Numtots, and Lessons in Coalition Building

The evolution of a planning-focused online group has lessons for the wider world.
August 12, 2018, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"If you want to understand how group dynamics work online, look no further than Numtot," writes Jonah Engel Bromwich.

By NUMTOT, Bromwich means the New Urbanist Memes for Transit Oriented Teens, or Numtots for short. The Numtots began as a Facebook group in early 2017 and have grown to more than 100,000 members. Bromwich describes the group as a "hub for 20-somethings interested in urban planning, civic issues, infrastructure and memes that play on those topics."

The Numtots have already garnered significant attention from urbanist and mainstream media, but this latest coverage takes a new angle, summed up in the changing behavior of the group after the numbers grew. "The tots’ political orientation has become an increasing focus, as rival groups began to bait one another, quarrel and question one another’s political credentials," according to Bromwich.

According to Bromwich's count, the group has splintered into 100 subgroups, with names like Yimby Memes for Developer Shill Teens, Social Urbanist Memes for Anarchist Communist Teens, and Amchad Memes for American Rail Apologist Teens.

According to an expert cited in the article claims that the splintering, and the occasional vitriol that breaks out in discussions on the group's page, mimic the behavior of large groups in history.

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Published on Friday, August 10, 2018 in The New York Times
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