Welcome to the club, now go away!
May 15, 2010 1:42 PM   Subscribe

What should I do about The Cabal?

I joined a group a few years ago. Let's say it's a hiking club. It seemed like a pretty awesome group with lots of good people in it. Many great hikes were had.

The group seemed really healthy and thriving until some newer members joined up. Some of the original core members of the hiking club didn't seem to get along with the newer members very well, but it seemed like everything was going ok.

Recently I discovered that the original core group has basically set up a secret group within the larger one and has been organizing hikes only among members of The Cabal, excluding the member of the larger club.

I realize that this is not that uncommon and cliques tend to form pretty naturally. What bothers me, in addition to the secrecy, is that the hiking club as a whole tends to pride itself on how awesome we all are to each other. We buy each other boots and gear when someone needs it. If someone buys a new backpack they'll give the old one away on the hiking club web forum. We organize mail swaps not unlike MeFi's CD swapping, etc. We talk about good hikemanship and even have made-up in-jokey words to convey the concepts of being a good club member to one another.

That's what bugs me. The Cabal is a bunch of two-faced hypocrites. They present the appearance of being great folks and a real get-along gang, write forum post proclaiming the awesomeness of the club, then go back to their secret areas and talk junk about the rest of the club members and organize secret hikes. I know this because I've seen & heard it when they thought no one was around.

Should I just left it go? Should I bring it up in the middle of a meeting of everyone? Should I leave the group and find some better people to hike with? I really enjoy participating in the group until I remember that there's a whole other core shadow group who'd prefer I just shut the heck up and go away. Then I feel like an jackass.

I would really appreciate some advice.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Sometimes I have a party and invite all my friends and acquaintances. Sometimes I just invite a couple of close friends over, and when I do that I certainly don't tell the people I'm not inviting about it. I don't see how this is different.
posted by amro at 1:45 PM on May 15, 2010 [9 favorites]

That's what bugs me. The Cabal is a bunch of two-faced hypocrites. They present the appearance of being great folks and a real get-along gang, write forum post proclaiming the awesomeness of the club, then go back to their secret areas and talk junk about the rest of the club members and organize secret hikes. I know this because I've seen & heard it when they thought no one was around.

Everyone talks junk about other people. In fact, that's pretty much exactly what you're doing with this post. Once you let go of your desire to control the private conversations of others (yes, even when it involves you), and micromanage their social interactions, the happier you'll be.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:53 PM on May 15, 2010 [18 favorites]

Are you angry because they're doing this, or because they didn't invite you?

Hell, either way, just let it go. They're not plotting against you, they're just hanging out amongst themselves and having the occasional GRAR session. Hell, you're doing that with us right now.

Chill out. Let it go. If it bugs you that much, just start your own counter-Cabal and invite people who aren't them. Just keep in mind you'll be pulling moves right out of the Junior High School Treehouse Club.
posted by griphus at 1:57 PM on May 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

bringing the secret group up in a meeting is a sure-fire way to get all of it's members to hate you. You can't make people behave decently if they don't want to, the best you can do is make sure that you aren't part of it. That situation sounds like a big heap of drama just waiting to happen - do you really want to be in the middle of it?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:57 PM on May 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Wait, do the members of the Cabal still give stuff away and help the members outside the Cabal? If so then they sound like descent folks who, for whatever reason, would sometimes like to hike with a smaller group. There is nothing at all wrong with that. They're probably secretive about it because they don't want to have an awkward conversation about why people are excluded, which might be simply that they're more comfortable with people they know well. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Everyone talks about others. When they're not there that talk can be a little more uncensored. That's just human. Some people are more human than others.

If it bugs you that much find a new hiking club, or disengage from the club except for the hikes. Stay off the message boards and don't interact with them outside of hikes so you don't get reminded of what bugs you.
posted by Ookseer at 1:59 PM on May 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

The only cabal here is the cabal of adulthood, which you are apparently being initiated into through this experience. No, really - this is how it works in the wider world.

It seems to me that this is not "a bunch of two-faced hypocrites" but rather a broad group of "great folks and a real get-along gang" who genuinely support one another with goods, gifts and community endeavours whilst maintaining core personal friendships and activities within that group in a discreet and low-key way.

I really enjoy participating in the group until I remember that there's a whole other core shadow group who'd prefer I just shut the heck up and go away.

Have you heard this yourself or are you extrapolating this because you have not been invited to sit at the cool kids table? I am concerned that because a handful of people in this group like each other more, you seem to think this means they like you less. It really doesn't work this way.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:01 PM on May 15, 2010 [7 favorites]

Some hikes are better with 30 people, some are better with 5. I don't see what you think these people are doing wrong. Belonging to a public hiking club does not (and should not!) preclude you from also organizing private hikes.

