We just had the presidential elections here in the United States. On my communities, we don’t allow generally political or religious discussions, so there really hasn’t been any talk about it.

Those who follow me online – on my forums, the websites I write for, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and elsewhere – will know that I almost never talk about politics or religion. That wasn’t what I always did. But, it was a conscious choice I made, several years ago.

I was thinking about that choice recently and am glad that I made it. I came to the realization that my job isn’t to divide people, but to unite them around specific topics and interests, like online community, martial arts, Photoshop, soda and more. To help them have fun, connect with passionate people and become better at what they do.

People get enough political and religious commentary from other people they follow online. They don’t need it from me. One day, I might change my mind and share differently. But, right now, I’m happy.

And I started to think about how this applies to my communities and what my role is as a community manager. I think of it in a similar light. My job is to bring people together over common interests, passions and professions. If I ran a community about politics, then my job would be to bring them together around that topic. But, I don’t, so it’s not. I run a community about the martial arts, so my goal is to unite them around their passion for the martial arts. That doesn’t mean everyone will agree with one another or that they’ll like one another. But, essentially, my task is to bring people together who want to discuss this topic in the environment that we’ve created.

As such, part of my responsibility is also to combat elements that would seek to divide my members and take them away from the reason that the community exists. A “troll” could be a dividing element. There are people who register specifically to be disruptive. But, another thing that can divide people is politics and religion. It’s really important to consider how these topics actually fit into your community and whether they put you closer to your goals or farther from them. Whether they unite people around your purpose or tear them away from each other. If your community is not about politics or religion, it often makes sense not to facilitate those discussions.

People can get politics and religion in a lot of places. Is that what you want them coming to you for? Always remember why you exist and put culture first.