When you think of your community, what do you think of? Do you think of the people you see on the daily dog walk? Or the people who post on the noticeboard next to the local shop? Perhaps your community is a sports team or a group that meet up based on a common interest? However, things have changed in the past twenty years, meaning the way we see communities and the way we build communities has changed. So, how does being involved in a community benefit our lives?
How Do We Exist Online?
The majority of people have an online footprint. We might keep it to the bare minimum, by just having an email address, or we might go all out and be on every single possible social network, have a website, a YouTube channel, and actively be cultivating an online presence. This is one way in which communities can be built up, and a way in which the maximum social benefits can be reaped. The wider the network – the wider the opportunities.
Most people have some presence on social media. This could be to keep in touch with friends, to build a platform for your business, or could even act as a way to check up on the neighbors with local community groups. An online presence can be a way to bolster existing interests and friendships, as well as forming new relationships.
For example, in the online entertainment industry, those who play games online may benefit from the online chatrooms that exist alongside a person’s gameplay. When playing fun bingo games online, for instance, players have the opportunity to chat to one another, discuss the events of the latest game, or even just get to know their fellow players.
These chatrooms help create this online presence and adds another layer to the traditionally social activity. Furthermore, these chatrooms could simply be used to find other people with a similar passion for the popular past time, a place where you can build your bingo family. Games such as bingo, which have a reputation for cultivating communities, are retaining that aspect with their online versions.
Other online gaming communities, such as Twitch, also illustrate just how useful an online presence can be. Streamers have personal platforms on the site and can also use social media to redirect people to their streams. The nature of the community means that the more people who see it, the more are likely to get involved in subscriber discussion, which widens both the streamer’s and the viewers’ social networks. Ultimately, this could lead to careers, show off transferable skills, or could simply be a very engaging hobby for those who like to socialize and play.
Communities Can Be Built Through Forums
Since the advent of the Internet, online forums have been a great way to find new communities online. Whether the topic has been camping in the wilderness, advice on particular careers, or even information on a new pet, forums have allowed people to gather together around one point of interest. Social media has allowed forums to increase as the reach of people being able to find like-minded communities has grown.
For example, sites such as Goodreads provide a forum for people to share what they’re reading, book reviews, and discuss literature which can help build friendships and new relationships around a common link. Traditional forums still exist such as those that discuss Microsoft, Windows, and Apple technology, for example; as people ask questions about why their devices are malfunctioning, and other people who have had similar problems are able to provide the answers.
Moreover, a more modern kind of forum exists on Facebook where people post memes, funny images, and discuss TV shows and movie releases. Facebook groups allow for forums to build around local issues – such as forums on the immediate area, the city, or even the county.
Reddit, which is a modern alternative to a traditional online forum, allows people to discuss anything from interesting historical facts, to fan bases, to the future of democracy. These forums allow people to gain points for posting comments that other people upvote, and the app allows people to engage with these forums wherever they go.
Often forums provide a way for consumers to discuss a brand or company and help one another out without having to go through the customer service of that company. The connected world means that people can even ask for medical or legal advice in these forums online. Not to replace professional advice, forums can help find others who have experienced similar issues. A popular forum topic happens to be ‘can I eat this food that has gone out of date.’ There are even forums for sharing ghostly experiences and your past lives!
Building a Community on Social Media
Social media can also be used to build communities online through the hashtag function. The hashtag can be used to find others who are interested in the same things as yourself, which can form the basis of communities. These can be found through something as simple as taking part in a challenge – such as those set by the One Minute Briefs Twitter page, which challenges you to create a design concept in one minute based on a buzzword.
If you have something relevant to say or a story to share on a particular topic, these hashtags and the communities that exist within them can be used to amplify your story to a wider audience who it may resonate with. For instance, if you fancy yourself an up-and-coming model, you could use a social media community to get your face out there.
For instance, the hashtag #amwriting helps connect amateur fiction writers with one another. Through this, they build connections with people who understand the source of their 3am worries, find people who could help boost their careers, and people who may act as a sounding board or a beta reader. The support found in many hashtag communities can be beneficial, especially for niche interests that are harder to corral groups around in real life.
If you’re a fan of a popular TV show and post about it regularly, you can find communities around that too. For example, The Real Housewives franchise has a thriving community on Twitter, with accounts with thousands of followers merely posting video clips and discussion topics on the franchise. Daily soaps have also found their own following as dedicated accounts build communities around themselves using the hashtag for the show.
As another example of the power of online community, a fan version for the cover of Katy Perry’s latest album, Smile, was lauded so much by their peers online that Perry herself eventually saw the cover and label Capitol Records ended up using the artwork as an official cover alternative. So, building communities online around bands, artists, shows, political parties, and trends can propel you out into the world. You can tell your story and it may resonate with enough people to go viral or find likeminded people who eventually become real-life friends.
In a traditional sense, when we think of community, we think of the local area and the locations and causes that people rally around. The church, local bars, the store, the park – these are traditionally where communities are formed. But the digital age means that we can find likeminded people and build our own social circles. These can be through getting involved with something in an online capacity, through discussing topics and answering queries posed on forums, or through building a community of our own through social media.