Community Is Not Clubs: How We’re Segregating the Internet & What We Can Do

Community Is Not Clubs: How We're Segregating the Internet

Community is not clubs

Lately there seems to be examples everywhere of how we are segregating the internet into exclusive cliques and clubs instead of communities where we share real human moments. Statistics from the 2014 Employee Diversity Reports for our major networks show that online giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest, Ebay and Etsy all fail to hire employees or leadership that reflect the diversity of their users. With thousands of makers, artists, and creative types fleeing Facebook for the faceless Ello at the rate of 31,000 sign ups per hour alongside news of “The World’s Most Exclusive Online Community” Netropolitan with it’s $9000 buy-in and $3000 annual membership fresh in my mind, this post burned a hole through my head, into my heart, and out of my hands.

The problem with all our social networks, no matter how awesome they seem to be, is that we don’t own them or make them-we just use them. The people who do own them don’t speak for us or care about community, they represent private interests who commodify our lives for profit and have turned the promise of an open internet into a private gold mine. From where I sit it seems like most of us are okay with every social network from Facebook to the new Ello being owned and directed by the same tiny demographic. They are allowed to buy and sell our private lives because we’ve forgotten one important truth: we are not users or consumers, we are makers and all of this is ours. 

Fellowship, union, shared responsibility and common ownership are community, anything else is just clubs. 

Community is inclusive

You can see exclusion at work in any inner city playground where kids group up just like adults do. Sporty ones there, creative ones there, outcasts waaaay over there, while a tiny crew with the best toys, clothes, food and tools rules the whole yard. Unless it is a very good school, one that values inclusion and community, kids can easily forget they are all sharing the same playground and have equal rights. Our online and offline communities are no different-unless we constantly work to remember everything is a common resource we forget this playground is ours and that it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure we share it fairly and create a legacy for future generations. Otherwise we break up into tribes, bullies & hustlers take over leadership, and it’s all Lord of the Flies in no time. Our communities can be as exclusive and elitist or inclusive and diverse as we choose to make them, we’ve always had that power.

Community is and must be inclusive. The great enemy of community is exclusivity. Groups that exclude others because they are poor or doubters or divorced or sinners or of some different race or nationality are not communities; they are cliques – actually defensive bastions against community. M. Scott Peck, The True Meaning of Community 

Clubs have a place on and offline-we need to meet up with people who share our interests and specific goals like running creative businesses, sharing pictures, getting crafty, changing the world or a million other things. The problem is when these clubs get confused for community or we allow cliques to buy and sell connection and loose our common spaces.

Citizenship is for everyone

It’s time to take back the internet as a community. As citizens of this shared global resource we have the right and responsibility to advocate for and create spaces that represent and respect our true diversity. In a world that is increasingly divided showing we can manage shared resources ethically has never been more important- or harder to do.

If we can’t create multigenerational, multicultural, & multigendered communities together online how can we ever hope to do so in our cities and streets? 

We have the right to vote with our heads, hearts and hands for the kind of world we want to be part of on or offline-that is the beautiful difficult wonder that is citizenship. We can contribute to closed cliques and clubs or constantly do the work of asking how we can be good citizens if we exclude our neighbours.  When we use our time to vote for another network like Facebook or Ello we help segregate the internet a little more by choosing a tiny minority to profit from all of us.

Community for the Head + Heart + Hands

For years OMHG has been reaching out to make a stronger community for everyone together. On May 1st we held an Annual General Party to start the process of becoming a cooperative. In July we partnered with Communifire to give members a complete social networking platform limited only by our imaginations and effort. We offer ALL the features and then some that the exclusive Netropolitan charges it’s members $9000 to access or that Facebook and Ello appear to offer for free-if you don’t mind giving up your freedom (or your face). Unlike other networks the OMHG community meets up weekly on Twitter, stays in touch on Instagram, builds friendships on Facebook, visits on Skype or Google+, makes real tangible projects together, connects offline and has proven that people make communities, the platforms just host us. We are building a common space, made and owned by us, for everyone who wants to be a citizen of a community for the head, heart and hands.

