Don't be Shy! Find the online community for you.
Before the technological and internet advancements that shaped and connected modern cultures, some people had difficulty finding others who shared their interests. If the immediate community had no like-minded individuals, then exploring the world outside was the only option, a challenge made easier by the slow development of the media and methods of mass communication.
Today there is practically no limit to the range of communities available online. Whatever the hobby, cause or mere question, there is a way to converse about it either by joining an existing forum or creating one yourself. The question is, how does one go about doing this? Apart from asking friends for recommendations, all that is needed is a search engine, time and the will to look through the results for those that appeal the most.
For instance, typing ‘I love koalas forum’ into DuckDuckGo brings up a list of koala-themed discussions, charity organisations and products, including a Facebook group dedicated to the lovable creatures. In another search, ‘women musicians communities’, the GoGirlsMusic group comes up, a community of female indie musicians, also connected to Facebook and Twitter where chats and promotions take place.
In 2017, Facebook has been ranked first in popularity among active users. Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter are a few places below, but still demonstrate the widespread use of social networking sites. This is significant in that, as vast communities in themselves, people are making use of the opportunities given them to come together, support and talk about their favourite topics, whether mainstream, obscure or plain bizarre.
Backed by so many popular networks, all interests are accessible. If not, the option of starting a new discussion should be available on every website that aims to promote a community environment.
Do you enjoy philosophical discussions? See what intriguing debates on Ethics, Metaphysics and Mathematics are underway at the Philosophy Forums. A lover of bingo games? Sun Bingo offers a community with a vibrant, humorous character, including user-friendly chat rooms for players to talk and inquire. Player interactions are encouraged, and more social features like leaderboards are also available. If you are less into seeking a fortune and more into fortune telling, there are several options ready and waiting in the form of discussions, albeit mostly still questioning how dependable or believable the practice is.
Inspiration for thought and conversation does not just come from written content. Visual and auditory material can both entertain and stimulate. In addition to sites like Tumblr, YouTube serves as a good example.
Its seemingly countless videos can include almost any subject that an individual, organisation or business wants to share, from music and movie trailers to tutorials and personal commentary. They draw reactions from their audience, positive or negative, emotional or logical. They prompt observations that lead to a desire for expression. Ultimately, more and more communities are created every day because thinking people need them.
Vloggers such as Felix Kjellberg, known in 2017 by his YouTube channel name PewDiePie, have made a business out of the media form, gaining substantial influence over the public. A noted occurrence is that people are growing increasingly dependent on the opinions of vloggers and bloggers, particularly when it comes to marketing and consumer choices, since they are seen as approachable specialists-next-door they can trust. Something else that is important here is how attached one can become to a particular group.
Research has been carried out regarding attachment to online communities, leading to the publication of articles like this one authored by Yuqing Ren et al. Social psychology theories it supports involve the group identity and interpersonal bonds that people form through active participation. In other words, one’s loyalty to a community is relative to their intellectual and emotional investment, as well as the quality of the interaction they experience.
Online communities are easily discovered and far more meaningful than they seem. At first glance, they may appear as random groups of secretive people that chat and rant about random things. This perception, while superficially accurate, is misleading.
People need an outlet for their curiosities, passions, obsessions and, especially, their frustrations. In an increasingly stressful world, talking about what motivates or troubles you is instrumental in maintaining a healthy mind and lifestyle. That is what communities, in the real world as well as the virtual, stand for. Freedom to communicate and connect in an understanding, less critical environment.