I’m not sure how to start this and how to use acceptable words, as I’ve got nothing against the members of PF; generally they are sensitive, empathetic people in need of kindred souls – which is why I can only cringe when seeing the level of idealisation many have reached regarding the forum and its team.
Here you can find a recent thread describing an imaginary closed community where all PF members would dwell in harmony, among lambs and butterflies. It would be named after the forum’s admin (nope, not a joke, though you’d think that had gone out of fashion after Jonestown).
To sum it up, they describe a country paradise of complete social harmony. Some PF members clearly think the forum is a virtual Heaven on Earth and that if they started a real community it would be perfect, without any unkindness, crime, rudeness or conflicts. The police would have nothing to do there (except look out for the psychopathic ex-partners of the residents, presumably to keep them at bay). It would be a place where they would never fear or distrust others again.
To be unceremonious, it sounds like the Exclusive Brethren on Prozac, minus the inbreeding.
Obviously, I needn’t mention the sheer number of groups which started out that way and had less than idyllic ends.
My intention is not to offend vulnerable people who are trying to find comfort in each other. They must have participated in that fantasy with innocence and enthusiasm, thinking no one but forum members would take an interest in it. They must genuinely believe PF is a place of love and kindness.
I am simply creeped out.
The forum is meant to help people “heal”, as in overcome the trauma of abuse and be able to move on, to have a social life, to trust and to love again, whichever applies. Some have been there for years, and if the result is they have vivid fantasies of fencing themselves in from the rest of the world, with the idealised versions of strangers they only speak to on the internet, I would say the result has been quite the opposite.
They seem dependent on this group for comfort, emotional balance, enthusiasm. And the irony is they could lose all that in a matter of minutes, as the team they worship (almost literally I see) couldn’t give a rat’s bum about kicking them to the side for the slightest disagreement.
I’ve been on forums and I’ve been a forum admin – and have never seen anything like this. Yes, members meet at some point if they can and develop friendships in real life. That is only natural. The vibe you get from that thread – and PF in its entirety – takes matters to a whole different level. I’ve no doubt some members only feel safe on the forum, while being aware of all the gossip and nastiness behind the scenes.
What they’re doing isn’t healthy. And the PF team seems to love the adulation, encouraging such fantasies which clearly go too far.
If anything, this is proof that the comradery on PF is meant to stay withing the boundaries of imagination and never be transposed into real life connections.
In truth, interaction between members unfolds as follows:
- They are not allowed to send private messages until they have been on the forum for some time; a standard time is not specified; I therefore assume one is given the green light by moderators at a time of their choice.
- They are constantly encouraged not to befriend other members too soon, as well as report those they see as “suspicious”.
- An uninvited attempt to get to know someone better is regarded as harassment, even following positive signals from the other member.
- Posting certain details about oneself is also forbidden and can result in a ban. This happened recently to someone who posted a link to a dating profile. They see someone revealing their face as an act of aggression, though that is most welcome in any other online environment, as most people deem it a sign of trust.
So let’s say there’s a situation where two members, at least one being new, would like to exchange details and communicate with true privacy (email, phone calls or in person), without going through the forum and having every conversation scrutinised by others. There is simply no way they can do so without the permission of those in charge. It’s impossible; there is no bridge or back alley to take.
Does that seem like a respectful way to treat other adults, by not allowing them to connect if they choose to do so? Or is it a good example of infantilising others, deciding who they can form friendships with and at what point, as well as how their interaction is allowed to take place in the meantime? Just imagine how many potential friendships between people with a similar experience never took off and how frustrating it must be in this age of limitless communication.
Cult-like dynamics are known to only make sense within said communities and this is no exception. Developing a strong attachment to such a closed community, where one has to jump through hoops not to raise suspicion and constantly walk on eggshells, is strange to say the least.
It’s sad to watch, considering the likelihood of some of the most dependent people being booted along the way.
With no intention of mocking these people, quotes such as these show the intensity of the emotional attachment some members have (at least to start with).