Remember when “community” referred to the people in your neighborhood and other groups of people that you were cool with and would physically see in person? Remember those days when you played outside every day until the sun went down as kids and nothing was more entertaining? Do you remember the first time you used a computer? In this day and age, it might seem silly to think back to that time period, with how advanced we’ve become with technology as a whole. Now instead of just having a “community” that we know about physically, with the development of the internet, we now have the concept of virtual communities as well. A lot of people from young kids to elder individuals use the internet/technology on a day to day basis. We use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. in which we have our own virtual communities. There are sites that used to be used often as well like Myspace and AIM messenger.
There can be advantages and disadvantages to this type of community environment. The textbook refers to studies that were done on it and they saw that “establishing a sense of community online can be particularly advantageous for particular subgroups of people who may experience specific barriers to participation in communities of interest offline” (Gruman, Schneider, Coutts, 2016). If we’re referring to Facebook as a community, there are so many different sub-communities on that site. You can be a part of groups that you like, relate to, and with people you know from different areas of your life. It gives you a platform to keep in touch with different people you know, as well as make new friends who have similar interests as you. For example, when I was using Facebook years ago, I was a part of several groups/communities. I was part of groups that posted music covers because I would do that and it was a place for me to share my music with other singers as well as listen to other people’s covers. There were groups created for the school clubs that I was a part of so that we could keep in touch about meet-up times and just a place for everyone to communicate with each other. There were also groups of random people that you could join to connect with them on similar interests like movies or music. With this, you have the ability to talk to people across the internet from the comfort of your home.
This quarantine is a perfect example of a time where these kinds of sites are being used often for communication purposes. We’re in a time where we’re being asked to stay at home for safety reasons due to what’s currently going on in the world. We’re supposed to social distance and stay away from pretty much everyone we know unless you live in the same house, and even then, you still have to take precaution. We can’t go to schools, we can’t go to work, we can’t hang out with our friends or see our families. We can’t go to events or really do anything except go get groceries, unless you’re an essential worker and have to work. I know a lot of people who connect with their long distant family members through Facebook. My parents keep in touch with some people/family they know in other states and in other countries. In a time like this where we can’t all go out and see people, we can still communicate with them online. Students have been able to use the internet and sites like Zoom to communicate with their classes right now since they can’t physically go to their schools or classes right now. Individuals have been doing the same for work and have been holding work meetings online together so that they can be productive and get stuff done even though they can’t work around each other in person. In another perspective, if you’re someone that isn’t comfortable with speaking face-to-face with other people, then you may make friends online and be internet friends. There’s also access to these online communities at any time of day or night. People use virtual communities for resource purposes as well (Gruman, Schneider, Coutts, 2016).
A few studies showed that support from online groups was helpful as supportive groups/communities in regards to giving things like information and also “social and emotional support for women (and some men) suffering from various types of eating disorders” (Gruman, Schneider, Coutts, 2016). There have been some individuals that have brought up that sometimes the emotional connections that can be made through virtual communities might not always be given genuinely (Gruman, Schneider, Coutts, 2016). There was a study that thought of online communities as more of a “networked individualism” as opposed to a form of community (Gruman, Schneider, Coutts, 2016). Overall, I think it’s great that we have the ability to communicate with people through the internet, for whatever reason it may be. Due to this concept, I’ve been able to keep in touch with people as well as feel like I’m a part of something, especially because I’m shy and anxious often and being face-to-face with groups of people is hard to do sometimes. Do you prefer face-to-face communities, or virtual ones? Do you think virtual communities are a good thing or do you think it’s taking people away from “real connections” in person?
Gruman, J. A., Schneider, F. W., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2016). Applied social psychology : Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com