I've been very lucky to find a group of online friends who are supportive and have a strong code of conduct. We don't swear at each other. We don't put each other down. And we generally behave toward each as if we were sitting in each other's living rooms and chatting face-to-face. We're respectful, by and large. I don't mean to say we don't argue or disagree. We do; it's inevitable with a group of 400-ish women who span at least 3 continents (I know some in Asia, Europe, and North America) and come from diverse political, social, and economic backgrounds. But we are there to support each other.
I have some amazing stories of support. Our group has had women lose beloved husbands and fathers to cancer and car accidents. We've had divorces, abuses, and substance problems come up. And the saddest of all, has been the loss of children. These too, we have endured and held each other up for. Each one a dart to our hearts.
And still we talk, laugh, cry, and hold the hands of our friends. Some of us have met and become friends in person.
This is the boon of online groups.
Unfortunately, it is not all like this. There is another group I know of that are pretty much the antithesis of my primary group. Sometimes women on these groups forget that there are real people on the other end. Some of them want to pretend they are wiser and smarter than they are (take my word for it: you fool no one when you do this). And I have seen these women make fun of each other, swear at each other, and generally be disrespectful and rude. It was asked recently why they are so mean. The general answer was to "put your big girl panties on" and that they "like it that way". These same women generally claim that they are the same way in person.
I cannot prove it, but it is my guess that they are not. If they were, they would have no friends.
This is the curse of online groups: being able to hide who you really are and act as though the people on the other end of the keyboard aren't real. Allowing yourself liberties that should never be taken. This is the seedy underside.
Are there conversations on this second group that are respectful. There are people who truly want to discuss political and social issue in a constructive manner. And I applaud them. Of course, it is the smattering of people who like to stir up trouble and hide in plain sight that ruin it.