As citizens we can write the terms of use, choose our platform and build our interfaces, we can decide to invest our profits into each other and our local communities, we can use our collective skills to create a common resource, we are responsible for being inclusive, hate-free, ad-free and awesome. 

We need thinkers, dreamers and makers of all abilities and ages to create a new community model that is diverse from the beginning. Elders, parents, adults, young people you are invited to become citizens and founders. Bring your ideas and skills to OMHG, help build our spaces, write our terms, lay a legal foundation, develop our democratic process and show that community is indeed possible. OMHG needs more variety in gender, ethnicity, age, talent, culture, and perspectives all willing to share a common space and some simple principles that we work on together.

So before You Sign Up for Ello…

Or the next big thing online, ask yourself if you want another online empire where the founders profit from you as a user or if you want to be a maker creating  warm, supportive communities where you are citizens with rights and responsibilities. Whether you become a citizen of OMHG, support or start a different network I hope this post will be part of a larger conversation about the difference between cliques, clubs and communities. At the very least maybe it will get us to take a closer look at who runs our networks and stands to profit from them. For the last 4 years the vast majority of OMHG profits have been invested into the site or community projects like our community art prints, Maker Mail and our Maker’s Retreat this October where we are gathering to make a movement. I’ve drawn a small salary from OMHG in order to continue our simple life raising children in a 200 year old house in rural Canada while travelling North America to find ways for us to connect in person. There is nothing faceless or mysterious about OMHG, we are regular, exceptional people who are making a community and want your help.

Social network founders can look like me (and you)

I don’t look like a social network founder and that is a problem, we need to see founders that look like me and you. I’m a 31 year old Black, Jewish, Scottish, mother of two. I am a high school drop out, grew up in the inner city with few resources except for my single visibly diverse mother and survived addiction, multiple kinds of abuse and extreme losses before my 17th birthday. I dedicated my life to children and communities when I was 18 and have never looked back, I came to tech from offline cooperative, non-profit + community making and a lifetime spent including people everyone else left out. I know nothing about building a corporation but I have time to help our community find houses, learn to breastfeed, talk about suicide and support their projects- these are the only qualifications that really matter to me. What qualifications matter to you in our social network founders?

Share your thoughts on how we can have more communities and less cliques + clubs by talking about this post, leaving comments, starting conversations using #communityisnotclubs on any of the networks or becoming part of the OMHG community. Anyone can register for OMHG for free or pay a small monthly or annual fee to become a citizen, learn more about joining our community here:




  1. Karen says:

    This is some real goodness, and thoughtful critique you’re putting out in the world. I’d only add that in addition to the Rights and Responsibilities of maintaining this “playground” that is the Internet – we also have Opportunity. The best part about the internet is the low barrier to entry. We have the opportunity to create whatever we want, so let’s be good citizens and assign ourselves the right and responsibility to choose compassion, tolerance, and openness to create more goodness, rather than more exploitation and exclusivity.

    • “Let’s be good citizens and assign ourselves the right and responsibility to choose compassion, tolerance, and openness to create more goodness, rather than more exploitation and exclusivity.” Thank you for being such an important, ongoing part of this conversation Karen and bringing such goodness to to our community table. We have the opportunity and means to access this incredible resource & playground where we can create whatever we want, we’ve already created all this already! Too often it seems we wait for someone else to give us permission to claim what was already, always ours. Exclusivity can make us all feel a little smaller but the opportunity to choose compassion, tolerance and openness, to own our resources as a community and share them freely + abundantly just creates more goodness. I’m so grateful to be planting gardens & making this patchwork blanket together <3

  2. Lisa Jacobs says:

    I’ve noticed (and understand) that many people struggle with the different social media platforms and their company motives. As the creator of a newly formed club, I’d like to say that you’ve expressed your feelings and thoughts quite eloquently here. I also love the new sign-up page for the Oh My! community as well. Beautiful work!