If you were going on a small private hike, are these people the ones you would want to go with? If so, then get to know one of them better and ask if you can be invited along on the next hike. If not, then arrange your own private hikes and don't invite them.
posted by 256 at 2:02 PM on May 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Groups of people come in different sizes. There's the individual, there's the friend-pair, there's the close circle of friends (usually six people, max), and then there's the loose clan (maybe 30 people max), and then there's everything larger.

I think of these sizes as kind of fundamental units of human social dynamics. The close circle of friends, or clique, is a natural size for people to organize themselves in, which I think has to do with ratios of attention given and attention received, ability to keep up reasonably with the lives of other people, and just a limit on the number of people you can feel really close to. When you get to an organization the size of the small clan, cliques form. It's natural, and I think even a positive thing. As our attention is spread among more people, the interactions necessarily become more shallow, and the need for deeper interaction forces the creation of subgroups. In other words, if I tried to keep up with thirty people equally instead of five or six, I would probably not get the level of attention from individuals that I desire...

That said, there are healthy cliques and there are unhealthy cliques.

And likewise, there are healthy clans and unhealthy clans. I think it's quite possible that having a clan that discourages cliques actually encourages bad behaviour from the cliques when they form; this may be exactly what is happening to the Cabal you speak of. It could also be that the organization they started grew more than they like; once it grew to the size of a small (or big!) clan, they realized that a clique was really what they wanted all along.

So I think I would say 'secret' hikes are totally fine and reasonable. If they aren't allowed, then the bigger organization is crossing into weird hiking-cult territory. Wholesale badmouthing of people not in the clique is pretty lame, if that's what's happening, and I would probably try to talk to the people involved and try to bring it down a bit. And for me, that talking would probably be on a one-on-one basis, which can help reduce the amount of group-think involved. (The intelligence of a mass of humanity is inversely proportional to the number of its constituents.)

But do try to be understanding, too. It can be difficult when people start an organization and it turns into something that isn't quite what they imagined. In that case, it can be helpful to sort out what they're unhappy about structurally in the organization. Maybe lots of other people are unhappy with some of these things too, but don't feel they have a forum to express it in. It could be a good exercise in consensus building and encouraging candid communication throughout the group.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:07 PM on May 15, 2010 [8 favorites]

Is this a formal club with bylaws, officers, dues, and the expectation that all events will be open to all members? If it is, are those in the Cabal using club resources (equipment, money, etc.) in a way that contravenes the bylaws? That would be a cause for making a complaint.

If it's not a formal club, I don't see what the problem is if a few members occasionally want to get together by themselves. It would be like two violinists, a violist, and a cellist in a symphony orchestra getting together to play string quartets. The other members of the orchestra would have no reasonable grounds to complain, as long as the quartet didn't shirk its duties to the orchestra.

Even if it is a formal club, I don't see a real problem as long as rules aren't being broken or resources misused. If tensions continue to build, there may ultimately be a split into two separate clubs. But if this is a leisure activity, that might not be bad: why should people continue to hang out together if they don't enjoy each other's company?
posted by brianogilvie at 2:12 PM on May 15, 2010

For some reason, we're taught at a young age that everyone should be included in everything, and to exclude other people is mean. I think there are places that's true, and places where it's definitely not true. If someone wants to have a party and not invite me, it might hurt my feelings, but that doesn't mean they should have included me or that excluding me was mean. You're never going to find people who don't do this sort of thing, Anonymous. All you can do is try to find a group where you can feel like you're on the inside. Have you made any effort to form closer relationships with members of the group? Or recruit some of your friends to join? Perhaps having close friends of your own in the group would make you feel better.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:05 PM on May 15, 2010 [10 favorites]

I'm in a club where I'm one of the longest-present members. In the time I've been in the club, I've shared houses with several other members; we've organised social events which only a subset of the club has attended; we've had meetings to organise club events, which only some people have chosen to attend; and we've had events with time for people to talk, with people forming into groups talking about different interests.

Mostly these things aren't closed to other members - anyone who wanted to could join us in our conversations, at this pub at that time, at this meeting at this time, and so on. However, there's a core group of individuals (such as my former housemates) who are more likely to end up socialising with me. I would describe them as "the friends I met through Club".

Sometimes when club meetings aren't going on, a few people will meet up at someone's house to do the same thing as the club does. However, no-one has a house that could accommodate the club's 100+ members. So we don't run this as a big club event - it's just us friends meeting up in someone's living room. We invite as many people as we can accommodate.

I guess my point is the people who you perceive as a cabal might not see themselves that way, and might not see their secret hikes as as clandestine as you do.
posted by Mike1024 at 3:24 PM on May 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just keep in mind you'll be pulling moves right out of the Junior High School Treehouse Club.

No mention of any ages here but yeah, it does bring me back. Maybe not to Junior High but certainly my early-mid twenties, an era where I saw various "cliques", "crowds", "scenes" I was part of manage to self-destruct through all manner of sloppy interpersonal bullshit. Indeed, it's an era I've now come to think of as the "Bullshit Years". If you are say, in your twenties, I'd say ride it out, maybe raise a shit, see what happens. Think of it as a learning experience.

If you're older than that, I'd ditch the scene altogether. Life's too short.
posted by philip-random at 3:57 PM on May 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Cabal is a bunch of two-faced hypocrites

Or they just don't get along with some of the newer people but are polite enough to not rub their noses in it. Or they do get along with the newer people but also enjoy spending time with just the oldtimers, sometimes.

That's pretty much life. Not everybody has to get along with everybody.

Get over it. Quit worrying so much about who's being insufficiently nice to who -- getting angry on other peoples' behalf is a good way to be angry pretty much 100% of the time.
posted by ook at 4:12 PM on May 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that "cabal" is a very unfair (and loaded) word for this sort of situation. A cabal, at least to me, connotes a secret shadow government who is attempting to co-opt power, influence, and direction. That doesn't sound like your situation at all. What you describe sounds more like a group of people (possibly disaffected by changes in the club) who felt the need to make a smaller group. Perhaps your group may have added some hikers whose preference for trails were more hard-core and the original hikers wanted something more leisurely. Maybe they weren't fans of the conversation on the trail, or didn't like the song choices for the sing-a-longs and rather than continue suffering what they found irritating, thought it would be better to have a separate trail where it was more controlled for their comfort. I don't know, there aren't that many details here, but obviously there are a group of people who feel the NEED to make something on the side. The question is why, and to find out you may need to ask them directly or do some research as to what happened to cause them to make the new sub-group of hikers.

Remember, also, that these hikers knew eachother longer than the newer hikers, so they are automatically more comfortable with eachother, probably have similar beliefs and worldviews, and probably have created a culture of their own. It doesn't mean that they don't want to be friends with other hikers or don't like them per se, it just means that they have a rapport. How does that old hiking and camping song go? "Make new friends, and keep the old.. one is silver and the other gold." Might suck that you aren't gold, but it doesn't mean you are lead.

If it is really bothering you, you should just say something just to lay your fears to rest. That does NOT mean you need to bring it up to the group at large, which can just be passive-aggressively threatening to the smaller group ("I just want to ask everyone why some of us don't want to hang out? What is wrong with us, huh?"), which might just make matters worse. You should find someone who you think might be a member of this other group and maybe just have a nice chat about it, see what the deal is. You might be surprised by what you hear. And if not, go ahead and let it go. It doesn't help you, and it doesn't help them. As a friend of mine once said: "Let it go, and grow." Hard to follow in life, but doesn't mean it isn't truth.

Now about the "talking junk" about people. Everyone does it. It happens in every group, every tribe, every community, and every family. You have done it right here in this very post, and in a public forum at that ("cabal", "twofaced", "hypocrisy" in your tags and question). It is a natural part of social interactions, and frankly... it is not wrong. It is not two-faced to say about someone: "Man that person really annoys me because of X" in a closed group because you are assuming that you are in a safe place, and then hang out with that person later on. Do you always say exactly how you feel about everybody to their faces at all times? Or do you hold all your aggravations in (if so, how's your ulcer?)? People need the release valves of closed groups sometimes to allow them to function in the larger group, and more so as you have increasing numbers joining. It is healthy to let it out. It is unhealthy to keep it in and let it fester.

Finally, in the end... there are always individuals who are not compatible with eachother. They just aren't for some reason. Maybe there are people in the larger group who just irk the other people to the point that they feel that it truly impinges on their enjoyment of the whole (or, of course, vice versa). I don't think you can begrudge people for that. You cannot make two people like eachother. You can, however, engender toleration, but that requires compromise and understanding. And sometimes it means separating people to keep the peace.

I would seriously consider just talking privately about it. Or just "Let it go, and grow."
posted by tittergrrl at 4:48 PM on May 15, 2010 [14 favorites]

Wait, is this a sex club?

Hmmm... doesn't change my answer. There's two things I'd be motivated to do in this case. The first *might* be to talk to some of these people and say, "hey, I understand that you want to get together with a smaller group but some people have heard you badmouthing the rest of the group and that's just not cool." The second thing I'd do would be to suck it up. If it bothers you this much, move on from the group. If you like these people and feel excluded but would like to be included you could ask to be invited on the next outing. However, you have to accept that you might not be "in" with these folks. That's okay. You can move on and form other friendships. That's life. That's adult friendships. Sometimes it sucks.

I'm friendly with a large group of folks and we occasionally break off into smaller groups. It's a pain in the ass to organize an outing for 30, especially when you know just a handful might be truly interested. We generally don't badmouth anyone else, though. That's not why we hang. We might gossip a tad but never maliciously. I'm sure people have felt left out before but everyone seems to also understand that we're all friends at the end of the day.
posted by amanda at 5:26 PM on May 15, 2010

I was part of a really great group. Then I found out the smaller inner group was trash talking people. I distanced myself from that, while still participating in the larger group.

The trash talking was then about me, but nobody had any issues to address when I publicly asked for clarification.

I didn't handle it as well as I wish I had, but in the months since the whole kerfluffle, I've learned a lot of interpersonal skills.

My advice? Find another hiking (ahem) group. It may take a while, but if thinking about the inner group makes you so uncomfortable, you might feel better if you just let go.
posted by bilabial at 6:48 PM on May 15, 2010

How large is this group now? When groups get pretty big, sometimes they do tend to split off into smaller groups depending on interests, how participatory they are, etc. Heck, one group I'm in has split into "inner" and "outer" just because the inner people go to every meeting and the outer ones drift in and out depending on school, life events, etc.

So...are you an original member who isn't being invited to Cabal meetings? I take it from your post that that's kind of the problem as well: that at the very least, why don't they like you? Honestly, I don't know, and I'm sorry for you that that's the case. It does suck.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:42 PM on May 15, 2010

Do they exert control over the club's affairs, misuse your club dues, or otherwise behave unfairly?

If not, I'm kind of sympathetic to them. We went through this. The early members, unwilling to close the membership, faced a choice:

1) Watch the nature of the club change, tilting in the direction of new "hikers" who defined hiking in other ways, like bringing firearms, blasting music, or being really competitive;
2) Cause continuous conflict by attempting to scold or indoctrinate new members; or
3) Quietly seek the company of hikers they already knew and were comfortable with, while occasionally going on group hikes with other members.

Only (3) seemed to work. It also helped avoid creating any dramatic schisms, abusing individuals, or threatening the existence of the club.

Being in such an early member group, I now try to keep my participation on the hiking web forum light and positive. I've grown tired of trying to enforce community norms. (I've also been surprised at how often I've changed my mind and now like people I once found obnoxious).

I will happily join hikes with most club members, but it's more fun for me to hike with friends I've known for years, who have been to my house, and/or with whom I agree on a lot of hiking issues. The club has gotten too large for me to really get to know each member. My leisure time is limited.

It is a horrible feeling to believe you're being excluded by people who secretly despise you. It's also probably not the case.
posted by Phred182 at 8:53 PM on May 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sometimes you don't get everyone you want, but that is no reason to try to ruin something for everyone.
posted by meepmeow at 9:24 PM on May 15, 2010

That's what bugs me. The Cabal is a bunch of two-faced hypocrites. They present the appearance of being great folks and a real get-along gang, write forum post proclaiming the awesomeness of the club, then go back to their secret areas and talk junk about the rest of the club members and organize secret hikes. I know this because I've seen & heard it when they thought no one was around.

We we organize Meetups for all Mefites in Philly. We are super-supportive and accommodating, making sure that they're not all alcohol-centric for the nondrinkers, that they're sometimes intentionally kid-friendly for the parents, that they're not all in one neighborhood, that they're affordable (with some under-the-table help for some) and gladly take all comers. I really love our meetups.

Doesn't mean that I don't also get together with just four or five Mefites in a closed invite. Because we met through Metafilter, yeah, sometimes we talk about Mefite stuff. It's not a personal snub against everyone else.
posted by desuetude at 9:43 PM on May 15, 2010

What alternatives do the members of the secret cabal have? It seems to me that they can either A) leave the group where they've been having fun for the past few years, B) make a lot of noise and try to get the people they don't get along with either kicked out or to leave of their own accord, or C) form a subgroup, vent their frustrations with each other, and try to be civil with the main group.

Which of these options results in the greatest happiness for the most people? Is there some other, realistic option you can recommend to the Cabal?
posted by JDHarper at 10:24 PM on May 15, 2010

I get the impression from what you've written that you feel some cognitive dissonance and disillusionment by the existence of the new, subgroup, because you feel its practices and social structure is antithetical to those of the larger group that it spurned from. Maybe this 'core' existed from the very start and its philosophy has changed. And you might be feeling left out of something that you were once privy to, but are no longer.

I think this is important to tease apart, because what it really comes down to is a question of identity. We build our identities in relation to the identities of others, and we join communities that support those identities. If we are heading towards the centers of those groups, our identity investment becomes greater, as does our social standing within the group. And the power to enact meaningful change that is aligned with who we are and what we want our social landscape to look like.

It sounds like all of these aspects are suddenly at odds. The dynamic changed, your identity and investment is in question, and you are no longer sure you even want to be a part of the hiking group at all. Especially splintered and socially stratified as it now is.

The task that has been thrust upon you is one of deciding who you are with respect to the new boundaries within the group (where you fit in) and what you want to get out of your participation. If it's simply hiking talk, you need to then decide if you will be able to get that without being bothered by those around you who continue to reach for the centers and increased identity investment. Because they will be passing you, reaching for something you don't want. That could be potentially irritating because it threatens your position within the group as the new subgroup gets larger and its praises are touted by those who actively want in.

