Maybe it’s because this is still a relatively new concept, but I don’t hear/read as much about the benefits of an online community as I do about mobile technology negatively affecting our choice to be present in the now. There is merit to this argument, I believe. Most of us are guilty of the screen stare instead of paying attention to what’s happening in our physical reality.
We’re all somewhat assured of the benefits for businesses to create an online community, and it’s the way our world works that money drives such things. But altruism and human connectivity doesn’t have to lose out. In fact, it isn’t losing out, not completely. Incredible online communities have been formed and will continue to do so for 2 reasons:
→ We live in a mobile (device) world.
→ We constantly seek connection.
A good online community can’t take the place of friends and family in the flesh. An online community can’t give you a hug or bring a warm meal over to a family amidst crisis. Sure, they are limited. But that doesn’t mean they are useless; an online community can do so much. So, let’s talk about that, for once.
7 Amazing Benefits of an Online Community
Some of us connect more easily via written word, because some of us communicate better via written word.(Guilty.) Having the time and space to think through and rewrite ideas and responses without the pressure of a face staring back at you is helpful for a lot of people. Introverts, am I right? For all personalities the availability of online communities is at our fingertips 24/7, making connection possible round the clock.
Closely related to connectedenss, an online community can provide support in unique ways. Whether you are working towards specific goals, like fitness or career paths, or you need people who are going through similar life events as you, support is necessary.
The support of a close friend is warming, but sometimes we go through challenges that our friends can only sympathize with. Finding groups of people who understand your struggles is a beautiful compliment to existing friendships. We can be quite selective with who we spend our time with, and rightfully so. However, online communities allow people who would not normally befriend each other (or otherwise meet) to share in struggles and even encourage one another.
Likewise, an online community potentially opens up vast resources. The more members, the more resources. For example, one of my favorite online communities is a group for mothers. It’s 10,000 strong and members are scattered across the nation. The experiences and knowledge of these 10,000+ moms is exponentially larger than my smaller circles of acquaintances, friends, close friends, and family. Being able to ask questions about anything from fevers to favorite nasal aspirators to TV show suggestions at any time of the day or night is invaluable.
Lesson in Letting Go
For better and sometimes for worse, people feel emboldened communicating via social media. Boldness can be a huge benefit as far as forming connections with people. People can also be even more rude and judgemental than in person, so know that this will likely happen, even in groups committed to be nonjudgemental and supportive. Every group of people is just that: a collective of imperfections trying to make sense of the chaos of life. Don’t let yourself get sucked in to negative threads, and if someone offends you, let it go.
Regulators, mount up.
Regulating an online community can be exhausting, but it is usually easier to delete someone from a closed Facebook group, for instance, than it is to ask someone to leave a group in person. It’s easy not to talk to a member if you butt heads–just keep scrolling. And if your group is well-regulated, you have the option of direct messaging the admins if behavior goes against group rules or becomes obscene. (See our tips below for finding an accountable group.)
Another benefit of participating in an online community is the opportunity to help someone. You never know how much a kind word of understanding can mean to someone who thinks they are all alone. It’s a beautiful give and take to find support and solace in an online community and then to give it back–maybe in the same day!
If you light a lamp for someone else, it will also brighten your path.
Plus, with nearly everything being available for delivery these days, there are few limits to what is possible in helping people in an online community. (Be safe, though! See our caution below.)
Who doesn’t love to laugh? As with resources, hilarity is in no short supply from people from all over. The larger the online community, the more funnies.
Tips for Protecting Yourself in Online Communities
- Joining a public group for a hobby or common interest can be fun and a great resource. Remember that anyone can join a public group; they are generally less regulated than private ones.
- For support with deeper matters, a private group that is well-monitored is the best way to go. A good admin for an online community support group will establish ground rules and hold its members accountable. This is crucial for maintaining a group that can offer the deeper benefits of an online community.
- The integrity of an online community is only as strong as its members. Don’t be shady and don’t tolerate shadiness.
- Always use caution when befriending people online. Remember that malevolent users are out there posing as nice people. Don’t give out personal information and don’t post about being away from your home. Here are more tips for staying safe on social media.
Whatever life events or challenges you are facing, you aren’t alone. Community is a basic human need, not a sign of weakness. Find people who get you, whether they are near you or across the globe. Chances are, they are both.