Is WikiTree a Cult?

+28 votes

The C word has been mentioned recently in G2G.  It also appears in the gensoft reviews of WikiTree.  So, is it one?  I say 'Of course not!'  But then, what else would a cult member say? 

I googled up 'characteristics of a cult,' and got numerous results that generally describe a similar set of common cult features.  This one provides a handy checklist:

I think, by stretching very hard, WT could check four of the fifteen boxes: 

 - 'The group is elitist....'  Let's be honest here.

 - 'The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality....'  We do tend to circle the wagons when attacked on G2G.  Just saying.

 - 'The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt...through peer pressure....'  That's what the Honor Code is for, no?  Likewise the Scarlet Unsourced Template.  On the other hand, a great deal of noncompliant behavior is tolerated with nothing more than headshakes and tut-tuts.

 - 'The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.'

I don't think 4/15 a cult makes.  What say you all?


in The Tree House by Living Tardy G2G6 Pilot (733k points)
LOL I just received a downvote for this question.  Help! I'm being subjected to subtle psychological pressures to control my behavior!  Come and see the violence inherent in the system!
upvote for the laugh you gave me by posting this silliness ;-)
You had to stretch some of your points past the breaking point:

1. I can't think of any WikiTree leaders with a Messiah complex. We do have a few miracle workers that make our work easier.

2. Possibly if "the group" is the "THEM".

3. No one is forced to sign the "Honor Code". Reminders by leadership are not as bad as you made is sound.

4. The group has no thons or challeges to bring new member. DON'T tell anyone - we wouldn't want to give them any ideas.

btw, I gave you an up vote for the silliness.

7 Answers

+32 votes
Best answer
Yesterday I sold all my assets and turned them over to Chris. Now, after reading Herbert's excellent post I'm wondering if I made a mistake.
by Bart Triesch G2G6 Pilot (256k points)
selected by Anne B
Thank you for the "Best Answer" vote Herbert!
literally LOL
Thanks Cynthia!
+25 votes

According to an article in The Atlantic, The Seven Signs You're in a Cult, there are some signs of the more serious implications of belonging to some kind of religious-style cult (the kind were members occasionally end up dead) that don't seem to fit WikiTree--even if you squint your eyes and make adjustments to the religious angle. The kind of cults we tend to hear the most bad press about, after all, tend to be the religous cults.  And when things go wrong with them, the fallout and damage can be especially bad. 

So the seven signs mentioned in The Atlantic article are:  (1) Opposing critical thinking, (2) Isolating members and penalizing them for leaving, (3) Emphasizing special doctrines, (4) Seeking inappropriate loyalty to their leaders, (5) Dishonoring the family unit, (6) Crossing boundaries of behavior, and (7) Separation from the Church.

I'd say WikiTree in some cases actually embodies the antithesis of these seven signs, since Wikitree actively encourages critical thinking, and actively honors the family unit.  

And as for the other signs, I'd say WikiTree seems to me very respectful without demanding inappropriate loyalties, and very open to members coming and going as they wish to do.  

by Cynthia Larson G2G6 Pilot (171k points)
Well said, Cynthia.  Articles on cults always include factors related to devotion to the leader or leaders.  As much as we love Chris, I just don't see that here.  WT leadership and policies are frequently and strongly criticized with no repercussions.  I think that fact by itself should debunk any 'cult' claims.

Wait a minute, Herbert! You’re saying that Chris is not our Worshipful WikiTreer? I am now going to go move to  a small village in Mongolia where there is no internet access. 

+12 votes
Hmmm. If there's no Kool-Aid, I'll be glad to be in a cult. I don't see wikitree that way though because you can easily leave our little circle (but who would want to?) and cults don't allow you to escape. unblemished.
by Betty Fox G2G6 Pilot (170k points)
You’d be surprised. Well, maybe not. (NOT ME!)
+17 votes
Well, this gave me my chuckle for the day -- thanks for that!  (Obviously I didn't take it seriously.)  Having been "accused" of being in a cult previously, I think I'll let this go (as I have before) and continue to enjoy being involved with a helpful, harmless, and happy (most of the time) group of people.
by Robin Shaules G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
+13 votes
made me laugh! We don't tend to have cults in the UK (unless you include the masons and the people going door to door handing out leaflets about some tower that I thought was from a Steven King series of novels).


If this was a cult, I would have spent a fortune by now progressing through the G2G mach levels trying to get clear.
by Michelle Wilkes G2G6 Pilot (143k points)
Well, y'all do have soccer teams.

I beg your pardon. We are not a cult, thank you very much. ;-)

Eric, just nearly spat my wine, lol, so funny, I expected the 'We' to take me to a page about England lol :`)

Also I had completely forgotten I have some documents in my grandfathers things about his links to the Freemasons, so glad you commented, not only did it make me laugh but has stirred a new thought for his profile, I'll read up on it. He was from a North Wales branch. Thanks!
Hi Lizzie,

Let me know how I can help! I'm a Freemason, and I created (and curate) the Freemasonry project page here.
Thanks Eric, I'll dig them out and PM you! Sorry to hijack your answer Michelle :-)
Freemasonry is NOT a cult.
+19 votes
I'm not sure about a cult, but there has been plenty of discussion, and many would agree, that WikiTree is an addiction.
by Eric Weddington G2G6 Pilot (363k points)
Yes, and my wife has committed me to an institution for it. (IRGA: Institute for the Genealogically Addicted). It’s very nice here with my smuggled in iPad.
My husband is sat next to me rolling his eyes as I read this to him ;-)

He says committing me may be a real solution haha :`)
But you see, we have to educate people that it's not a problem, to be hidden away. It's an illness, that must be treated.

What we need is our own 12-step program.
Step 1: Put down tablet/laptop or step away from the computer.

Step 2: Make a cup of tea and switch on TV.

Step 3. Select an interesting history programme.

Step 4: See something on said history programme that sparks interest.

Step 5: Pick up tablet/laptop and google interesting fact.

Step 6: Realise this interesting fact is actually in some really obscure way linked to something you researched on wikitree.

Step 7: log back in......Damn!

There is no hope!

Lizzie, you cannot imagine just how frequently this exact scenario plays out in my home (with wife looking at me out the corners of her eyes). There is  no hope!

LOL  Lizzie, that was hilarious!!

That is so me!!

Thanks for the laughs!!
Enjoyable thread.
+4 votes
I have read a lot of reviews about Wikiree, but I have never heard it referred to as a cult. I love it here there are so many friendly helpful people.
by Dallace Moore G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
Herbert does not lie.
Let me go get the lie detector. Now where oh where is Herbert. :-p

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