This post is longer than the usual Nurturing Thursday entry, but please bear with me because it is meant as a continuation of last week’s half-baked post, and I hope it will make more sense! Before I got distracted by drama on someone else’s blog about a plagiarism incident, I had planned to write about social relationships in the modern world and how fragile they often seem. Sometimes it feels as if there is nobody we can count on to help us get through life—no safe ground.

Avalanche warning sign with mountains in background

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Later I realized why I hadn’t been able to write on this subject while distracted by online drama. It’s all part of the same problem! In the small villages of long ago, people relied on their family and neighbors for survival. But in today’s world, where we just drive to the store and buy whatever we want, it feels like everybody is on their own. It’s good that we have more choices in the modern era—we are free to leave an unpleasant job, an abusive spouse, or a neighborhood we no longer enjoy. But the flip side of having so much freedom is that nobody has to stay with us either, and that feels very scary.

About five years ago, I was involved with an online community that fell apart. Efforts to punish bad behavior (such as by demanding that everyone delete their links to a blog where sexist stuff had been posted) went too far and left the community divided into several warring camps. Nasty gossip and conspiracy theories ran wild. As Elizabeth mentioned last week in my comments, online wrongdoing has to be punished so that the community can feel safe and enjoy blogging. But where do we draw the line to ensure that the punishment doesn’t end up being uglier than the crime?

Our ancestors’ villages had plenty of arguments and gossip too, but there were natural constraints. People knew that they couldn’t get too nasty with each other because they would need help if their barn caught fire or some other calamity happened. But in the modern world, we don’t need our virtual neighbors any more than we need our real-life neighbors. There is always somewhere else we can go; and of course, they don’t need us either. They’re free to tell us to shove off, as rudely as they want, whenever they feel like it.

So, when we put emotional energy into building relationships, it always feels risky. While I don’t expect anyone reading my blog would decide (for example) that I need to be punished for writing a bad Nurturing Thursday post last week, unexpected stuff happens all the time. There is never any certainty because the old rules of social interaction have gone out the window. Some of that is good because we have been clearing away ignorant prejudices, but some of it leaves us feeling vulnerable and anxious. How do we build a culture where people respect, value, and support each other just because it’s the right thing to do?

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.


  1. It is sad that our physical communities have gotten so alienated — so distrusting and so absorbed internally. The news doesn’t help with the feeling of safety — parents are too busy with extracurricular activities with their kids (if they have time for them) — neighbors don’t visit anymore or spend time outside as they once did. Everyone is doing their own thing. It is a missing link. I understand the fragility of friendships — seems like they are seasons for them as well … like for example, when suddenly, for no apparent reason or drama — a friendship dissolves (or quietly goes away) … what happened? Often, the questions hang in the air without answers to the effort of investigating. There is beauty in the villages or communities that support each other in all situations — I think I would enjoy living among them. Thank you for sharing and linking with NT. <3

    • I’ve had friends just disappear for no apparent reason too. Usually what seems to happen is that they’ve gotten overwhelmed by too much going on in their lives and just don’t have the energy for maintaining friendships anymore. That’s probably a consequence of not having enough support in today’s world, also.

  2. The saying about sticks and stones and words not hurting…was so wrong…Sorry you had a bad experience on the Blogisphere

    • Thanks Carol — although the worst of the nastiness wasn’t directed at me, just seeing it happen was upsetting in itself. The Internet is still young, though, and I hope we’ll do better as time goes on and the culture continues to evolve.

  3. Pingback: Nurture Yourself – Believe |

  4. Hi Meg, I agree, our busy lives keep us away from friends, friends.?.., or group of people that get around because they have nothing else to do? The real friends always will be friends, we can spend years without seing each other, but we know that we can count on them. My real friends are from long ago, now I have co-works, neighbours, I chat a little with them, but not friends. I think there is one word to simplify everything you said above, CHARACTER. It’s very difficult to find people (virtual or not) that have character. Today people change opinions and values so fast, like a click on the keyboard. They get offended for everything and it’s easy to disappear, not answering a phone call or not writing or comment on a post. We need to be careful to find the right community, friends, and learn how to keep them. Have a great Sunday!

    • Hi Elizabeth, yes, it’s about character and finding the right people. And I think part of why there is so much gossip and rude behavior online is that today’s entertainment industry is always full of celebrity gossip, reality shows with every other sentence bleeped out, and nasty political talk shows. Some people seem to believe that’s actually how life is. They never stop to consider the fact that when they argue and gossip online, they are talking to and about real human beings. It’s all just entertainment to them.

      On the positive side, our society is starting to understand the harm done by bullying and to take steps to prevent it, which should lead to a much healthier culture as time goes on. It wasn’t all that long ago when most people saw bullying as normal and thought that children just needed to toughen up and get used to it.

      Enjoy your Sunday too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *