My local EA group has an unfriendly and impersonal vibe (via r/EffectiveAltruism)
post by Tyner
This is a link post for https://old.reddit.com/r/EffectiveAltruism/comments/vzb713/my_local_ea_group_has_an_unfriendly_and/
I am not the original poster; cross-posting because I thought it could be useful feedback.
"Hello, this is a bit of a rant about my personal experience with my local EA group.
I've been showing up to my local EA group for about a year because the core principles resonate with me (effectiveness, the intrinsic value of life, etc.), but I haven't been able to build trust with these folks.
Don't get me wrong, there are friendly members of course. However, I've found the "core" members to be quite unfriendly. They all know each other, and I've found it very difficult to feel part of their group.
I find that a lot of what I say is met with dismissiveness and elitist attitudes. It is really exhausting when every conversation quickly becomes an impersonal philosophical debate about morality.
Sometimes when I talk to these folks I start doubting myself, asking questions like "Why are they so hostile towards me? Is there something wrong with me? Am I dumb? Am I unfriendly? Am I a bad person?" However, there is plenty of evidence from other aspects of my life demonstrating that I'm a reasonable person.
I'm afraid that showing up to local EA meetups is ruining my perceptions towards effectiveness and altruism. It just isn't an enjoyable vibe. I took a friend with me to the meetup once and following the meetup he quite earnestly said "I felt incredibly unwelcomed."
I went to EAG and that was great. I met some amazing people who I've kept in touch with and it showed me that the wider EA community isn't as hostile as the local group in my city. Does anyone else feel this unfriendly vibe with their local group(s)? Are some local groups doing more damage to altruism than good?"
Comments sorted by top scores.
comment by Konstantin (Konstantin Pilz) ·
2022-07-16T08:55:46.096Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
It's of course hard to say much without further information, e.g. demographics, cause areas, type of events. However, I think there is a big risk of friend groups being identical to the EA local group, especially in emerging locations. This can be very alienating to new people and I think might in some cases really be net-negative because first contact with EA is super important.
Some steps to prevent this:
- If your group = you and some close friends: consider not calling yourself an EA group but presenting yourself as "just some friends all interested in EA", look for other EA-interested people you know less and start a group together with them. Be aware of founder effects. (If you start out as only computer scientists, it's likely computer scientists will be most attracted to your group.)
- Try to actively increase diversity in the group by e.g. supporting people with no friends in the group or doing outreach outside of your normal social network
- If your group only consists of men: Keep in mind that it can be very difficult for women to fit into such a group. Pay attention to how much the conversation is dominated by men.
- Get (anonymous) feedback from irregular attendees. Ask them if they felt welcomed and what you could improve. Ask them if they would like to run a meetup and organize it their way.
- Don't see official EA meetups as hangouts with friends. Focus on EA topics and prevent conversations about personal stuff.
comment by Sophia ·
2022-07-16T11:54:57.780Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
This sucks. I think this sort of experience might be way too common and I haven't been able to stop thinking about this kind of thing the last little while.
I'm shamelessly linking to some thoughts [EA · GW] I have recently posted that is related to questions like "how can we be more welcoming" (in fact, conversations around this are the whole reason I wrote the post).
You might also be interested in the discussion that inspired the post on welcomingness at "shop-fronts" like community groups. It's linked at the top of the post I linked above but for good measure, I'll also link the top level post here [EA · GW] (I strongly recommend reading both the post and the comments that push back on it).