Anime Cliques, Critics and Communities


In which you get to hear me simultaneously rant about the negative aspects of anime communities and espouse “power of friendship” speeches from the 1000+ episodes of mahou shoujo anime that I’ve watched!


In a follow-up to Prinny’s post about subject matter knowledge from last week, I’ve decided now would be as good of a time as any to voice my thoughts on anime cliques – while taking it a step further to talk about those people every community has: critics. Despite the slightly negative connotation both of these terms have, I’d like to make it clear that they are both essential components in every anime community – and hence, not something that should be frowned upon. Of course, for every relatively good clique and critic, there are potentially five to ten not so good ones, as it is far too easy for individuals in communities to fall into nasty habits of self-gratifying behaviour. Is this caused by peer pressure, a desire to steal the spotlight on the stage of the world-wide web, or some combination of the two? These are the types of questions that I hope to raise in this post, as my goal isn’t to dip into a full-blown rant, but rather to offer a firm wake-up call to those who are more interested in critiquing media.


Cliques, Critics and Communities

One thing that I’ve discovered from being a part of a closed-knit anime circle is that there is often a very strong sentiment towards preserving the group’s sacred object. This is usually a show or series that most members regard very highly and in some cases, may be a cornerstone of their collective identity. While it is all the more likely for a bunch of like-minded people to want to congregate, the issue stems from the more hive-minded behaviour which can arise from this communal patting of the back. It’s perfectly fine for a group to have a strong sense of unity and identity – I’d argue it’s a necessary part of being a fan of anime. However, those are the core values that we have to be consciously aware of when there’s anything that potentially offsets the balance. What happens when there’s trouble in paradise?


Let’s take a hypothetical case where a new member enters the group and pronounces that he or she doesn’t think very highly of the group’s most beloved show – providing well-reasoned arguments in the process. Despite that, this newcomer receives a number of hostile-sounding responses from some of the group’s long-time members, admonishing them for their conflicting opinion. In this scenario, the individual may choose to simply carry on with the discussion – undeterred by the intimidation – or falls victim to the group’s pressure. The behaviour ultimately depends on the type of person, as some may enjoy challenging the popular sentiment, while others would rather try and stay on good terms with everyone – especially if they’re interested in creating lasting friendships. However, when the newly admitted member starts feeling as though they have to like everything that the group approves of in order to be accepted, they’ve already become a victim of the clique and their own desire to conform.

Obviously this is a very extreme example, but not an entirely unrealistic one. With anime discussion boards and forums being hot places to socialize, our tendency is to gravitate towards pockets within those communities that are made up of like-minded people. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with doing this, but when we start altering our own tastes, ideologies and belief systems to appease the group, it becomes a dangerous practice. It’s important to realize that these shifts are often gradual and subconscious, so an individual will likely not even realize that they are slowly amalgamating into the hive-mind – potentially losing their individuality in the process.


Now this doesn’t mean that one should be weary of adopting shared opinions between their friends or peers – rather, they should be conscious about blindly following trends; specifically, pretending to like things they don’t actually like and disliking stuff they actually like. It’s as simple as that. Of course, some cliques are just toxic by nature, in which case it’s probably better to jump ship entirely. Really, the ideal group environment should be one where people are accepting of other’s tastes, aren’t afraid to speak out when there’s something they disagree on, but are able to do so in a civilized manner. Oh, and of course, it should be fun! Talking about your favourite girly cartoons with people who also share the same passion should be fun! So it goes…

Maybe the problem is that there are far too many people in anime communities who are more concerned with their own internet cred, rather than the pursuit of knowledge a good discussion brings, or sharing in the excitement of fan-culture. Certainly, those outspoken individuals who seek attention through negative behaviour tend to be a part of the most closed-minded circles. If there’s someone who constantly replies in an inflammatory manner when their authority is challenged, only wants to participate in discussions about their favourites and above all, believes they are some sort of social elite or critical voice, then you know there’s a bad apple in the bunch.

Unfortunately, many of these aptly-named individuals tend to be so fixated on being critical to the point that they no longer enjoy their so-called hobby. I’d understand if this was their full-time job and hence their only available means of making a hand-to-mouth living. But for an individual with an interest in both media and writing, it seems a bit extreme. Yes, I’m aware that there are piles upon piles of irredeemable, otaku-pandering trash littering each anime season, but it’s essentially the same for every other medium: books, video games, films and especially visual novels – please don’t use the argument that one should be held to a lower standard than the other. That isn’t called having standards, it’s called cherry-picking as a method of authorizing one’s tastes while finding fallacious reasons to cast the hammer on stuff that one can’t fairly critique.