Are you content with changing your direction or pace with respect to the group? It sounds to me like you've been traveling inward, hit a wall that was never there before, and must decide whether or not to keep going, turn around and head out, or simply be content holding your position.

In any group, there will be other people on the same path (even if that path is "stay right here"). If you decide to remain in the hiking group in any capacity whatsoever, find those people who are on the same trajectory as you (inward, outward, or holding post) and build solidarity with them. They're your new core. And your identity will be happily influenced by and influencing those people.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:17 PM on May 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Cabal is a bunch of two-faced hypocrites

It seemed like a pretty awesome group

You idealized them and now you're demonizing them. The reality is they're just humans, like you.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:16 AM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

-You can't change hypocrites, so let the bad people/behavior pass. Focus on the positive things that you want out of this hiking club, and work at attaining those.

-If this club-within-club is actually violating club policy, then it's time to bring it up with others--those members/club officers that you trust and some rapport with.

-It sucks to feel left out; it is a painful kind of knowledge. But take heart, for knowledge is good.

From personal experience, social dynamics in seemingly benign organizations such as amateur clubs are complicated. Unfortunately. That's what you are seeing here.

p.s.: I think you have two concerns here--your personal happiness as a member, and the well-being of the club. Definitely take care in distinguishing these two as you proceed.
posted by polymodus at 2:52 AM on May 16, 2010

Are you angry because they're doing this, or because they didn't invite you?

This is the sense that I got. My bike club is exactly the same. I don't really want to ride with kooks, so over the years I guess I have become a cabal member. We organize a ride via email and show up and ride. We still do stuff with the larger club. It's just no fun to show up on a ride and have a nut spout right wing nonsense or talk nonstop about her great type A job.
posted by fixedgear at 4:20 AM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're being marginalized by an in-group, and that really fucking sucks. That's the shitty truth of it. I sympathize.

(Unlike the rest of responders on this thread, who recognise that you're feeling shitty and vulnerable and marginalized want to blame you for it or give you another couple of elbows in the guts).
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:42 AM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree with some of the stuff that people have said and disagree with other parts.

I think that it's perfectly fine for members of a larger group to make a subgroup of the people that they prefer. I think it can border on jerky behavior if they exclude people from the subgroup for trivial reasons.

What really gets my goat is the notion that it's ok to talk shit about people behind their back. That's not cool at any time, ever. Seriously. There's kind of a grey area where someone might be saying something that's not terribly negative, but it sounds like to me that from what you have said that you think it's crossed a line into something else.

I'm going to respectfully disagree with all the people who think this is fine. It might be typical of some people, but there are real problems with this kind of behavior. If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything. If people who are members of the subgroup talk shit on people behind their back, it can have all kinds of bad ramifications.

Usually, in my experience it's usually one or two people who are always leading off with this kind of shit and they are typically people who are insecure in their position with the group. This is the person who by way of saying hello says "Did you hear what so and so said, Christ what an asshole" They try to build themselves up by tearing other people down, and it's destructive. It prejudices members of their smaller group against new people, and that's the way the shit talking person wants it. They are secretly afraid that everyone is going to like the new people more than them and they will end up by themselves.

The idea that there is nothing wrong with that is bullshit. Personally, I think less of people who try to pull that kind of game. They are small people. I don't buy the whole bottling things up nonsense. If you really have a problem with someone, the most cathartic thing that you can do is to go up to them and talk to them about it. The shit talking person doesn't do that because they are afraid. If they really didn't want to hurt other people's feelings, they wouldn't talk shit about them in the first place.

Also, what about the people who are having shit talked about them behind their backs? If they really knew what people thought about them, would they want to be members of the group? Personally, if I found out that everyone was talking shit about me when I wasn't around, I for sure would not want to be a member of that group. I would probably feel like a big asshole if I was a member for a couple of years and then found out that half the people there thought I was annoying.

So to sum up: Smaller groups within a big group - OK, members of the smaller groups being secret dicks - Not OK
posted by Mattimeo at 5:56 AM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm going to respectfully disagree with all the people who think this is fine. It might be typical of some people, but there are real problems with this kind of behavior. If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything. If people who are members of the subgroup talk shit on people behind their back, it can have all kinds of bad ramifications.

I think it's less that everyone thinks it's fine and more that they recognize that there's no way to control the actions of other people, including this. Even if we, personally, refrain from shit talking or gossiping, other people will, inevitably, engage in this sort of behavior. Hell, OP is doing it right now, him/herself. And honestly I, personally, don't think that's terrible. I think that's a normal human reaction--gossip like this can release pressure and frustrations and help people feel secure within a group. OP feels secure enough with mefites to tell us about these people. That's a good thing, even if there's not much he or she can do about the situation that's spurred the gossip.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:12 AM on May 16, 2010

I agree that the OP can't do anything about what everyone else does. What I take issue with is the people who answered him who seem to think that there is nothing wrong with what the other people are doing. I think that saying that it's normal behavior is just giving everyone an excuse to act badly. "Everyone else is doing something that is a bad thing, so why shouldn't I do it." I don't buy it and that is why I made the comment that I did. There are people around who don't think that this is an OK thing to do, and most of the time they don't say anything about it.

