I had been working for a while on a post about leadership and how Roloson has it, but I want to put that aside for a moment to ask a very important question concerning fanship in the internet age.
What is the value of criticism, particularly in a fan-based forum like this one?
It's a simple question with a complex answer, and it leads us to a series of related questions. What are the fans criticizing and how are they expressing it? How do language choices affect a fan community? How much criticism is too much? How little is too little? What exactly do fans accomplish—or perhaps more importantly, hope to accomplish—through criticism of their team in a fan forum? In some cases, debates over fan criticism can place a great deal of stress on and even fracture a fan community. How can that stress be dealt with within the forum so that people don't leave the community, making it weaker and less vibrant than before?*
I believe that healthy fan communities like Raw Charge benefit greatly from two seemingly opposed characteristics. The first is the active participation of people with widely varying opinions and the willingness to discuss and defend their positions. The second is the awareness of the commonalities between members, both on a personal level and on the level of fanship. The debates make the forum interesting but the relationships between participants bring people back and mitigate hard feelings.
I believe that a healthy fan community can foster the airing of dissatisfaction without fear of social ostracism. A healthy fan community will not brand individuals as "bad fans" for disagreeing with decisions by the team or as "Pollyannas" for supporting those decisions. But it is a difficult thing, balancing differing opinions. Creating a community is hard work and it is a task that is never completely accomplished.
So, my question to you, my fellow Lightning fans and Raw Charge members, is this—What is the value of criticism and what's the best way to deal with it? What's your take?
*Note that this question was not prompted by any incident at Raw Charge.