I'd post a pic of "Maiden Rape Assault: Violent Semen Inferno" to prove how anyone can cherry pick to put down an entire medium, but we're a family-friendly blog

I’d post a pic of “Maiden Rape Assault: Violent Semen Inferno” to prove how anyone can cherry pick to put down an entire medium, but we’re a family-friendly blog

Personally, I try and stay away from these types of people in communities now, since I’ve had a number of bad run-ins in the past. Being someone who has a strong love for film, anime and media in general, it really upsets me to be around “critics” who only watch stuff they (or their clique) hate so they can bash it, get into petty taste wars and present themselves as faux-authorities by writing tons of ill-argued reviews. Is this the type of behaviour of someone with genuine interest or someone that is desperately trying to seek attention so they can get the most likes or up-votes on a popular website? Regardless of your perception, in my view, these people have no love, no passion, for the anime they consume. Said apathy quickly becomes apparent in their writing – and going back to the point Prinny made in his post about knowing the subject matter – extends directly to their lack of interest in concerning themselves with the larger picture of anime production beyond writing: animation, direction, scheduling, societal/historical context – to name a few.  They’ve just become drones of the larger community, and want the easy way out to showcase their own warped definitions of “taste” and “objectivity”.

No, the “critics” that I like being around and respect are those that are genuinely passionate about a subject. If there’s something we have in common like a love for cinema and the production of anime, great! For me, partaking in their wealth of knowledge, exchanging thoughts about stuff like directors and learning more about them as a person is more important than any of our personal discrepancies. Even if we don’t share a common interest, if I can tell that someone really loves something and isn’t forceful or obnoxious about it, then there’s a good chance later down the road I may want to check it out. As I mentioned earlier, adopting shared opinions doesn’t have to be a negative practice. In my view, keeping to one’s core values while enjoying something another person introduced you to is what being part of a community should be about. The big difference when you’ve found the right environment is that you’re now the one in control, rather than feeling like you’re forced to conform to be accepted.

In many respects, I feel a large percentage of anime communities have lost sight of what it means to be, well, a community. Likewise, many anime critics (professional or not) have become too wound-up by the temptation of internet notoriety, and have forgotten what caused their initial spark for wanting to devote hours of their time writing about Chinese cartoons. Being a member of a group or critiquing media should ultimately be a give-and-take equation – not some sort of competition to see who has the better taste.


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27 responses to “Anime Cliques, Critics and Communities


    By the way, I’m assuming that this is basically a thinly-veiled “Critics and Connoisseurs – The DDK Diary” rant with all the “hypothetical examples” being real life experiences. You can’t fool me. I know everything.

    Oh yeah, on another note, the title might as well have been “Anime Circlejerking, Wankers and Incest”. I would have prefered that. Even has a general theme, giving it much more, uh… depth?

    And while I’m at it, here’s something I strongly disagree with:
    “please don’t use the argument that one should be held to a lower standard than the other.”
    Bah, that’s a whitewashing, no-conflict luv&piisu bullshit stance that doesn’t help anyone by avoiding even attempts at pinching different media at each other. If we compare different works to each other, establishing a superior-inferior system, why can’t we do the same with entire media? The only reason that comes to mind is, that in practice, that would actually require a loooooooooooot of knowledge to fully grasp the entire picture of several media but that’s not the argument that’s listed here.

    Or is this about something akin to “Well, since anime in general tends to be worse than, say, American TV, I’ll give Anime X the same rating I gave Game of Thrones even though, by anime standards, GoT deserves a higher rating!” inconsistences? In which case I agree.

    • Don Don Kun

      OH NO, YOU FOUND ME OUT GOTTA HIDE! Anyone who knows me reasonably well would’ve known that CnC and their new offshoot, Quiet Discourse, were the circles that were in my mind while writing this piece, since the former was the one I was involved with for the longest time. The topic was broad enough that it was meant to apply to whatever-community-you’re-less-than-pleased-with (self-insertion point for your convenience).

      >If we compare different works to each other, establishing a superior-inferior system, why can’t we do the same with entire media?

      Here’s the fundamental problem that I have with that system. Comparing different works as per a superior-inferior approach naturally puts one in the mindset of faulting one work on the basis of it not containing an aspect that the other had, or simply faulting it for something it never concerned itself with. I feel that such an approach causes one to become too obsessed with fallacious comparisons rather than actually looking at what the author/director/staff set out to accomplish. Obviously I’m not talking about outlandish comparisons like Ghost in the Shell to Ping Pong (inb4 someone makes a MAL recommendation because they interpreted Smile’s robotic transformation literally), but even amongst shows in the same genre, I still think they should be looked at on their own merits in spite of similar conventions. The only case I really feel is apt would be to compare works from the same creative body/team (ie. comparing Satoshi Kon’s films with one another).

      But going back to that line you quoted from my article, I was more trying to get at medium elitists – specifically, visual novel elitists – who believe just because they loved a couple visual novels, it makes every anime they watched inferior for some illogical reason. The problem I have with this line of thinking is that it fails to take into account the respective strengths of each medium. For instance, good literature will contain a very fluent sort of prose that is otherwise difficult or impossible to capture in a film – which should instead rely on strong cinematography to convey its form. The issue is when critics that favour one medium over another use this as an argument to downplay the successes of the one they are less fond of. And usually, it is the case that they are simply ignorant (whether blissfully or intentionally) of that other medium’s respective strengths. I’ve seen far too many people assert that anime as a whole contains weaker stories than their beloved eroge (even with a lot of knowledge of both mediums, I still don’t think one can make this claim). And while they may be right that the written script is generally not as strong, they often ignore elements of the visual language that is otherwise meant to act as the narrative voice because they see animation as being inconsequential. The thing is, it’s not – they just didn’t want to put the effort into trying to understand the various presentation styles of a different art form.

      So no, I’m not really in agreement with cross-media comparisons. I think the rating-culture has skewed people’s perceptions away from fairly critiquing media, but I’ll leave that rant for another article.

  2. I’m reasonably sure everyone in QD hates each other, and we’re constantly arguing about fucking everything, so I honestly don’t see the “clique” thing applying there.

    “I think the rating-culture has skewed people’s perceptions away from fairly critiquing media, but I’ll leave that rant for another article.”

    You should! This is an interesting topic. Like, even outside of cross-medium comparison, people do this shit obsessively within the same list. I can only speak for myself, but I know I started to lose sight of things after a while.

    “looking at what the author/director/staff set out to accomplish.”

    I can’t really agree that we should put too much weight on authorial intent. My two stock examples for this are Lain and Eva. There’s a lot of imagery in these shows that many peeps have found great value in, only to have it come it later that the author meant nothing by them, or that they just looked cool. David Lynch has said that since releasing Eraserhead, /no one/ has had the same interpretation of it as him. Even in less abstract works, authorial intent does not change what the thing is. The product is only the product at the end of the day, and putting weight into that sort of thing is disruptive to the artist/audience relationship, in a way (I’ve always said art is a 50/50 relationship between the artist and the audience.) At the absolute most, I think their perspective is merely an interesting point to consider, no more or less inherently valid than some prick on CnC. I know I enjoy reading Sca-ji’s thoughts on Subahibi, or the final track on Henry Cowell’s “The Piano Music of Henry Cowell” where he explains what every song means, but I ultimately don’t put much weight into them at all, really. It’s just another interesting perspective to consider.


    • Don Don Kun

      QD is still composed of many of CnC’s most prominent members. Despite the club’s slightly different format, it didn’t magically remedy most of the poor behaviour. Yeah, it was less of a hive-mind, but a lot of the member-base has assembled into smaller cliques, so my point still stands.

      Yeah, I’m beginning to dread internet rating culture, since I feel people have completely lost sight of the purpose of critiquing media. I mean, the fact that there’s people that call others out for not rating things “consistently” shows that they’re more concerned with silly numbers than anything else.

      No, no, I agree with you that an artists’ view on his or her work is only one perspective and not necessarily the “word of god” – otherwise we’d all be of the belief that the Penguindrum was a washing machine just because Ikuhara gave that answer as a figuarative middle finger to those fans obsessed with concrete answers. What I meant by looking at what the author/director/staff set out to accomplish spoke more to the nature of the direction or narrative framework as opposed to a justification of the work’s purpose. For example, taking note of the colourful art style in a Precure season and the amount of focus placed on the Cures’ character development should give an indication of the show’s younger target audience as well as the coming-of-age messages it is attempting to convey. There still may be room for a personal interpretation of the characters, events, motifs, but I feel the core aspects of the production are meant to place the viewer in the intended frame of mind. Obviously the lines start to blur with more experimental works such as a David Lynch film, but even with those I feel there’s plenty of care taken in helping the audience understand the work’s angle before allowing them to form their own interpretations.

      Sorry, Dolphins make bad LN protagonists, but pretty good eroge MCs if you catch my drift…

  3. I can relate to this, especially when I first joined CnC and everyone hated how I view Ecchi shows to a high degree than most.

    Funny how you hate these people who view people of low quality who hate what they like but friends with Dolphy who berates anyone who doesn’t like Aikatsu, Precure, or Saki.

    • Don Don Kun

      Case in point why I jumped ship on QD. When I was still a part of it there were already too many little factions engaging in taste wars. By the sound of your comment, it looks like things haven’t improved a whole lot from the CnC days. I don’t know your more recent history with Dolphy, but that’s a big assumption that just because I’m friends with someone who (by your claims) engages in that behaviour, that it goes against my view in this post.

      Honestly, why can’t we all just get along?


  5. I wouldn’t say that it hasn’t improved, I just stopped engaging in so much discussion because everyone acts like facetious 12 year olds who make dumb jokes when it’s supposed to be a serious discussion. I had nothing against Dolphy and I still don’t but his attitude is just beyond facetious and immature for someone who’s over the age of 20. It’s just that when I try to have a conversation with him he always acts so vicious towards me for no reason. And considering that reply he gave to me on my comment here, you can understand my frustration. It’s just the fact that you seem to not be bothered by his facetious comments but everyone else is all the sudden considered assholes.

    Oh how I wish that were true. I want to be on the friendly side of QD but they don’t want to for the most bizarre reasons.

    • Don Don Kun

      Gonzo, I have a different repoire with Dolphy and do not find that he acts like that (most of the time it’s just silly sarcasm), but due to your past experiences you do. On the other hand, there may be some people in QD that you’re fine with whom I can’t stand being around. Some people click with each other while others don’t. I feel it’s best to just remove oneself from those environments if that’s the case.

      I know it can be frustrating, but I don’t want people to start hurling insults at each other here. The internet is cynical enough as it is.

  6. How about you grow up for once?

  7. I don’t want to remove oneself from QD because it’s like the best place for intelligent discussions about anime, amirite?

    That can be a little self-centered of you to say. Wouldn’t it be more caring to be on somebody’s back and tell them, “Hey, look you need to tone down on the facetious nature of your actions.” If you were acting the same way Dolphy is to someone else, I would’ve called you out on it front and center. Friends don’t just ignore their other friends problems with other people, because why would they be friends to begin with?

    • Don Don Kun

      I dunno. I felt many of the members were getting out of hand with the taste wars and the topics were becoming really banal, but that’s just me (I prefer one-on-one talks anyhow). To the club’s credit the format is very conductive for discussion and a lot of people I know who are still there enjoy it, so nil and co. should be proud of what they’ve done!

      I’ve never been on the QD IRC before so I don’t know what sorts of feuds people get into. From my end, I know Dolphy well enough and can tell when he’s intentionally being sarcastic or immature such as “START LIKING SAKI MORE, YOU NEANDERTHAL”. That said, we do call each other out on stuff when we feel one of us is getting out of line. At the end of the day, your beef with him is your own beef. It would be like if I had a problem with someone you’re good friends with. I wouldn’t expect you to fix their behaviour. But I get the sense our ideologies differ here.

      • The IRC is pretty much not even an anime channel. It’s mostly just them talking about Visual Novels for the most part so I don’t necessarily go on it because it’s a bore sometimes.

        I wouldn’t mind his sarcasm if he didn’t do it all the time. His idea of humor is that of a 12 year old who just makes sarcastic jabs at people over and over again and it gets really annoying super quick. You’d think I would just talk to him about and discuss about it but he’s blocked me from ever trying to confront him about it so it’s super frustrating to come to terms with him. But people need to fix their behavior, that’s kind of a defeatist/pessimistic attitude of, “Well they’re not going to change even if we do something so let’s just not do anything because that will somehow make it better.”

  8. Okay, look. I’m not sure where you’re getting all of this from. I have never “berated” anyone for not liking those shows. At least not without copious amounts of jest. Like, no one makes fun of Precure more than Precure fans. We tend to have a good sense of humor about the series. Regarding Aikatsu, I assume you’re referring to the “enemy of fun” shit. It’s a pretty ridiculous stance to take and I thought it was sort of a blatant, maybe even slightly self-deprecating, joke to make, but oh well. And Saki… you lost me. That’s what my previous comment was getting at. All it was missing was some quotes and a “–things I have never said ever”

    So yeah, I found your comment baffling. I never instigate this shit. I thought our last few conversations on IRC were even pleasant, so imagine my surprise when I check to see if I got a reply here and see you baselessly lashing out at me and questioning why someone would even be my friend.



    anime is just supposed to be fun. I get that discussions about anime can lead to discussions about serious subjects, but it’s like our hobbies. I find it pointless to throw punches at each other for the reason of not liking a way some peep on the internet talks or behaves, especially when they do so casually with little intentions of actually trying to offend. There’s also plenty of stuff (like most pop artists) I don’t like either, so I just ignore them.

    But Dolphy and Gonzo neither of you are STUFFS, so you should at least try to talk and get along. Gonzo if you seriously can’t stand dolphy being dolphy then instead of complaining about it to the Canadian, talk honestly to Dolphy about WHY. Dolphy’s stubborn but also reasonable (for the most part) so just be sincere about approaching your problems with him in an appropriate manner and I’m sure he’ll give his best to listen.

    Oh, also pls don’t prove DDK’s point that there’s fractures in the QD family. Because imo QD is 300%>>>>>>> Critics & Snobs.

  11. I dont know what QD is but I agree with the general thrust of this article. Hatewatching is a practice I really don’t approve of, since bad anime is usually bad for a similar set of reasons and thus isn’t interesting to analyze. Plus, it just seems dumb to waste your time with terrible shows when good stuff is airing. I’ve grown really tired with the cynical, “high standards” critic persona a lot of people like to put on because rarely it entails evenhanded and objective analysis of the works in question and more often than not is just egoism (I could link a whole host of aniblogs that fulfill this criteria but I won’t lol)

    Also DDK, change your blogroll link for me to my new blog!! My old blog sucks, my new empty blog is clearly superior!

  12. For the record, there has been absolutely no canonical QD “taste” or opinion, nor do I and most likely many others believe there will ever be. I challenge anyone to find even one such example.

    >Despite the club’s slightly different format, it didn’t magically remedy most of the poor behaviour. Yeah, it was less of a hive-mind, but a lot of the member-base has assembled into smaller cliques, so my point still stands.

    None of your points still stand.. Yes, there are smaller cliques comprised of subsets of members all liking the same things and tending to be exclusive—just like literally any collection of people ever. We don’t condone it but we also don’t force to break it up. People forget that both extremes are bad.

    I agree with all of your points, and I totally understand your viewpoint coming from your passionate writing, but please be hesitant about claiming the problems exist toward specific examples without evidence.

    Regarding any bias coming from an admin in the club: I am of course okay with criticism and by all means encourage it (one clear problem being the lack of diversity from expansion, which is correlated but does not immediately cause exclusivity). I am not so excited about unsubstantiated criticism. 🙁

    • ^I agree with this. A lot.

      Like, one of the few reasons I really like QD is that there is almost absolutely no pressure as a writer, for me to further my chronic writing endeavors, by posting as soon as possible in posts. Whereas, in Critics & Snoobs, there’s an inherent problem of discussion posts being set up as “this show isn’t as good as” or “according to my list, this show is…” Consequently, there’s an uncomforting and unhealthy atmosphere encouraging disparagement, for me at least, that’s embedded into literally every. single. discussion. And no, I will not refer to C&C as any other title as that, because, unless it gets rid of its pseudo-voting system, it will remain as a game of taste war (which would defeat the purpose in the first place, because all C&C, as a function, is unique in is its weekly voting thingies).

      I love QD. Even though not every member contributes (which would optimistically be our eventual goal), every now and then I see a new or familiar face all the same and it brightens my day. MAL is a place to discuss anime, not the nauseating -beep- -beep- that it’s become. I won’t blame the current anime industry for it, but anyway, **** stuff like SAO, every shonen and Free!. That’s what I’ll leave it at.