The issue of what the OP can do about it is an entirely separate issue, and each person in this thread has their own separate point of view that they use to give an answer. If the OP likes some of the people in the group, than I think it's fine that they hang out with the people that they like and make their own subgroup. But if the new small subgroup just starts talking about the old small subgroup, than you end of with the same bad behavior with new people.

I guess I have more of a universal problem with the idea that talking shit about people behind their backs is OK. Really, to know what to do in the particular situation that the OP is asking about you need to take their word on the situation. The OP says "there's a whole other core shadow group who'd prefer I just shut the heck up and go away" and I took it to mean that they had actually overheard the core group saying exactly that. If this is just a sense that the OP got, than the OP might be misconstruing the situation. If the core group is kind of a small subset of the group as a whole, than the OP might want to stay in the group and just kind of avoid interactions with the bad apples.

One of the points of my comment is that what the OP considers the opinions of the entire core group might be reflecting the opinions of just one or two people who are modeling bad behavior for the rest of the group. If you overhear one of these people saying something nasty, that doesn't necessarily mean that everyone in the smaller group agrees with what they are saying. The other members might be thinking "Hey, so and so can act like a jerk sometimes but I have been friends with them for years and I can put up with some jerkyness because I know that deep down they are just trying to make themselves feel better."
posted by Mattimeo at 6:55 AM on May 16, 2010

I am not so willing to bless the Cabal on OP's facts.

The Cabal in having its cake and eating it too may be misappropriating the benefits of Club membership. Whether or not that is so is a question of the "spirit" of the Club that none of us can know; the way the Cabal could tell, of course, is to be open about their private hikes and see what non-Cabal members of the Club have to say about it.

The right thing for the Cabal to do if they know, or should know, that they are violating the spirit of the Club is to resign from the Club.
posted by MattD at 7:29 AM on May 16, 2010

The Cabal in having its cake and eating it too may be misappropriating the benefits of Club membership.

How would one misappropriate the benefits of hiking club membership?

I mean, unless the founding members of the club are using loaned boots or something, which seems unlikely if they've been hiking for a few years.
posted by Mike1024 at 9:50 AM on May 16, 2010

The right thing for the Cabal to do if they know, or should know, that they are violating the spirit of the Club is to resign from the Club.

Isn't one benefit of joining a club to make new friends? It's okay to become closer personal friends with some people, and also still be a regular group member.
posted by desuetude at 4:02 PM on May 16, 2010

Follow-up from a MeFite who would prefer to remain anonymous
Hi, I'm one of the people in the 'hiking club' but not in the closed group some of the members made. I'd like to add a few details about it to help people talk about it:

- This group is not a formal one, but it is of small to medium size -- about 50-60 extremely active members who all know and talk to each other. It's been established for multiple years and everyone is generally tight and close.
- The ~25 people who have formed their own secret group with its own events are mostly the same people who formed the club as a whole to begin with and start up nearly identical events, just privately. This actually takes time away from the group as a whole, as the clique usually get up and leave to join their own events in the middle of the general events.
- These people also have, let's say, the 'keys to the van and equipment,' so it's hard to just break away from the smaller clique because they "own" the whole group.

Personally, I feel hurt that this smaller group felt like it needed to be formed at all instead of bringing its issues out publicly, but I understand how tough it is to talk straight. I hope that both the asker try not to feel as personally wronged by this as he seemed to be and that the members of the smaller group who have seen this consider talking privately with those who they have bad feelings with or to bring it openly with the group as a whole.
posted by jessamyn at 6:53 PM on May 16, 2010

I have to say, I'm gonna disagree with the folks who are telling you it's no big deal and to stop being judgey.

A while back I joined a group myself - let's say it was a knitting group. It seemed really awesome at first, and the nature of the, um, knitting projects led to a lot of emotional involvement from most of the people who participated, being at the centre of a closely-knit community of knitters who valued the things they have in common and took their knitting fairly seriously. The knitting group had funding and resources (essentially provided by the membership), which are managed by a small handful of people employed by the knitting club's core membership. As the membership expanded, it eventually became clear that at the heart of the knitting club there was a clique of people who were not only having their own secret meetings and events, but were indeed talking shit about other knitting club members behind their backs, and in some cases, directly to their faces.

