Parasitism in social groups and knowledge exchange

Each of us whether we want it or not belongs to different social groups.

Types of such groups are extremely diverse – the community of parents of same cass pupils, council of the charity foundation, society of amateur fishermen, Freemasons society, that is building plans to seize world domination, etc. ;=)

We stay in most of these groups for personal pleasure and we invest relatively small money / part of personal time.

Therefore, we do not waste time on a critical analysis of the rest of the group and just enjoy being in such group …. or we leave it – becoming a member of the majority of social groups does not cost a thing.

However, there are groups which we enter to achieve specific goals, exchange communications and knowledge that is valuable to us + the very fact of joining such groups costs us significant time and financial resources.

In such groups it is important for each member to “strike the balance”, namely, to receive something useful in exchange for investing time / sharing knowledge, etc. If the “balance is not respected” (i. e. participation is not useful), then the members of the group begin to consider the group useless and gradually leave it.

If a group is entered by a person who does not have anything valuable for group members, he is a “social parasite” – he gets new knowledge, skills and communications, but does not provide anything useful in return.

The presence of even one “social parasite” has a very negative effect on the group climate and the openness of its members.

My hobby is the creation of groups for effective exchange of knowledge and communication. Game theory helps me to model the interactions between group members and also to establish internal rules.
For three years I have been organizing and moderating 2 groups of 20 people who actively exchange knowledge and communications in specific areas.

In my practice (without going deep into theory) the following measures against “social parasitism” show their efficiency and positively affect the long-term effectiveness of the group:

1. very strict filter of incoming people (openness, desire to share knowledge, long-term group interests in the area, reputation);

2. new group members should present / propose something valuable when they join. Such an input “contribution” allows them to obtain a minimum level of trust from the old members of the group;

3. systematically conduct a survey of group members on the usefulness of other members and exclude those who, by the results of the survey, are not useful to others “in dynamics”.

There is a number of other practices, but they require longer explanations.

I would be very grateful if you would also share with me your practices of organizing and moderating the group with the aim of sharing knowledge and communication.

Best regards,


Vitaliy Goncharuk

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