    • Thank you for joining in Lisa & your kind words about the sign up page! I’d love to know what you think about the different roles of community and clubs online, how can the two support and influence each other? The OMHG platform has the ability for any citizen to start a public or private group just like Facebook does and I’m interested in how we can work together to make sure that as our community grows we can host diverse clubs without becoming a bunch of cliques.

  3. jessica says:

    beautifully written Jessika! what you are championing in community is a far cry from what social networks enable. you also have a valid point that they are slices of the same pie (& w/Ello and FB…it is a Coke vs Pepsi situation…which does indeed divide).

    i agree that community is *essential* for us as creators and blogosphere folks. how people chose to invest their time between the two…& to the point of this post, the difference between the relationships…is critical.

    that said, i do find networks interesting, and cannot fully discount how we can grow as creators by *adapting them to our needs* (creative or community). the following example is why i believe they are still worth the time investment :

    i was reluctant to embrace Instagram and used it lazily for well over two years. two months ago (and after much anguish w/the evolution of Pinterest), i decided to take much of my Pinterest time and dedicate it to IG. in the 5+ years of creating Seeds, it is one of my 2 “most pivotal moments.” the huge impact is that i am now using my own photography (& linking back to my IG originals from my Seeds posts). i *never* sought to use my own photography nor was it part of my goals / business plan, but through IG i found my voice and confidence. a total serendipitous discovery. as a result, i believe Seeds are enormously strengthened through the quality of my work and as a site/concept/brand/ethos.

    thank you for sharing your personal story. your points of who these networks do not feel or look like offers so much food for thought as well. you have given me much to contemplate.

    • Thank you so much for visiting to comment Jessica-I’ve always had such respect for how you navigate online, have grown your business and also for your support of Brett who I think is brilliant.

      I completely agree that these platforms are awesome for creators & connection-Twitter was a place where in 140 characters I was able to find people around the world who felt like home and take those relationships into other spaces to deepen them. The best part about Twitter was it’s open flow of conversation & the fact that because it was so limited you really needed to take it off of the platform to connect. We engage less now on spaces we own like blogs & more on platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram/Facebook & now Ello. What I fear most is that we give our photos, our talents & our time to these increasingly faceless platforms who have profit not people as their bottom line nor do they represent women, children or any visible difference. As these indie start ups acquire us as users and don’t recognize us as citizens with rights we are at the whim of whatever they decide is ethical-or disclose to us at least.

      My question for the last couple of years has been why don’t we own networks collectively-or at least create true community spaces where we can effectively advocate for our rights on a larger scale + make sure we don’t become these exclusive clubs. When I first started with OMHG the creative community was all online-we crossed niches + cultures, there was such a fresh feeling of being in a city neighbourhood with everyone waving + mixing it up. Increasingly it all feels like one big suburb with everyone holded up in their shiny houses with their exclusive cliques & if you aren’t willing to look just like them you are not invited to play. I completely agree we need platforms like Instagram + Facebook in our connected world-how can we work together to make sure those platforms support community & don’t cultivate trolls

      • jessica says:

        You points are very important in a time when there is less engagement our blogs (which goodness, I wish we could turn that trend), and social media controls more who talks to who. Platforms like Facebook want you to pay to get your content to people who have already chosen you. On the other side of corporate controls, there are certainly the underbelly … the trolls. Absolutely beautiful and poignant video Jessika. Wonderful you are encouraging and facilitating conversation.

  4. Wow Jess! You have written A LOT of powerful posts, but this one…this one…it brought chills through my bones. I think this is your most powerful yet. It makes me even more proud and honored to be a part of building this ever-so-important community. Gosh I love you all.

    This: “we are not users or consumers, we are makers and all of this is ours. ” Yes. I love what Karen said too. Wow, I need to let this all sink in 🙂

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