Now, in this case, it became a big deal because the clique doing these things was doing them with the resources contributed by and for the larger membership - so the members who were being excluded from the clique were basically paying for events that they were excluded from, and also for the bullying and emotional abuse of a few individuals who the clique really didn't like. Personally, I don't care if some people work better in smaller groups than in larger ones, or if some knitting projects really are just sensitive and should be coordinated by smaller groups of people - I found the whole situation increasingly toxic. In my experience, if the Cabal's intents in forming a Cabal in the first place were benign - they just are more comfortable doing events with a smaller circle of people - they'd at least try to explain that. The secrecy is what sends my alarm bells going off. If your hiking club is more than just a social circle - that is to say, if there's a degree of organization and peoples' time and resources are involved - then there needs to be at least a degree of accountability and transparency from the folks who are doing most of the coordinating (which it sounds like the Cabal is).

If I were the OP, I'd distance myself a bit, and maybe consider starting my own hiking group, with the folks who are excluded from the Cabal, so as to get a fresh start with what mistakes not to make in mind. If the Cabal wants to have a Cabal, they should of course be allowed to have that, but if you're not allowed to be involved in their activities and they may be badmouthing you, you also shouldn't feel obligated to stick around and support them just because you're all hikers (or knitters, or whatever).
posted by ellehumour at 10:06 PM on May 16, 2010

If I may, this is very similar to something that happened several years ago in a community I was in. It was based off of a comedy website, with a forum and an IRC channel attached to it. There were probably a hundred or so active users on the website, 50 or so in the forums, and probably a group of about 25-30 who frequented the IRC channel. This was at one of the highest population points of the group, after it had started with a few people a few years before.

There were three things that happened, though, that caused a bit of fractioning in the group. First, the increase in popularity and the numbers of "regulars" created a difficult environment to be able to know everyone, so smaller groups began to form. One of those groups was a group of the original people involved in the website, many of which knew each other in real life.

Second, the internet being what it is, there was a wide selection of people, and many factors such as age, geographic location, and a diversity of interests created another set of subgroups.

The final part was that there were a couple of groups of people who came in to the group and by their very nature made everything we were doing on the site less fun, and began to really irritate a couple of the groups. So people started to avoid dealing with them, ignoring them or just not being involved in anything that they were.

The IRC channel became a part of that issue, too. We had a private server, operated by the site's owner, where we would log on and collaborate on stuff for the website, shoot the shit, and socialize. During the day, 9-6 Eastern, there was one group that was always on, mostly the older people in the group, people working on offices or soemthing with internet access, more professional types. In the evening, there was some overlap, but the Night Crew was a lot younger, a lot less mature (both physically and emotionally), and zany, madcap, know-it-all teenagers tended to flock towards that group.

Then summer arrived, the schools were out, and the Night Crew had more access during the day, and began logging in during the day, and the folks that had been spending the past few months creating the environment they enjoyed began to get irritated by the younger group. You've been around the internet long enough to know what "LURK MOAR" means, if you are on MeFi, so I shouldn't have to work too hard to make you get a clear picture of what was happening. The Night Crew really wanted to be accepted by the Day Crew, and the Day Crew got tired of the antics pretty quickly. As soon as one would start a conversation, or ask a question about something, five other people woudl try and make really funny jokes about it. All the time. Remember, it was at heart a comedy-based website, so the initial reaction was that YOU HAVE TO BE FUNNY ALL THE TIME, RIGHT?!?!!LOLZOR

So in order to talk to the people that they felt were their friends, they created a new channel in IRC to have side conversations in, aside from the chatter of the main group. They did not leave the main group, they just participated in it less, to have the other conversations and split time across the two channels. But as soon as someone noticed the suddely quieter members in the other channel, the Night Crew joined that second channel too. The Circle Of Life, etc. With it, too came the accusations of elitism, and there was what some websites call "butthurt" about the perception that they were being left out of something. Technically they were, but frankly, the stuff that was originally intended for the other channel was stuff that really no one else would have been interested in anyhow, and when you have 30 people in a channel, it's hard to have conversations so they moved some elsewhere. But the accusations of elitism and words like Cabal and "Adult Table" were tossed around, and there were two guys who took it upon themselves to rally people around the site founder and his "minions" who created this side channel, and made life miserable for them.

Well, sort of. In reality while it bugged them some, the group being called elitists just sorta shrugged it off and just did what they did. Made stuff for the website, participated int he community, but also made another IRC channel, this time using the commands to hide it and then even put a password on the channel, so these people who had gotten to become friends could still be able to talk about stuff outside of the site business, and even had a couple of get-togethers, where a number of people all flew out to the city where the site founder and his RL friends lived, and spent a weekend drinking, playing board games, and talking about their wives and kids.

