There’s a Coterie!!

When you get to know people through a virtual medium, do you get to know them better? Do truer pictures of who they really are emerge more rapidly, as on Polaroid film, rather than on film that needs to be turned in for dark room development and is seen at a later date?

Perhaps you do. Over the past few years I have befriended many people through contact established on the Internet. Mostly by virtue of running a network of writers on a social and business networking site – Ryze Business Networking. Many of these connections feel strong and binding, the friendships established, unshakeable, come hell or high water. Then there are the others, oh so many others, who appeared normal and sane at the outset. They presented themselves as people who had something substantially larger than a pea knocking around within the confines of their skulls.

The writers’ network is flourishing and the quality of writing remains high. I can, at the very least, vouch for the quality of prose that we get to read on this network and for the most part I am proud of what my friend and I created in one moment of disenchantment with another network. I am not in a position to say much about the poetry. I certainly enjoy reading and analyzing poetry and have even attempted verse. But I express myself better in prose. Most poetry I read on this network and others is either incomprehensible to me or inconsequential. It has always amazed me to see how poetic people can get about love and angst.

But, I digress; poets have always been as welcome on Shakespeare and Company as have prose writers. Humor is also an integral part of how we write and an underlying subtext in how the network wants to progress and grow. So things should be hunky-dory, shouldn’t they? Well, I don’t know if it is jealousy or the affinity for disequilibrium that members of our species show. They get tired of seeing a good thing; they get tired of things running on an even keel and are always on the look out for creative ways to summon chaos. They want to unsettle things, they set out with a wrecking ball; the idea of breaking, damaging and later settling down to analyze the results of the destruction they wrought, like erudite scholars, is of immense appeal to them.

I have a fairly healthy self image. I have a strict sense of fairness, my objectivity knows no equals (not amidst my contacts), I treat people with respect believing that is the only way to get respect and, most importantly, I am consistent in my behavior. I don’t present myself as someone one day and as an evil, alien twin of this someone the next day. It is precisely this trait in people that I don’t understand, and in fact abhor. I have no patience for inconsistency even if the excuses offered are:

“I had a bad day”
“I don’t know what I was thinking”
“I was off my Prozac”
“I suffer from bipolar disorder”

I just don’t have the genes that it takes to understand inconsistent people or to sympathize with their condition. I don’t change from day to day, so do not change on me.

So back to the original question, do you learn about two-faced, inconsistent people sooner online than you do in a real interaction? In a virtual interaction, other than the ubiquitous Yahoo emoticons, there is no way to observe body language, no way to read between the lines or to collate and compile subtleties of communication from that which is left unsaid. But perhaps one could see a cyber connection as one where the message is pure, from brain to fingers, to high speed cables to the screen of the person you’re addressing; messages that are not disguised by the aforementioned non-verbal cues. So maybe the masks drop sooner. In my experience they have and every time a new ugliness is revealed in all its glory, it takes my breath away. An analogy would be an unsuspecting victim of a house on fire who decides to make an exit through a door and turns the knob only to be blasted into nothingness by lashing tongues of fire.

People are often adamant on the stances they choose to adapt. Calling a truce, talking things through, trying to be objective and seeing things from other perspectives is out of the question, although these ideals of human behavior often get significant lip service, in all quarters. They are given names like “healthy discussions”, “agreeing to disagree”, while getting even more firmly entrenched in dogma and a belief that one is always correct no matter what.

Running a network, occasionally two, has been quite the learning experience. Shakespeare and Company – a network of writers on Ryze – is nothing more than what it says it is – a network of people who enjoy writing English correctly and derive pleasure out of having their work read as well as from reading what others write. We never said we would train people to write well. We are not professional literary critics. We don’t have contacts in the publishing world and we exist as a network only because I pay Ryze $100 per year for us to exist. C’est tout. But people never cease to amaze me with the expectations they have. Some causes of dissatisfaction, accumulated over a year and a half, are summarized below [these are paraphrased and said in context, not direct quotes]:

