Many people, since a very early age, help in different kinds of communities by taking responsabilities in them. I mean in all kind of communities, from your group in school, to communities of neighboors, or associations of parents in schools, etc etc. A web forum is just another community, with the difference that it is a virtual community: the relationships are made through internet, but you can -as in real life- have friends, or not-so-friends, colleagues, enemies, etc.
In my experience, at any community there is a large number of people who is not too prone to help, and there are people who are ready to contribute by performing different jobs. Which is, by taking responsabilities. I don't really understand why it always happens like that, but fact is that, out of 100 people, you will only see 3 or 4 accepting to collaborate with their work in profit of the community.
By contrast, and also from my experience, it happens that usually the people who complain (sometimes with reasons, sometimes not) are precisely those who contribute little -if anything at all- to the life of the community. This is something curious that I find difficult to explain: in principle it would seem logical that this kind of people, by being mostly unconcerned about the community as a whole, should not worry about it and thus would not express their opinion, either positive or negative: they simply don't mind. But for some weird reason, they always find something to complain. Of course when things are going right, they won't have a word to congratulate: this kind of people feel the need to participate only to criticize.
Then there is the behaviour of the majority of the community: there are many who don't collaborate much, but also that don't make any critics: they simply move on and say nothing. It is difficult to know their opinion, although if you belong to a community, you always have an idea on what their thinkings are.
The problem I'd like to addresss is what happens when some problem arrives to the community, to the point that the behaviour of some of those with responsabilities is questioned. In these occasions, a certain number of people will become very vocal with their critics, often getting into arguments which seem designed to stir the pot, make noise and create loud discussions. In cases like that, if you have responsabilities in a community, you expect to see how the crowd behaves, as a way to monitorize whether you are acting rightly (in their view) or not.
And the disappointing reality comes when the crowd says nothing at all: in the middle of the complaints of a few people, the majority simply says nothing. Or, by using other words, what I called in a recent conversation, they are in "The clamorous silence". How can you understand that message?
I have lived this very experience sometimes in my life, at different communities. And I couldn't avoid to be disappointed. Taking responsabilities in any community, as any other fact in life, has positive and negative sides. On the positive you can mention that it feels good to help a group of people with similar interets/hobbies than you, and it can be very rewarding from a personal point of view. On the negative, you can mention that sometimes the response from that community is not what you expect, and that it takes a lot of your time.
When things get real ugly for some reason, it's a test case that illustrates my point. A sentence I saw once stated "Please love me when I deserve it the less, because it is when I need it more". And it is right: when you have been contributing in a community for a long time, somehow you expect that your work is being appreciated, and you will be given the benefit of the doubt.
But what to do if, even under such circumstances, the community keeps on saying nothing?
What if complainers have a great time and get into freely bashing mood, but your friends/colleagues/readers etc do not express their opinion?
What if the majority lets the nasty critics running without any answer?
What if your only support comes from a few private communications, as if public support was something to be ashamed of?
What if support is lacking from people with similar responsabilities?
Do you have wide support (as you imagined) or maybe you are wrong and your support is not widespread, or is not anywhere to be found, plain and simple?
I try always to keep a positive attitude in life, and in difficult times, I prefer to choose the positive hypothesis, even if it seems improbable.
Yet sometimes there are many hints suggesting the reality is not what you expected, so that you wonder if it's even worth to keep on contributing to the community, or might be a good time to say goodbye.