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Keeping Community Alive

John is a freelance writer, ghost-writer, storyteller, and poet. He always tries to include a message or social commentary in his writing

Image by Anja-#pray for ukraine# #helping hands# stop the war from Pixabay (text added via PicFont)

Image by Anja-#pray for ukraine# #helping hands# stop the war from Pixabay (text added via PicFont)

The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.

— Goethe

A Sense of Community

Whether it’s your town or neighbourhood, an online website, social media group, or blog, we all need to have a sense of community and feel part of a group. We can trace that back to our distant ancestors' tribal instincts.

We still have our traditional family groups, friends, neighbours, and acquaintances, but since the introduction of the Internet which facilitated email, video conferencing, chat rooms, social media etc. We have been able to communicate, interact, and form relationships with people from all walks of life and from every country in the world - something never before possible.

Even those who have previously been socially challenged in real-life situations have been given a vehicle to converse with others and become part of online communities where they aren’t exposed to their fear of face-to-face, personal contact. They can overcome any feelings of shyness and inferiority and maintain whatever level of anonymity or created persona they wish.

Communicate around the world: Image by Anja-#pray for ukraine# #helping hands# stop the war from Pixabay

Communicate around the world: Image by Anja-#pray for ukraine# #helping hands# stop the war from Pixabay

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.

— Mother Teresa

This doesn’t mean that there is no judgement, debate, conflict, or bullying online, but it does allow us to turn off anything we find offensive or threatening with just the click of an ‘x.’ Provided, of course, we have the willpower to do that. The best way to fight trolls is to ignore them as they feed off conflict and insults.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, and Reddit are popular platforms that allow people to communicate, make new acquaintances, and keep in touch with family and friends. There are countless other apps, chat sites, and groups, often specific to particular interests, or demographics.

I actually have accounts on a few of the above, but only frequent them occasionally. Whereas some people spend hours daily on Facebook, Instagram and the like, and are often seen with their heads bent over their phones, fingers busily texting (these are called ‘social media’ for a reason) - my sense of online community lies elsewhere.

Social Media: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Social Media: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.

— Herman Melville

An Online Presence

I personally find the plethora of ads, trivial posts, derogatory comments, regurgitated stories repeated over and over, and downright fake news, generally unappealing. Therefore, I only use the above to maintain some contact with friends or family I don’t get to see enough in person. I probably check my Facebook feed and notifications once per day, Instagram weekly, and Twitter and LinkedIn maybe monthly.

I have 20-odd years of online presence, and for the last 13 of that, I have been a member of a site called HubPages. Although writing-specific sites like HubPages, Medium, and previously Squidoo and Bubblews, were seen mainly as ‘content mills’ they also provide communities of like-minded individuals (namely writers) more so than social media sites like Facebook (despite its many groups).

I initially just stumbled across HubPages in 2009 and saw it as somewhere to publish online all my poems, essays, and short stories gathering dust in notebooks, and files stored away for no one to see until maybe I passed away and family had to sort through my effects.

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Reporter Writing Online

Reporter Writing Online

A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It's about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role.

— Yehuda Berg

Making Friends

So, HubPages virtually became just my online storage facility as well as allowing me to say I had an online presence. I didn’t have many readers for the first year or so, but even one or two were more than I’d had previously. Then suddenly, I began receiving comments from a fellow writer with quite a high profile on the site, who welcomed me and began sharing my work with her HubPages network of friends and followers.

I quickly found myself accepted into this community, chiefly through the sharing of comments on each other’s articles, and to a lesser extent the forums. The more followers I acquired, the more time I began devoting to the site. Before long many of these mutual followers became friends. The encouragement and advice provided by my peers inspired me to share more and more articles, poems and stories.

I have made many ‘real’ friends at HubPages that I am confident will last a lifetime. Some have been added as friends on Facebook, Instagram, Medium etc. and as email contacts.

'Real" Friends: Image by Naassom Azevedo from Pixabay

'Real" Friends: Image by Naassom Azevedo from Pixabay

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

— Mark Twain

Adapting to Change

In recent years the management of HubPages has been taken over first by Maven, then by The Arena Group, numerous changes were implemented, and subsequently, the capability to comment on articles was lost. This has been a major dampener on the community feel, but many of us are not willing to lose that important aspect of HubPages (that has been a big part of our lives for years) and have found ways around it to maintain the community spirit.

One way is to share links to each other's articles in the forums so that others can still comment on them and communicate. Some are opposed to using forums in this way, but we have to be flexible and do what is necessary to adapt to the obstacles thrown our way. After all, ‘community’ is one of the most important factors keeping writers at HubPages rather than abandoning it for other writing sites.

One of the major factors drawing long-time hubbers to Medium, for instance, is the ability to easily comment and vote articles up (clap) in addition to still being paid for their writing. I find it difficult to understand why HubPages is having so much difficulty in doing the same.

Stand Together: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Stand Together: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

There is immense power when a group of people with similar interests gets together to work toward the same goals.

— Idowu Koyenikan

Let's Save the Community

Many promises have been made from HubPages staff that ‘comments will be returned’, but in what format that will be, remains to be seen., as after two years they have only been returned to a handful of niche sites and, so far, not in any satisfactory form. The authors are not notified of a new comment, and for those who have hundreds of articles, it is impossible to randomly check them all. They are also too difficult to even find among all the advertisements.

Intrusive, badly placed, and repetitive advertising that breaks up paragraphs and stanzas of poetry and affects the attractiveness of articles is another detriment to retaining writers. Many are currently testing the waters at other writing sites, and even abandoning HubPages for sites like Medium.

I am still optimistic that a solution will be eventually found, and I urge my friends and fellow writers to persevere and not abandon HubPages completely. After all, the site is still going after many similar sites have collapsed. That is at least one reason to stay positive. By all means, experiment with other sites, but don’t give up on the possible resurrection of HubPages. By sticking together and keeping our voice as authors heard we can save this community.

© 2022 John Hansen

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