  1. I was staging a play and Shakespeare and Company ignored my requests for the provision of a ‘corpus’ for my audience. They also ignored my pleas for an army of photographers and videographers.
  2. Some of us are merely tolerated and unfairly “critted” while others garner favorable feedback. I thought I would learn at this network but I am mostly ignored.
  3. No one reads my poetry.
  4. I am just here to post; I don’t care what others are writing.
  5. I only read Individual A. Others are not worth my time.
  6. No one comments on what I write.
  7. I thought this was a network of serious writers so how come I see so many humorous posts?
  8. Why are so many people using pseudonyms? There are fake people on the network.
  9. Individual A = Individual B, believe you me.
  10. If I can’t use obscenities while commenting on others works then I feel my freedom of expression is being violated. The moderator is a Nazi.
  11. I want the freedom to call the members of the board morons. I want to make personal verbal attacks on people and if you stop me I will draw the conclusion that your network is a front for transforming Indians into Americans, especially since you work in the finance industry.
  12. I will offer one word feedback to people and say “nice work”, “wonderful”. I won’t acknowledge or thank people for their praise of my work. Yet when others do the same I will once again repeat that the network is full of morons.
  13. I can’t bear this network, but I’ll continue to lurk, use it as free advertisement for my stories.
  14. I will greet people’s posts by typing up “YAAAAAAAAAWN” as a response.
  15. I will write bad English, clichéd stories and pathetic love poems and if you don’t respond I’ll tell the world through my blog that the network does not appreciate good work.
  16. Oh and the poem someone wrote, about the ‘love poetry’ genre the other day? Well, that was a nasty personal attack on me. I won’t post here anymore and I will sever ties with any friends who post here as well. They will have to choose between me and this network.
  17. There’s a coterie! A nefarious ring!

This last often has me wondering if I should employ a private investigator to unearth this conspiratorial coterie. How dare there flourish a coterie on a network I moderate that doesn’t include me!!

Despite these provocations my stance has usually been one of leaving things alone and letting them resolve or die out by themselves. Reacting only aggravates matters. But perhaps I can say a few words that express my astonishment at what people feel they have a right to tell me, or the libelous remarks they feel they have a right to spew just because they think the Internet is largely standards-free. They fail to realize how lax my standards are on the network as opposed to the behavior I would expect from people who cross the threshold of my home. There is a code of conduct in my home. You can’t enter unless you are invited. If you litter, if you verbally abuse people, if you generally behave deplorably then chances are you will be thrown out. Or perhaps your presence will be tolerated once but you will never be invited again. Also, the people who accept my invitation, I would assume, would be people who share a fondness for me and my family. If that is not the case, I expect they would either turn down the invitation or wouldn’t have been invited in the first place. But if you wreak havoc within my boundaries you will certainly be paid in kind. Not so on the network; there are considerable freedoms on the network.

Before getting a driver’s license in the United States one is told driving ones car on the roads of this country is a privilege not a right. And so it should be with network participation, with being a guest in someone’s home, it should be seen as a privilege and not a right. And one certainly does not have the right to stop being a civilized human being simply because one is a member of a cyber community.

29 Comments

  1. Hello ma'amRunning a network takes a lot of time and energy. While being guilty of more than a few of those sins you have mentioned, I thought I must tell you that the network (and you) are doing a fine job. There will always be people who seek attention with outrageous stuff. Why pander to their wishes by reacting ?: )

  2. Ditto what ?! said. And I'll add this: you get full marks for commendable restraint in the face of unwarranted provocation.Also, if you get wind of that coterie, kindly put in a word for me too! I LOVE coteries – I belong to no less than 27!

  3. A shame!!!Do you have the guts to say this on Shakespeare and Company Board?Why fight the battle away from where the action is?You are not even worth the attention I have given you here.

  4. Has this become a free for all?

  5. People write "dare" and yet dare not reveal their identity… and on your blog too.Interesting. Are they worth being known….??A very apt and hard hitting post.As for a coterie..hmmm is there one? Or is a collection of right thinking people who choose nto to yaaaaawwwwn nor offend nor pretend to be the intellectual glitteratti called a coterie now?

  6. People write "dare" and yet dare not reveal their identity… and on your blog too.Interesting. Are they worth being known….??A very apt and hard hitting post.As for a coterie..hmmm is there one? Or is a collection of right thinking people who choose nto to yaaaaawwwwn nor offend nor pretend to be the intellectual glitteratti called a coterie now?

