Creating private chats for your friends to discuss topics of interest is one of the best ways I’ve found to build a community and culture around interesting ideas.
It’s also a great way to find new people in your proximity that are interested in the same ideas (your friends will invite their friends that are interested in the same topic).
As someone who spent most of his teen years online in various forums, IRC channels and subreddits I always found most conversation in real life boring and without purpose (anytime someone started small talk I instantly judged them to be an idiot, I know better now).
Over the years, I’ve improved in several regards:
- I learned to deal better with social situations in general.
- I’m more interested about other people.
- Initiate conversation with people I find interesting.
- Come up with and ask questions that the person I’m talking with is qualified to answer.
- Started to smile more.
- Become more altruistic and experience a greater love for humanity.
These things all in all have made me more sociable and approachable, which has enabled me to transfer the communication skills I learned discussing (mostly technical) stuff online to a domain where technicalities are often less important.
I’m still not much for small talk, but I’ve become a lot better at steering the conversation into a direction I’m more interested in.
As I spent less time talking with people online and more with people around me I found that some parts were missing. Creating private chat groups on Messenger (which everyone uses) was a great way to get the best of both worlds.
The value of secrecy
As Peter Thiel likes to point out, secrets are immensely powerful. It creates a form of social bonding as it only works when there is trust.
When you start these chats and invite people left and right, you inevitably get the question from someone considerate who wonders what they should think about before inviting people themselves.
It’s a good question I used to just reply with “If they are interested in the topic and generally nice people, they belong here. Use your best judgment to evaluate them before inviting.”
But then I had the same question in a group where I wasn’t the “moderator”, and I got the following reply from Michael Tartre in “Peace Club Dropouts”:
A good criterion for adding people is probably something like smart, good at intellectual discourse, truth-seeking primacy (comfortable with no topics being off-limits, if discussed honestly/openly/free-speech absolutism [at least for private discourse]), and no chance that they’ll try to start a witch hunt/will cause negative externalities for anyone discussing here. Orthogonal to standard thinking is a plus.