In his book All Marketers Are Liars, Seth Godin blew my mind with one simple comment: a worldview is not a community. I have spent weeks ruminating on this.
Disclaimer: this post contains Amazon affiliate links to the book I’m talking about. There’s a chance I might make a commission if anyone actually clicks through and buys something.
When Community is Necessary
When I was a kid, nerdy things were far removed from the mainstream. The culture was different then, as was the technology. My awareness that other fans existed came from the letter columns of comic books and science fiction magazines. Those same mags also gave me the awareness that actual humans, with names and personalities, made that stuff. Conventions were rare things, but important; they were an opportunity to meet fellow travelers face-to-face. To get out-of-print books or back issues of comics meant ordering from the mail-order catalogs of specialty shops in distance cities. If you were lucky you have a friend or two that shared one of your interests. Mostly people looked at you funny, or you kept your esoteric tastes to yourself to avoid bullying and general ridicule.
Finding people that shared your interests was a difficult process. I remember reading with awe about Lovecraft exchanging letters with other writers. Of science fiction societies that met regularly to discuss books and short stories. With so few opportunities, I think people tended to be more polite. Bad actors would be left with no one to discuss their interests with. Community was a necessary component of identity, not only to have one’s worldview validated by to understand your place in the world relative to said worldview.
The example the Godin gives of worldview is hating the Department of Motor Vehicles. No one likes sitting in a waiting room for their number to be called. Bureaucracy is pretty much universally despised. Everyone has had some sort of bad experience dealing with the necessary evil of government agencies. That’s not enough to form a community around. I won’t say that no one bases their identity on hating the DMV, but it’s not a lot of people bond over that specific shared experience. There are no conventions. People don’t visit message boards every night to talk about it.
A worldview is more of a personal cognitive orientation. You know what you think about the world. Other people probably think the same thing. How you see things may be been learned, or you might have adopted the norms of a community. It’s no the things that holds a community together, though.
Worldview is Not a Community
Through the years I have thought a lot about what it takes to build community. My blog gets traffic, but little engagement. My books sell well, but don’t garner review or spark conversations. Having had the importance of community instilled in me not just by early fandom experiences, but by the conventional wisdom of successful bloggers and other people in my publishing niche, I worried about that.
It wasn’t until I read that line by Seth Godin that I understood. My readers likely share my worldview. They like what they see, or at least find it interesting or useful. That doesn’t mean we all need to get together and be best friends. Not a lot needs discussion. It’s entirely possible to enjoy a thing for what it is and move along.
That epiphany has factored into some of my planning for 2021. What I plan to do with this blog, some decisions I’m making with the business, have more to do with appealing to a shared worldview than trying to foster a new community. There are already plenty of other things worth bonding over.
I Am Offline Until 9 November
I will not be checking email or reading comments until then. All of this week’s posts were written and scheduled in mid-October so I could take this week away from the internet.
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About Berin Kinsman
Berin Kinsman is a writer, simple living minimalist, and spoonie. By day he works as the owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.