  7. I think you're doing a real fine job with SandC, and just don't let these negatives get you down… all good work worth its salt receives criticism from people who don't get it, and you're facing the same kind of attacks. Just continue doing what you are doing, because it's quite commendable.

  8. A network like S&C needs careful moderation, a balanced point of view adn above all a sense of humor.There will always be detractors as there are, for not everyone has the capability to juggle these three roles with aplomb and dexterity. Please do nto let them get in the way of your thinking you are doing a really fine job- the content, liveliness of posts and constant rejuvenation of S&C is more than proof of it.Those who try to go against it are merely attention seekers who lack real telen.

  9. You're doing a splendid job Pragya. Count on us. Cowards are not worth your time or your trouble. The fair name of S and Co. cannot and will not be besmirched by a disgruntled few.

  10. You're doing just fine, Prags. There's bound to be some sparks flying — afterall, it's a bunch of humans we're looking at, and creative ones at that! Don't let these trivialities bog you down; and at the same time, don't demur serving the devils their stone soups. The idea is to promote aspiring writers, not to quash their efforts or to buy and sell their blahs. Chin up now, and three cheers for you, and S&Co.!

  11. at least there is a clique here too, all seats of power have one. Please may i belong?Note its only those who do not belong who have a problem,

  12. "A shame!!!Do you have the guts to say this on Shakespeare and Company Board?Why fight the battle away from where the action is?You are not even worth the attention I have given you here."Ah… the hypocrites come out and play, bringing angst to where it's not needed, and stench to where it's least wanted. Frankly, I don't think you're worth her time, especially when you tell her to fight a battle that doesn't even exist.Alankrita —Obviously, the anonymous imbecile that posted that piece of humorous nonsense does not reveal himself because he knows that we will make fun of his idiocy.

  13. Do not get discouraged by adverse and moronic comments. Everybody thinks he has written a masterpiece and every member of this board is obliged to comment on his or her literary gem. It`s good not to have such cry-babies on board. Moderating is a tough job, you have to bear the brunt. Keep your cool.

  14. A very well written piece indeed, Prags :o)Reaffirms my belief that writing can be truly cathartic.Keep that indomitable spirit intact. It takes loads of grit, determination and fortitude to be able to run a network of S&Cs caliber and you've managed to do so with much aplomb. Kudos to you woman!Keep that flag flying high!!

  15. A few morons are bitterly jealous that they have no sense of clean humour or because whose writing is very average. YOU are paying for the network. Who are these freeloaders who expect the finest free and only whine and complain? If they don't like it they can leave, form their own little network and enjoy themselves.You are doing a fine job. Don't bother about meanspirited negative people.VM

  16. As usual, your fine gifts for studied thinking and reasoned feeling are much in evidence here.Congrats on your fine and tireless good work, Pragya — much obliged.cheers,d.i.

  17. God bless, Pragya, you have come a far way from the diffident young writer who sought admission to a collective blog some years back…I frankly didn't know the sort of bullshit heaped on you 'Nazi' moderator! What a wealth of crazy comments here… you must have seasoned yourself rather than suffered as I think the fact of the matter seems like.All the best. Keep doing the great work. You are wonderfully balanced!Cheerz!

  18. I seriously feel we should consider in depth psycho-analysis via the Net before letting people join the network. I mean, how can we allow people who are crazier than us on board? And that too, nasty, mean-spirited, brainless crazies.BAH! to themRAH! to youhugs:D R

  19. my dear pragyaplesse relax. its impossible to keep the world and their mothers in good humour all the time.suggest that instead of tolerating them, you gently shove them out of the way.i guess the more civilised and dignified one is, people think they can get away by saying and doing anything.wonder why they didnt have the b***s to say this on the board.and i'd like to see them try this stunt on the billi-coterie owned network..but these fellows are smart enough to know if they try it they will be scratched out of existence.

  20. Maybe you should not even post the occasional comment Jon. You may know a lot but unfortunately none of it percolates down. You don't nurture anyone – simply talk down from a position of self-arrogated authority.If you have a problem with the board, just leave.Your attitude leaves everything to be desired. And please spare us. Don't bother to condescend to even the occasional remark. Everyone all around will be truly happier.Regards,R

  21. Pragya,Having been away from S&C for a while now I was at first shocked and then rather surprised at these recent developments.S&C, with its warmth, its pool of talent and its varied postings has now become a part of my daily life as it were. Your post bears your trademark of fairness, grace and reasoning; something that very few people are graced with even after a lifetime. And therefore are unable to comprehend.Inflated Egos have long been the reason for most controversies and I fear that most of the unreasonable/unfathomable caustic comments are a result of this and has nothing to do with the numerous accusations that are being heaped on you.Do not be deterred my friend, and continue doing your bit. For if anyone has been fair on this network, and motivated and encouraged every single member it isYou.

  22. Personally I think the only problem with S&C is that we have a decent network and a moderator who believe in democracy…I think Pragya its high time to show them who really owns the place.

  23. Pragya,It has been a pleasure to be a part of SandC from almost the very beginning! You do a great job and give it your all every single day!!If I have not participated recently, it has been due to immense pressures both at work and home…I happened to go to Jon's blog…His ridiculous blog entry was shocking in the beginning…but laughable now…SandC a front for helping people get American Citizenship??!!??? Jon was always something of an odd presence on SandC…now he seems to have completely lost it!!!Let's ignore and move on, Pragya!!!Jaya

  24. Pragya,It has been a pleasure to be part of SandC right from the beginning. You do a great job of being the moderator and give it your all every single day!I happened to read Jon's latest blog entry…It was shocking at first but almost laughable now. He was always something of an odd presence on SandC…now he seems to have completely lost it!! SandC a front for helping people get American Citizenship??!!!?? Pragya, let's ignore and move on as always…negative people can never be part of building something enduring…they only know how to attack and pull everyone down…let us not get pulled down.Jaya

  25. Jaya–the truth of the matter is possibly the opposite of Jon's almost-insightful theory.Item: you used to live in USA, now you live in India.Item: After joining S&Co., I travelled to India.Item: Som S&Co. denizens who at one time lived in the United States, have returned to India (e.g. Vasudev Murthy).Ergo, it must be a front organization for a plot (of unknown dimension or purpose) for delivering persons to India.;-)d.i.

  26. Dear Pragya,I thought such juvenile behaviour existed only on blogs. Ask JJ, he will tell you the number of blog wars I have been involved in. But being a part of SandC made me:1. Realise that there is no point trying to prove a point to people who just wouldn't listen.2. Realise that to be taken seriously as a writer, you also have to read. 3. Realise that you can hone your writing skills only through writing, not through mindless twaddle that speak of conspiracy theories on writers' networks :)). (Hollywood, please take note – this could be Mel Gibson's saving grace!)4. Realise that it takes a LOT to moderate a network with the kind of grace that only you have displayed, with JJ pitching in from this side of the Atlantic. 5. Proud, for it is the only network I know that is devoid of all pretense and sycophancy.You, dear lady, are doing a fine job. Let the detractors go suck an egg, a rotten one at that. I saw a very eloquent "Get a life!" comment to one of my co-postors at SandC on the said blog. This coming from someone who posts about conspiracy theories of immigration being masterminded by two (of the most genuine) people (I've known) who live a world apart from each other. Methinks it is a conspiracy theory to deface our network because we're growing good and strong while maintaining a sense of discipline and solid decorum, thanks to our moderators.Long live SandC! Hail Hitler(s) =))!And let it be stated that I was the first joinee to this coterie, and by Jove, am I kicked about it!Love from across the world,Suma.PS: Can you help me find a job? Better still, can I be your assistant or gofer? I always wanted to move to the US =)) =))!!

  27. Pragya, you're doing just great. A common friend tipped me on this and I just came to say that even though I barely post on the network, I love visiting and reading the amazing posts by people who I immensely respect for their writing skills!Please pay no heed to the insane lot and go on doing the good work that you have set out to do.Hugs, Aparna

  28. Pragya, stumbled upon this today – had absolutely no idea that S&C was in the midst of this. Personally, I've found S&C to be a pleasant place where I can read varied and interesting things. I find S&C one of the most sensible places I've been online, thanks to your objective moderation and the mature attitude that contributors exhibit.It's always hard to find a place online where you fit in, and I choose only places where I am comfortable. Perhaps those who are disenchanted are simply not comfortable, and they feel it's time for them to move on. I guess this happens in every online community periodically, but I can only wish that "S&C goes on forever". Cheers and good luck!ano

  29. gr8 job u r doing!


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