Now, I could couch this all in euphemisms, be anonymous, and talk about crafting or camping or whatever, but the thing is, the lesson I learned from all of this happening (what, seven years ago?) was that this is the way large group dynamics work, and sometimes all it takes is one or two people to come in and ruin it for the people who started the group to solely have fun with anyhow. I have friends that I "talk" to every day and have for over twelve years now. I got to collaborate with some really funny people, write for them, even fill in for them on their webcomics when they were away. We all clicked, and it just happened that way. It wasn't a clique, it was just a bunch of people who still liked most of the people in the rest of the community, just had close friendships and had an environment online where they could sit and literally, shoot the shit and talk about their families and a side effect of having a group of talented funny people together in one "room", sometimes like a hockey game at a fight, some comedy broke out.

This was all several years ago, related to Spinnwebe, right after the DFC ended. Yup, not gonna call it anything but what it was. An internet community that fragmented, and while sure, we had some bad blood with a couple of the people that made it less fun, those of us being accused of the very same things really did not hate everyone else like a bunch of Heathers. We did not spend all our time hiding on the other channels talking shit about everyone else. Well, ok there was one guy who went above and beyond to try and make a couple people's lives miserable IRL as well. So sure we fired back at him as a group. But it was not what we were accused of.

Your post gave me flashbacks, anonymous, as it has the exact same words, exact same accusations, word-for-word, and the same tone as the things said about us. But when you boiled it right down, the problem was there were two or three people that just made life so miserable for some of the people that started the group for fun and sharing common humor goals, that we said the hell with it, and basically just hung out with our friends on the side.

The thing is, though, if some of the people had simply *asked* us, it would not have been as big a dramafest as it was. We would have explained that it wasn't what people said it was, sometimes it would be ok, sometimes not, but it did not become poisonous with those people. They instead listened to the people that had taken upon themselves to make these assumptions and accusations, and never asked for confirmation.

So at the end of all this, that is my advice to you. Talk to some of the people. Get to understand them. Were they friends before even joining this club or whatever you are in? Do they do things outside of the group that is unrelated to the club. Or hell, even if it is related, is it maybe to avoid one or two bad apples in the group? Also if they are not using your clubs funds or resources to do all this, then you should follow the advice other people have given and worry less about it at the point where you post here because it's gnawing at you that much. Really, it's better to tear down the firewalls you are putting up between you and this group, and talk to them, and not burn the bridges right off the bat. While sure there can be groups that are just being douches like that one cafetria table in high school, odds are there is something more like what happened elsewhere many times before, and it's just misunderstanding and misinformation making a harmless situation poisonous.

Good luck with whatever you decide, though.

Oh, one other thing. If you are not a "club officer" or in a leadership role, you could also damage your own rep there by going around accusing people to the rest of the club without talking to one of the officers or leaders. I made that mistake once at work, and it was a huge mistake.
posted by Leth at 12:11 AM on May 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

If I'm reading this right, this isn't a question. It's a barb aimed at this so-called "cabal/shadow group" (it's neither of those things) slapped into the middle of a website that the group were likely to see, with a little bit of rubbish camouflage for deniability purposes.

In any group, cliques form, some people will get on the tits of some other people, new people will join, others will drift away. It's the nature of things. Being in a 'subgroup' doesn't mean you don't want to be in the main group, neither does it mean that you don't think that the group as a whole is pretty damn great. If you want, there's a certain IM system where you may have me as a friend. Ask me about it. There are no real secrets here.

Due to a lack of foresight from the admins, I've had to flag this as 'other'.
posted by liquidindian at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2010 [8 favorites]

Um, cabal member here I guess. Thought I haven't really been involved much with either group lately.

Ookseer and kaibutsu pretty much hit the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned. Though I'm unaware of any "wholesale badmouthing" going on beyond any normal day-to-day private conversations between friends; who hasn't complained to a friend at some point about someone who got on their nerves that day? I suspect you'd hear some not-nice things from time to time if you listened in on my real-life private conversations too.

Extra info for everyone else - there's no dues, and club equipment is not appropriated for private gatherings.

In any case, what the OP sees as "secret" and "active exclusion," I see as "hanging out with friends." It's never really been a secret we do our own thing, we just don't shout about it because 1) it's not really anyone else's business (I also don't post what I'm wearing every day on the forums), and 2) things like this thread tend to happen.
posted by chundo at 10:30 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

[comment removed - hey folks, we're a little weirded out by the turn this thread has taken, so people need to take side discussions about the specific group to email or MetaTalk, thanks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:35 AM on May 19, 2010

Take this quick social psychology note with a grain of salt, as it is not coming from an expert or anything.

In studies of helping behavior, an interesting pattern emerges. There are some groups (call them "deep") that are SUPER helpful to members but not very helpful at all to non-members. There are other groups that are only moderately helpful, but they don't discriminate much between members and non-members (call them "broad"). ("Deep" and "broad" are not the terms used in the psych literature; they're just terms I'm using for the purposes of this discussion).

You mentioned how awesomely your club treats/ treated its members. If this is the case, then maybe the club is "deep" and it's experiencing some pressure to differentiate between in-group and out-group.
posted by Jpfed at 2:19 PM on May 19, 2010

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