Exaggerating? You? Well, all Cretans are liars...
Seriously, this sounds like ALL the photo clubs in the UK of 30 years ago and a good percentage -- maybe half -- now.
For the networking: there are always a few people in any club who are Young Turks (well, perhaps not in Greece, but you know what I mean). Ignore the Crusty Old Members (not an attractive image) and talk with the ones who think like you. Of course if you're the only one, that's a real bugger.
Our last local photo club in the UK (Thanet) was pretty much as you describe but maybe 10 per cent thought differently and another 30+ per cent could be swayed by the beliefs of the 10 per cent. It doesn't take long for that to create a paradigm shift. Also, one photographer -- Marie Muscat-King -- moved from ill-informed amateur (few people gave her any real help) to professional, with encouragement from the Young Turks (and Old Anarchists such as ourselves). See http:\\www.secret-studio.com. Click on the little logo thing on the film page to get in.
Frances cheated. She entered four pictures in one competition, shamelessly pressing the right buttons, and came first, second, fourth and sixth. Having demonstrated that she COULD play by their rules, she never tried again; and the rules changed slightly.
So yes, it's just about worth it. Remember that lovely cartoon by the late Willie Rushton: an air hostess with the caption, "Do not be deceived by my loveliness, traveller: secretly I despise you."