      There’s a major difference in QD’s approach to discussion than a lot of other clubs out there, and that’s what makes it unique. The admins actually curate their stuff with finesse and don’t just abuse their powers tyrannical. I can recall a few cases where jokes or insults were thereafter deleted, discouraged, or given a warning to. Plus, nil, lpf, etc. are all v. sexy ppl.

      Personally, I don’t spend nearly as much time on QD stuff as I did for C&C stuff. To DDK and other readers, I send you a personal request to come back to QD (again), it’s not a burden but rather a pleasure. There’s none of that BS taste discrimination I promise. It’s love. It’s joy. It’s fun to write, discuss and express your thoughts freely. A charming community in itself.

    • Don Don Kun


      I think my post should have made my stance on cliques clear enough from the get-go, but I suppose I should have backed it up more in that line you quoted in my reply to Dolphy. Just for the record though:

      “Despite the slightly negative connotation both of these terms have, I’d like to make it clear that they are both essential components in every anime community – and hence, not something that should be frowned upon. Of course, for every relatively good clique and critic, there are potentially five to ten not so good ones, as it is far too easy for individuals in communities to fall into nasty habits of self-gratifying behaviour.”

      Fair enough on the point about specific examples. Glad to hear your thoughts on the matter.


      I’m not detecting any bias from you, so that’s good. It’s not as if you just demonized CnC but wrote a rosy description for QD in a way that would even put Precure to shame. 😛

      Jokes aside, I’m glad you found an environment where you enjoy discussing anime. I’m still not going to rejoin, as I think I’ve had my fill of closed-circles for the time being.

  13. That’s the thing though, you accept that such “cliques” are present in all communities and should therefore not be immediately frowned upon, but then you decide to disregard such logic for QD and proceed to call out problems that are no longer relevant in the club (there are different problems now, and this is quite the outdated one).

    >I’m still not going to rejoin, as I think I’ve had my fill of closed-circles for the time being.

    This is exactly what I mean and what caused me to respond in the first place. No, I will not stand by these sorts of innuendos and namecalling the club in passive-aggressive ways. You and I clearly aren’t on the same side of this issue—which is fine—but I do expect a little more decorum out of someone I very much respect. (This immediately reminds me of a certain someone’s blog post decrying critics and contrarians and Titan haters.)

    • Don Don Kun

      I think there’s been a misunderstanding here. Yes, cliques are present in all communities and should not be immediately frowned upon, but there is the potential for them to fall into nasty habits of self-gratifying behaviour. No, I’m not disregarding my own logic, I’m just extrapolating on my sentiments during the window of time that I was in the club – call it being stuck in the past, if you will. But at the time, I felt the club was still desperately trying to forge an identity apart from CnC, yet in doing so many of the members simply began engaging in juvenile, “anti-elitist” behaviour. Perhaps said problems have resolved as you claim, or maybe there was only a problem from my perspective – but as I’ve mentioned in the past, my reasons for leaving were personal.

      I’m not sure how to respond to this. I really think you need to take a deep breath if you feel me using a descriptive word such as “closed-circle” constitutes a form of name calling. All that means is that the group is sectioned off from the public (since it’s a private club) and facilitates close-knit interactions. I respect your passion and dedication towards your club, but this is getting a bit extreme. All I meant by that was that I was done with discussing anime in any MAL club (Precure and the Boy’s Love clubs doesn’t count).

  14. I don’t think we’ll get anywhere discussing this, but I just wanted to end this note by apologizing if that’s what you meant by “closed-circle”. I’ve heard too many others use the term as a euphemism for certain masturbatory lewd activities, so I’m really really sorry if that’s not what you meant!

    • Don Don Kun

      No harm done. I get the sense you thought I said “circle-jerk” rather than “closed-circle” – the former fits your definition of a certain masturbatory lewd activity.

      Yeah, I get the sense we’re just going to end up going in circles here. I think I’ve beaten this dead horse enough.

  15. without being confrontational, I don’t think it’s exaggerated to interpret your use of “closed circle” as something more negative than just “closed off from the public and facilitating close-knit interaction” when you say in the same sentence that it is something “you had your fill of” sans elaboration. unintentional as it may or not be, that comes across as underhanded and passive-aggressive and it stings a little to be criticised by a friend in this way.