There has been a lot of rumblings throughout Nerdfighteria about the nature of online community and how perhaps Nerdfighteria is not everything it strives to be. For instance, it can be quite cliquey and difficult to navigate. These things contribute to it being difficult to make any truly lasting friendships. I've even noticed that a few people are starting to wonder if we can really hold up the ideals that we strive for as Nerdfighters. If we are encountering things like social exclusion even here on the Ning, then how can we expect to get rid of world suck offline, right?
First of all, to some degree cliques are to be expected. In a community as large as Nerdfighteria, it is literally impossible to know everyone, or even a small fraction of the people on the Ning. Not only that but it is human nature to form small, tightly knit social groups. When you boil it down, what is a clique but a close group of friends? What exacerbates this issue is that most Nerdfighters are teenagers; teenagers who are still defining themselves and discovering who they are. This is why high schools are so socially partitioned. Adolescents are defining who they are and who they are not, throw that in with the idea of consider peers as role models more so than adults and you have a recipe for conformity and social division.
I know why this bothers people, most of us have experienced near complete exclusion at school or other forms of bullying. Most of us know what it feels like to be left out, so why do it here? I doubt that most of the exclusion on the ning is intentional or mean spirited in nature. We are not Decepticons, we are Nerdfighters. We cannot truly ever be rid of this problem any more than we can completely be rid of World Suck. But do we not work to take World Suck levels down as much as we can? We should not give up on the Ning or Nerdfighteria just because of this. It is not who we are now but who we strive to be.
Now, for some advice. Take it from someone who has been around the online friend block a time or twenty, there are things you can do in order to form lasting friendship. People are right when they say that it is hard to form close, lasting friendships on the Ning. It's not enough, nor is any online community, really. Like with any friendship, what you need to do is let the person into your world. Invite them to hang out with you off of the Ning.
Follow each other on twitter
Add each other on Skype or MSN
Leave a video response to each other's youtube videos. For that matter, start up a collab channel.
Read each other's non-ning blogs
Send letters or postcards
Add each other on facebook
Follow each other on tumblr
Once, a Nerdfighter and I tried to watch the lunar eclipse together. It was too cloudy where he was, but he got to hear about it in real time from me.
Another thing that you can to do take the next step to a real friendship is talk about something other than Nerdfighteria. Talk about you stupid little sister who hogs the bathroom. Talk about why you hate your Phys Ed teacher so much. Talk about what you want to do when you graduate from high school or university. Talk about your secret love for day time television or McDonalds fries. Talk about how scared you are of your parents divorce. Talk about how you think you are too tall, short, fat, thin, ginger, short sighted, clumsy, single or whatever it is you feel insecure about. You have to make it personal if you are going to become close friends. I love Doctor Who, Glee, and Harry Potter as much as the next person, but friendships are built on more than common interests.
Lastly, be creative together and for each other. Write a cheesy fanfiction about a pairing you know the other Nerdfighter loves. Even if Doctor/Martha makes you throw up in your mouth a little, write a corny fic that will make the other person smile. Draw a picture for them and mail it, if you have their address or just scan it and post it for them. Do a song cover of their favourite song and dedicate it to them. Make them a card for their birthday, valentines, or their favourite holiday. Bake them a cake, take a picture and then eat it and tell them how good it was.
If you want to make a friendship meaningful, you have to do meaningful things for and with your fellow Nerdfighters. It will take a lot of courage, but I know you can do it.