April 20, 2020

Why Do Online Communities Never Work? Part One

Written by 
Matthew McDermott
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The internet was responsible for a big boost in nudism. You could search the internet for clubs and resorts, instead of sneaking an ashamed look at the back pages of naturist magazines. You could safely connect with other nudists without revealing your name or face. Nudists have always been relegated to the fringes of society, but on the internet, everyone is on the fringe.

However, it’s remarkable that nudist communities don’t seem to be very successful, as a rule. There is no single nudist community with a large membership that has stuck around for more than a few years. 

There are some great blogs and blogger teams who have cultivated a large and active readership, like Naked Wanderings. There are some Facebook groups that boast membership in the tens of thousands. Active nudist associations, like AANR, TNS, and British Naturism, also seem to work as gathering places for naturists. But those aren’t really the kind of organic online communities that I looked for as a new nudist myself.

Problems with Online Nudist Communities

Online communities for nudists don’t seem to be successful, as a rule. Much as I would love to see them succeed, they tend to go in one of two directions:

  • They start up and are quickly adopted by a number of users, but after a few weeks, they sag in activity and trail off or die.
  • They focus on photos, and become a place where non-nudists and fake profiles proliferate in the hope of seeing nude photos of “real people”.

Neither of these directions result in healthy, active nudist communities.

Some Successful Communities

A few nudist communities have found at least partial success - though many are only partially successful, and have been at least affected by the problems described above.

TrueNudists

A longtime success story - the site is the chief employment for its founder and his spouse - TrueNudists was set up as a Facebook for nudists. It has very active chat rooms, blogs, forums, and detailed profiles - some users have thousands of photos uploaded on the site. (You have to pay for a membership to see more than a few photos.)

TrueNudists may be the best example of problem #2. Of the hundreds of thousands of user profiles (many of them dormant for years), a significant number are transparently fake. Doing a reverse image search on many female profiles, too often, shows that the images are old and stolen from various porn sites. While the site remains large and active, it is a magnet for photo thieves and trollers, and only a small core membership is really part of the site. And though these fake profiles might be reported frequently, they often don’t seem to be taken down, or at least not quickly. I’ve heard other users speculate that the fake profiles keep the user numbers up, attracting yet more new users.

Naktiv.net

With a focus on outdoor nudist activity, naktiv is a great example of what a nudist online community should be. It’s true to nudist values, does not emphasize photos (although they are allowed on the site), and has a large worldwide user base. However, they seem to suffer from problem #1: there isn’t much happening on the site. When you log on, you see very little new material. 

Unfortunately, while I was writing this post, I learned that naktiv went offline for a while because of technical issues. They’re back now, with a smaller set of functions. They’re still worth checking out, but the more limited content on the site may lead to even less user activity.

NaturistCommunity.com

Based in England, and boasting a mainly British usership, NaturistCommunity is another nudist Facebook community. Users can post photos and video, there is a small and mainly inactive chat room, and users can post in discussions, as well as on a main thread that shows up to all users when they log in. Although there are a few regulars, the site isn't much use for nudists seeking communities, especially outside the UK. 

And Many More

Nudist sites and forums seem to pop up all the time. Almost all of them follow the same pattern: an initial flurry of activity and growth, then a decline and eventual shuttering of the site. And if they allow photos, they invariably suffer from trolls and fake accounts. It's difficult to find any group that lasts more than a few months as an active concern.

One (Possible) Exception: the Nudism Subreddit

There’s one exception to this rule, an online community that has continued to remain active for multiple years, without the same problems about trolls and gawkers, and with over a hundred thousand unique users every month. I know the community intimately, because I’m one of the moderators - and this is not a plug, because I receive no benefit from the community other than personal satisfaction.

The community is the nudism subreddit, located at https://www.reddit.com/r/nudism. I won’t get into reddit and how it works - you can visit the site and see it for yourself. But the popularity of reddit (one of the five most popular sites on the internet) certainly had something to do with the community’s success and longevity.

There are other reasons as well. There are numerous moderators, all active, all interested in preserving the community and its values. Those values are set forth with a set of rules, available to read in the sidebar, that govern the type of content people can post. And there are no image posts of any kind on the site - only discussion, and higher-value nudist content. It’s also on a free platform, so it’s not going to run into costs for hosting or other needs that will make it untenable to continue.

Online Nudist Communities Rarely Work

It’s surprising that the number of “good” nudist communities - active groups with lots of nudists and not dominated by trolls - are so rare. Since nudists can’t necessarily be candid with many people about their interest, you would think that the anonymity of the internet would make online communities more popular. 

That anonymity might be the very problem, though. You can’t create trust in the community without reassuring the participants that everyone involved is an authentic nudist. The way people most often try to establish that trust is by asking members to submit nude photos of themselves. And then the gawkers arrive.

For sites not driven by photos, that authenticity is typically driven by interacting with other users. Their conduct in discussions builds a personality (or persona) online, and that breeds the authenticity that users are looking for. But even with sites that attract a lot of users initially, those discussions soon falter, and the site is left languishing with very little traffic.

Why is that? I think I know why, but I will discuss that in my next post...

Share your thoughts...

What online naturist communities do you frequent? What makes those communities worth visiting? Are there any that you deliberately steer clear from? Why? Let me know in the comments!

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[…] Read further at Write Nude […]

Dan Carlson

Interesting and thought-provoking piece. I'm a long-time naturist blogger who actually TRIED to create an online community back in 2005 called the Naturist Family Network. The intent was an effort to identify naturist families in the US that held values similar to those we had experienced in France. I hung in there for a couple years, but just as you described, most of the energy was spent patrolling for imposters, while three or four "oldsters" tended to dominate the message boards. I eventually passed it off to a friend, and subsequently, it withered and died. I recently ranted about True… Read more »

Marc

All are good points Matthew. I sincerely think online communities fail for the lack of funding. Maintaining an active online presence requires a lot of work and generally this is done partially or fully pro bono. Hence, it's very difficult to find the time and the energy over a long period of time. What could be a financial model to maintain an online nudist community, outside of official naturist federations? I do not have the answer, but it may be worth investigating. May be a partial answer would be to center the efforts around the federation. Food for thought anyhow...

[…] my recent post, I pointed out that nudist communities don’t usually work online. I’ve never run an online […]

Fred

My suggestion for forming a community: Think of yourself as a magazine. Articles are judged for their editorial merit by the moderators. You get to use relevance, quality of writing, and technical competence as standards. If you allow photos but insist they be FB safe... might as well be an FB group to start with. Identify the specific demographic and (equally important) *psychographic* sectors you want to appeal to. Set up soft guidelines and set up hard rules to appeal to the group you've selected. Then be rigorous in their application. Don't try to create a "big tent" that everyone… Read more »

[…] New blog post! Why do online #nudist communities seem to fail so easily? What’s wrong with #naturist sites? The first part of my blog post on the subject is available here – let me know what you think! https://www.writenude.com/why-do-online-communities-never-work-part-one/ … […]

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