In my recent post, I pointed out that nudist communities don’t usually work online. I’ve never run an online nudist community before (although I do moderate one), although I’ve been a member of many of them.
But I do perceive some fundamental problems with nudist communities - not with any particular nudist communities themselves, but with the concept of nudist communities in general. And these problems mean that no nudist community, at least with the typical membership-participation model, can really succeed.
The biggest problem, and this goes back to my previous piece on the subject, is authenticity. It’s like the New Yorker comic from back in the late 90s: on the internet, no one knows whether you’re really a nudist. Authenticity is really difficult to verify. And unfortunately there are many nudists on the internet who are not who they say they are.
I’ve seen this problem first-hand. About three years ago, a new nudist forum started up, run by a husband and wife team. It garnered a great deal of immediate interest, with two hundred users signing up in the first week. The owners asked for volunteers to help moderate, and I raised my hand. I, along with two others, were made moderators.
The site had a fair amount of traffic over the next couple of weeks. Members were actively discussing a wide range of topics on the forums, and were also posting photos of themselves to the member pics gallery.
Then I received a message from the site owner.
He asked me to send him a photo of myself, to prove I was who I said I was. I did so immediately, and then we chatted on Skype.
The owner had discovered that one of the other volunteer moderators, who was a younger and very enthusiastic nudist, had been using photos gathered from the internet in the photo gallery, cropping them to make them look a little different, but undoubtedly not the person’s real photos.
The owner wanted to ensure that other moderators were as they presented themselves, and soon we had a smaller moderation crew. But the owner’s attention for the site waned; it lasted only a few more weeks before it was, sadly, taken down.
This is the first problem for nudist sites. We all want to connect with other people, find the ones who share our interests. We want community.
But nudism is already a community of outsiders, apart from the mainstream. Most nudists are guarded about themselves. And many want the short-term attention and interest that comes from being a younger, attractive, and female naturist, even if none of these are true.
So unless there are very strict, human-moderated processes in place, nudist sites will almost automatically have fake profiles. And those processes will inevitably drive user participation down.
Which only exacerbates the second problem.
When you put a group of nudists together online, the opening conversations usually cover the following:
This takes a while, of course; there’s usually discussion about the pros and cons of naturist venues people have visited, and whether family members know, support, or participate in nudist activities.
And then it dries up.
As it turns out, there isn’t that much to talk about with nudism. Once you’ve gone a little bit below the surface, there is very little left to talk about. If a preference for nudity is your only common interest, your conversation will be over fairly soon.
For a nudist community to thrive solely on nudist content, it needs a large and constantly growing membership - not just in the first two or three weeks, but for multiple years. Those members must be actively interacting with each other, possibly finding a great deal of common ground.
For example, if there were an online nudist book club, where a group reads and discusses a nudist-themed book every month, might be a successful approach. The members would need to be consistent and completely dedicated, and some ground rules for discussion and debate would probably be useful too. But this is the kind of common ground that a group would need to gather around. (Incidentally, does anyone know of this kind of nudist book club? Want to start one? Let me know!)
This is different from an online blog or directory, of course, and I think there are many great reasons to have those (obviously). But a member-driven community needs more than just “we’re all nudists” to make it a long-term success. Dedicated interest to nudism only goes so far. Once you’ve got your clothes off, what else is there to say?
I’ve sounded pretty negative about online naturist communities in these blog posts. It’s not that they aren’t useful, it’s that they are far less useful than almost every other kind of naturist interaction.
There are two reasons people go to these groups:
The first kind of person is, of course, who all naturists are hoping to find online. The second is exactly what we don’t want, but it’s an inevitable part of the online nudist population - and often a significant proportion of the online population.
Now, consider who you’ll find at a naturist venue, whether it’s a small private gathering, an organized event, or a resort or beach. You’ll find a bunch of nude people, who are there to be nude. They might want to look at nude people for problematic reasons, but they have to have some - ahem - skin in the game. If you’re at a nude venue with clothes on, your motives are going to be questioned. It’s far less likely for people to be at a nudist venue solely for sexual stimulation.
There are bars to entry in a real-life nudist place that, typically, only real nudists are able to get over. Online, though, the hurdles are far easier to clear. Photos can be faked, accounts can be impersonated; anyone can be anyone with the shield of online anonymity protecting them.
So while it’s great to be able to find information, people, and ideas online, it’s far preferable to find others in real life. If that isn’t your ultimate goal, then online groups, unfortunately, aren’t really going to help you.
We’re in a difficult place right now.
I started writing this piece before COVID-19 upended our entire society. The option of going to nudist venues and meeting with other nude people is gone, for now. And the last thing I’d do is advise anyone to break their quarantine or violate social distancing guidelines. Our first priority is to stay safe and stop the spread of this disease.
That means no going to nudist venues (they’re closed), no getting together with other nudists (it’s illegal in most places).
Isn’t this a time when online nudist groups are more important than ever?
But the social aspect of social nudism isn’t about casting a wide net on some internet community. It’s not about your profile or your photos.
Nudism is about people relating directly to people.
If you can set up - as many people are doing, naturist or not - a video chat with other naturists you know, then by all means do so. And if the best you can do is to get into nudist discussions online, then you can do that too.
One day, this situation will end, and we’ll all be able to go out and socialize again. When that day comes - soon, we all hope - commit to yourself to take advantage of it.
Especially if you’ve never done it before, plan now to go out where other naturists are, and go nude. With all we’ve endured already, and all we’re likely to endure in the next while, moving from online to real life, nude or not, is the best gift we’ll receive.
I’ll see you in the sun.
Have you found any ways to socialize with other nudists during the COVID-19 crisis? What online naturist communities have you found that help you cope? And what real-world nudist place are you planning to go to as soon as the crisis is over? Let me know in the comments!