect. We are not in possession of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth because every person’s truth is different and unique to them. With the resources and the methods of interaction we have available we try and support, nurture and encourage as well as we can, we try to present all the arguments and opinions and we try and analyse and discuss information relevant to the vampire communities in their entirety. We, as a community have “bad apples” like any other barrel but we have many, many more good one’s, good people that are helping newcomers to find the best available information. Support is one of the chief goals of the community, aiming to understand ourselves better so that we can pass on that information to those who are unlearned is the driving force behind much of what goes on in the OVC. In general we are not a massed group of condescending, patronizing and unfriendly folk. I may be condemned by some for speaking “globally” but I believe that, in the main, we have the right to be proud of what we have built to date.
1. Real Vampire News – “The importance of community”
2. Smoke and Mirrors – Vampyres For Beginners
4. Edmonds, Molly. “What are the effects of isolation in the mind?“ 06 April 2010.
5. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 7th. Ed. – Diana Kendall
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