Tuesday's Opinions: F2F vs. Online Book Groups

It's Tuesday!  And this week's topic: Book groups.

Two years ago, I began to crave the company of other book lovers.  None of my friends and family are avid readers; if they do read a book, it's not normally something I would read.  So I wanted to go join some book clubs, and have intelligent conversations with other like-minded individuals.
I'm sure fellow bibliophiles have felt the same way at some point in their lives.  We feel like we are surrounded by people who don't appreciate books nearly as much as we do, and we need to embark on a quest to find others with whom we can relate.


But the question is: should you look for online book groups, or physical groups?


When I first went in search of book clubs to join, the first thing I looked for were Face-to-face (F2F) book groups at nearby libraries.  Unfortunately, my job usually keeps me busy at night, which is when all the groups nearby seemed to take place.  But I kept looking, and I finally found a sci-fi/fantasy book club that would meet once a month.  I figured, well I like fantasy, so why not?  I dutifully read the book of the month (BOTM), and I attended the club meeting at a nearby Barnes&Noble.

As it turned out, it was definitely not the group for me.  I made two more attempts to like this group, but after the third meeting I attended, it was pretty clear that I had struck out.  There were a few warning flags from the very beginning that told me that this group wasn't the right fit.  For one thing, they all liked the book that was chosen; I was the only who hated it, so clearly there was a bit of a difference in preference.  For another, there wasn't much discussion on the book, beyond a simple "I liked it" or "I didn't like it".  I had been hoping for a more detailed discussion (the book had a lot of potential for a good critical debate), but it seemed like there was only one other person wanted to go more in depth with the conversation, and we couldn't get a good conversation going.  Everyone else was more interested in trying out this board game that the group leader brought in, which involved creating the most outrageous and inappropriate scenarios you could possibly make.  An entertaining game for a party with close friends, maybe, but kind of inappropriate for a group of adults in a public place.  I mean, I'm not a huge snob or anything, but this group felt a little crass to me.  Sure they were friendly, but they spoke a little too loudly for a bookstore cafe, and they swore without considering the families who were nearby.  At one point our group was requested to quiet down (I think they were actually threatening to kick us out), but that only made some of the members defensive, and unwilling to cooperate.  I mean, I was one of the youngest people in the gathering, but the majority of them acted like they were still freshmen in college.  Their behavior sort of rubbed me the wrong way; I don't want to get kicked out of Barnes &Noble, I just want to talk about books!

For my first ever F2F book club, this was a huge disappointment; it subsequently discouraged me from looking for other groups because I felt I wouldn't be able to fit in with the other members.  So I went searching for an online connection instead.
It didn't take long for me to discover Shelfari, a wonderful, amazing site where I could keep an online bookshelf, and join online book discussion groups.  And these groups actually discussed books!  There were monthly BOTMs with discussion questions, and reading challenges that were fun to participate in.  I was in love.  It was perfect.  It was exactly what I wanted.  I've been exclusively online ever since, eventually expanding my experience into Goodreads as well as Shelfari.

There's one little problem, though; I'm still sort of lonely.  I've never actually met my online friends.  Our conversations are through messages only, and while these dialogues are always fun, the online connection creates a huge distance between people, making online groups a fun, but still lonely experience.  Lately I've been craving a human connection in addition to the relationships I've made in cyberspace, so I've starting looking for F2F groups again.  And I've actually found a few library meetups that I can try without any interference from my irregular schedule. 

So, what's the answer to my question?  F2F or online?  My answer is: it's up to you.  Some people prefer the anonymity of online groups, while others prefer the human connections you make in an F2F group.  An online group can fit your needs easily, including a busy schedule, but you lack human contact, something we all need at a basic level.  A F2F group can provide that contact, but a good group is hard to find; you'll be lucky if you find one that not only fits your personality and preferences, but your schedule as well.
So really it all depends. 

For me, I want both.  I love my online groups, but I really want to be able to talk face-to-face with a fellow reader, so a physical group in addition to my online ones would be amazing.  I have no clue what to expect at the upcoming group meetings I plan to attend (there are 3 of them), but I sincerely hope that I may find what I am looking for.

What do you guys think?  Do you prefer F2F or online?

Comments

  1. Hi Lisa,
    I started off like you, looking for a F2F book club. I don't live in a big town, so there aren't many options for me. I also have small children and a husband who shift works, so I gave up in the end and went online. I found Goodreads too (and NBRC which is where I found a link to your blog). A couple of months ago I tried the F2F thing again, found a book club I think I'll like, but the first meeting I tried to go to got cancelled then the next one I can't make it. Hopefully I'll get there one day.

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