Limits to Forum Openness
I’ve been pleased to see several places grow on the Internet for poly community. Many aim to span as wide a range of poly people as possible and I think that is usually good: greater diversity as well as greater chance of connecting with like-minded others.
However, many of us who form polyamorous community are closely linked; I often seem to share space with my lovers, their lovers and a number of our ex-lovers. While all this connection can be wonderful, it can cause problems too:
Some of us need to maintain professional boundaries. Perhaps a lecturer doesn’t want to discuss their sex life in front of their students.
Depending on your preferences and relationship agreements you might not want to share your vulnerabilities and worries about one partner where their other partner is reading. If I’m happy to talk about me and poly but don’t want to identify others in my network, how can I anonymise when “everyone knows everyone”?
It can be awkward or painful after a break-up to share even social chat spaces. A parent might prefer not to talk about their kids’ developement in front of their ex.
So sometimes I want to talk to a smaller group.
When we get ourselves organised, this can often be face-to-face. Finding a good group can then be quite informal: inviting selected people to share a table and checking everyone is happy not to pass certain things on. I do not want to be put in the situation of keeping many secrets about one of my lovers when I want to be more open with them so I suggest some sort of check before sharing private stuff. A discussion or support group could have more explicit ground rules on confidentiality and what the group wishes to hold.
Using electronic communications or phone conferences, similar groups are possible. We can form discussions ad-hoc by having a filtered list for a blog or a guest list for a chatroom. Again, I’d recommend checking that everyone agrees about what can be kept confidential.
Setting up an ongoing group with agreements is also pretty easy with a number of sites offering free email lists or group-sharing-things or social networking tools that will evolve with the net.
Remember that people understand ground rules differently, make mistakes and that technology and companies can let you down so perhaps think a little about how “safe” you need a forum to be.
I also ask myself why I need something to be private and if openness might be better – am I being scared of being out about something and why? Could other poly people learn from this by listening or reading? Am I being challenged to engage with a more diverse group of people?
I hope poly will bring many of us together in community, but sometimes I just want to talk to a few of you at a time.