Published 8 December 2011
As a kid, I was a member of the Dennis the Menace Fan Club (for any out-of-towners, Dennis and his dog, Gnasher, were the stars of a children’s comic called The Beano). The small membership fee provided you with a plastic wallet, a membership card containing funny codes and two badges: a metal one of Dennis the Menace, the other a furry Gnasher badge. I don’t know how many times I joined that fan club (usually because the furry badge had been gnarled by my own version of Gnasher). I loved that fan club. I loved that Gnasher badge.
Thirty years on and I am a member of another club that I’m equally as passionate about. There’s no membership card or wallet. There’s no furry badge. There’s no joining fee. And this one isn’t open to children. It’s the online wine community.
Now, if you’ve been involved in an online community, you are likely to have experienced raging vitriol that is spouted in comments sections. The most innocuous posting can deteriorate into highly offensive exchanges. In partnership with this caustic content is an apparent inability to write an intelligible sentence. Maybe I’m just getting old, but most of what is posted online is complete shit and makes me want to lobby for the right of freedom of expression to be limited only to those who are actually capable of expressing themselves coherently.
It is with pride that I can say that the online wine community on the whole breaks this trend. My experience is one of articulate and intelligent people who are willing to help others get the most out of wine. The sense of community is warming, often resulting in interesting (and civil) discussions and real-life meetings to share a bottle or two.
So, as we head towards the end of another year, pat yourself on the back. We often make the mistake of thinking that our experiences are typical but I can assure you that what we experience in our “club” is not the norm. Venture outside the wine community bubble with caution – and make sure you’re armed with a catapult.