On Behalf of Offline Communities

By Egotist / /

There’s a blurb on theegotistnetwork.com—this site’s parent site urges the ambitious to start their own civic Egotist sites as a means of supplemental income—under the icon with one genderless pictogram representing loneliness and two genderless pictograms representing community that states,

“Create Community: Because of their convenience and 24/7 accessibility, online communities have replaced the creative-club get-togethers of old. This is where people come together.”

To me, that’s the deeper problem. That this can possibly be seen as a replacement for real, live community. That we’ve permitted ourselves to leave behind the bars and baristas and migrate to the land where avatars have replaced humanity. A place where, even if we use our real names, at least we don’t have to say it to anyone’s face. This faux-community leads to responses that are often both visceral and vitriolic, and don’t reflect the way most of us would critique and banter in real life, even with a trusty Bud at our side. But we all already know that.

The part of The Egotist Network’s sell-point that really resonated with/cut through the clutter for me was the part where it mentions the “creative-club get-togethers of old.”

I yearn (do you ever yearn, Jerry?) for those mysterious and magical clubs that I’ve only heard about secondhand from ad guys in their mid-sixties at conferences and in classrooms in cities far away. The way I’ve heard it, or at least the way I remember hearing it, creative folks used to get together with other creative folks from other shops (!) on a weekly basis to talk about the wild hairs they’d had that day. Ideas that had nothing to do with clients or a lot to do with clients. These creative clubs were a welcoming incubator for ideas like BMW Films and the Pet Rock—the latter of which would doubtless be mercilessly panned within an online forum like this one to the point that the inventors might’ve been too discouraged to see their crazy, crazy-lucrative idea through to completion.

These creative clubs helped create creative hubs. In places like Minneapolis and Richmond. In years like 1986 and 1998. I’m sure there was whining. It’s cathartic and necessary. But I’m also convinced these gatherings of creative greats weren’t overwhelmingly negative. These little groups of ad people (I imagine the dwarves in the Hobbit, but maybe that’s just because I’m short) came with camaraderie, they teemed with teamwork, they collided in collaboration.

Did they leave us because they were analog, and we only do online community now? I hope not. It’s fine to have an online forum, or a couple. But I want my creative clubs back. The ones I never got to experience in the first place. As Liz Lemon would say, “I want to go to there.”