Building Community Online

This last decade or so has seen such an explosion of social media use, with technology growing so much faster than cultural etiquette around what makes for good manners online. People use it to share info with friends and with strangers, to promote ideas and events, to vent their anger and to ask for help. This is the context within which the PF now operates its own various Facebook groups and pages. 

What are our groups here for? To share PF information and get the work of the PF better known, but also as a platform for other Pagans to share events, ideas, resources. To do our bit to help build a strong community of diverse Pagans of all paths, to get to know each other better, to build local, national and community support groups. To be of help.

To do that well, we all need to feel safe. There are plenty of social media sites, often the more anonymous ones, where there is a culture of rudeness, of attacking others’ opinions, venting anger and hate, sneering, dismissing others for being different. Or of sitting at home bored, having a laugh by winding people up. Thinking that what you say online has no consequences IRL.

And that’s not how the PF chooses to operate. We all of us have enough problems in real life already, being judged for our faith, our differences. We need a place where we can come together, anonymously if that’s what we need, where we can trust that even if others don’t agree with us, they will say so with respect and courtesy. We need a space where we can reflect, can discuss our ideas, our doubts, our (possible) misconceptions, have an open debate, and know that we will receive support not hostility or mockery. It’s what you’d expect at any live Pagan event, so why wouldn’t you expect it online too?

There are people in our community who have all sorts of vulnerabilities, hidden and overt. They are a part of us too. People with mental health problems, people with dyslexia or learning disabilities who can’t spell too well online, people who experience harassment, stigma and exclusion because of their skin colour, their sexual orientation, their gender identity. They deserve to come here and be able to be their true selves in all their unique glory, because we are a community that strives to welcome all Pagans, and knows that we flourish through diversity and inclusion.
So, we set limits. Abusive posts get removed, and repeat offenders barred from that particular group. Yes, people have a right to free speech, but not when one person’s freedom means someone else’s pain. We try in our own posts to model what we would like to see from everyone: carefulness, respect for differences, acceptance, knowing that we ourselves are not necessarily right and the other person wrong. Helpfulness. Gentle feedback. We make mistakes and we help each other to understand our own and each others’.
That’s how we build the community we all need.

Sylvia Rose