How to Destroy a Community

Communities are fickle. They require patience and empathy and a touch of humility. They have a tendency to take on a life of their own, with little regard for what you want them to do. But there are still ways to destroy communities.

The key to destroying any community is to demotivate its members. A friend once told me you can’t motivate volunteers. They are intrinsically motivated. You can only demotivate them.

You can demotivate communities without leaving the letter A: Be antagonistic. Be apathetic. Be autocratic.

Be antagonistic. Nothing demotivates people faster than antagonism. Good antagonism makes people feel terrible all day. Great antagonism keeps people up at night. But you have to be careful not to run afoul of pesky community guidelines.

Outright insulting people won’t work. Not only is it against every code of conduct ever written, it also has a tendency to backfire. Obvious personal attacks often garner sympathy for the recipient. Rather than demotivate the community, attacks galvanize it. One approach is to make vague insinuations, and wrap them up with “I’m just asking questions.”

Another favorite approach is what I like to call the antagonism sandwich: Preface your antagonism with something that sounds supportive or congratulatory. For example, “The amount of work you’ve put into this is to be commended, even though it’s futile and misguided.” See? You commended them.

Be apathetic. Communities thrive on social feedback. Without any social interaction, people will wander off in separate directions. If people ask for feedback on something, ignore them. It’s not even difficult. In fact, doing nothing is literally the easiest thing in the world.

Don’t engage in casual conversation either. Casual conversations can lead to strong social bonds that help communities weather the worst of times. Don’t say hello. Don’t ask about anybody’s day. And whatever you do, don’t offer any personal information about yourself.

This strategy is especially effective on newcomers. New community members absolutely need social interaction to give them a sense of validation and belonging. Be apathetic towards new members, and you will cut the community off at its source.

Be autocratic. One of the defining characteristics of communities is that they are autonomous and self-governing. The community members themselves decide what the community does. This is particularly annoying when what you really want is an unpaid workforce.

If you take away the community’s voice, you take away the very thing that makes it a community. Make the decisions. Shut out dissenting views. Do not involve people in important conversations. People will still show up, especially if you’re doing something interesting. They just won’t stick around very long.

Destroying communities is easier than you might think. In fact, building communities is what really takes time and effort. Follow these tips and you can be rid of community in your life, freeing you up to write sarcastic articles on the internet.

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