Virtually Greek


What is your community?  Is it the neighborhood in which you live?  Is it your group of coworkers?  Is it your family and friends?  What happens if you have none of these?  Some argue that being isolated without community interaction is an unfortunate, lonely existence.  You might wonder how anyone can survive without the support of friendship or community.  It just so happens that even the most isolated of individuals is never really alone if they simply turn to the World Wide Web.

There have been many arguments that social media is disrupting our ability to connect in the physical world.  As a matter of fact, I have written about the detrimental effects of social media on intimate relationships.  However, social media can also have a positive effect on even the most isolated of individuals.  The findings from Hampton, Sessions and Her (2011) suggest that, of 2,500 surveyed Americans, those who had a presence on social media had more close confidants that those who do not participate on social media (as cited in Hampton, 2012).  Furthermore, although we may average fewer intimate relationships than 20 years ago (Hampton, 2012), our support group has expanded because of social media.  But can we really claim a community of support in a virtual world?

A recent broadcast from ABC News (2016) confirms that yes, we can.  The latest trend in social media is the online community.  Schneider, Gruman and Coutts (2012) explain that there are four elements contributing to a positive sense of community:  membership, influence, shared values, and a shared emotional connection.  ABC News (2016) highlighted the community of a newly developing online sorority, known simply as Girls’ Night In.  This online sorority is an exclusive, membership only group of women who have come together in a virtual world to provide a sense of community no matter where one resides in the world.  This sorority adheres to all of the community criteria set forth by Schneider et al. (2012).  They have strict, exclusive membership requirements, in that each new member must be nominated by three veteran women, and subsequently researched and deemed worthy of admission.  They carry influence over each other, in that each member is evaluated by the entire group based on her various posts.  Their shared values carry over from member to member through their strict nomination process.  Finally, their shared emotional connection carries on through supportive posts that range from acceptance of an outfit choice to the need for physical community, when members in a common region can be called upon to rally together at a designated location for Girls’ Night In.

This particular sorority is just one of many exclusive membership groups becoming established through social media.  These blossoming online communities are not widely common as of yet, but provide a beautiful alternative to the relationship-damaging effects that we have seen from social media in the past.  It is not difficult to imagine that, given time, these virtual communities may dominate our society.


ABC News. (2016, March 28). Inside ‘Girls Night In,’ the exclusive all-female digital club. Retrieved from

Hampton, K. (2012, June 18). Social media as community. Retrieved from

Hampton, K. M., Sessions, L. F., & Her, E. J. (2011). Core networks, social isolation, and new media: How Internet and mobile phone use is related to network size and diversity. Information, Communication & Society,14(1), 130-155. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2010.513417

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage.


  1. article source

    Virtually Greek | Applied Social Psychology (ASP)

  2. The above post describes the ingenuity of an ever-expanding online network that aims to provide its users with a virtual sense of community. While an online setting offers users the premise of being part of a fraternal organization, it can be argued that Internet use falls short of giving its users a real sense of community. Some of these shortcomings include users experiencing de-individuation, a false sense of community, and decreasing emotional investments in connections. Through an understanding of these shortcomings, perhaps social networking developers and users of these fraternizing sites can seek to increase the online community experience.
    As the above post states, community is defined as having membership, influence, shared values, and a shared emotional connection. Reich (2010) aimed to answer the question: Do people experience a sense of community through social networking? The results were less than adequate as participants noted their time spent online continues to increase; whereas, their emotional investments decrease. In terms of membership, participants noted that had large networks, yet lacked a real connection with the majority. In many cases the extended networks were complete strangers. The study also revealed that as far as community influence goes, the participants did not have a strong sense of identity within their online communities: “Reich’s study seemed to suggest that participation on social networking sites promotes a sense of ‘networked individualism’ rather than a true sense of community (Schneider et. al, 2012).
    Coinciding with this notion of networked individualism, Reich’s research revealed that many online communities can yield unwanted drama and misunderstandings. This unwanted behavior is more prominent in virtual communities due to several psychological pitfalls of online communication including an increase in ambiguity, a boundary breakdown between the private and social sectors of one’s self, decrease in self-awareness, lack of feedback in terms of user’s intentions (Seddens, 2012). The increased ambiguity can decrease inhibitions; therefore, contributing to the inorganic sense of membership, shared values, and emotional connection that are necessary components of community.
    Overall online communities sound very promising and by realizing some of its shortcomings, it can continue to evolve and positively impact the social networks of virtual community members.
    Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Los Angeles: Sage.

    Seddens, N. (2012, August 31). Psychological Pitfalls of Online Communication | Graham Jones. Retrieved April 02, 2016, from

  3. The internet community is a concept that has been debated almost since the inception of an interconnected network of computers was imagined. There is a certain significance to the research and reporting done on the topic of the all-online sorority, which, from an abstract perspective, only makes sense, given the rising preeminence of all-online university classes. Given the research displayed in the course text, communities tend to form when given common circumstances and the means to bond together (Schneider et al, 2012), which, after all, the internet can now meet with a level of alacrity that would have been alarming to suggest only a few years ago.
    It’s worth pointing out that the perception of “negative influence” that the prevailing social media mediums (sorry) of the era carry is largely due to a certain amount of social psychology at work in the media, with an informational blitz designed to make people feel a certain way about sites like Facebook, Twitter, or reddit. It wasn’t all that long ago that people used them innocuously, considering them to be worthy of praise at best, and an eye roll at worst. It wasn’t until someone decided that they were bad, and told everyone about it through media outlets, that we started to hem and haw about “virtual bullying.” Nick Palmisciano, a prominent member of the veteran community, states on the topic (albeit in a semi-satirical ambience) “hurtful words are now being equated to physical violence, which is comical” (Palmisciano, 2012), as a take on what he called (again, in satire) the “bubble-wrapping wussification” of America’s children. The link to this piece is in the Works Cited, although I will issue the disclaimer that it is extremely foul, if pertinent to the conversation we’re having. Granted, it’s comedy meant to brush the fringes of bad taste, but it brings to the table an alternative viewpoint of the way social media has been portrayed of late.
    Personally, I’ve been a part of a couple online-based communities for the past several years, and I have yet to feel negatively treated (beyond the occasional troglodyte in the youtube comments section) directly. That being said, where a lot of the concern for negativity could perhaps be better expressed is in reference to larger group negativity. A possibility here could be if another online sorority decides to push in on “Girls’ Night In.” While noble in its intent, there is no way to be free of the risk of negativity in some form or fashion.
    To wit, I think you did a great job researching an example of online community (and your double entendre in the title made me chuckle). I just think it’s valuable to play counterpoint, so please don’t take any of that too harshly.

    Palmisciano, N. (2012). The Damn Few. Episode 5. Retrieved from
    Schneider, F., Gruman, J., Coutts, L. (2012). Applied Social Psychology. 2nd Ed. Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications.

  4. The role of the internet in our lives is obviously here to stay. The sense of community it can provide is something that is hard to imitate in the physical world. Connections can be made by anyone all over the world, and people who wouldn’t get along find similarities to share. The virtual communities you talk about show how this is true. The sorority for example shows how easy it is to share ideas and morals through a virtual environment. This same thing may be impossible in person because of communication issues or location problems (being across the country). The internet helps facilitate these connections, and a sense of community. It is definitely something that will stick around and evolve over time.

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar