There’s been one subject that’s consistently undervalued when discussing social networking sites and that’s online communities. I suspect the stigma surrounding people who make friend online plays a strong part, but it seems to me that the whole concept is tricky to understand and still evolving.
While i’m not one to develop personal relationships with others online, online communities offer a connectedness to users that would be nearly impossible to receive in real life. The user-generated content of Reddit has led to a news, entertainment, photo-sharing site that is centered around it’s community. Reddit (and it’s “little brother” Imgur) are photo-sharing sites that engage their community around shared interests. Reddit’s categories are even further specified into “sub-reddits” which allow for more intimate discussions on very specific topics. Through these specific communities, users discuss topics with large groups of people that otherwise wouldn’t be available to them in real life. These communities are so important that Reddit’s GM, and original Community Manager, Erik Martin, sees them as a home for those who otherwise would have no outlet to discuss topics that interest them. In a CMX Hub interviews Matin says he
…believes that a big part of the value that reddit offers is creating a home for people to talk about anything, no matter how weird or niche it is. ‘There’s a strong sense of belonging… Anyone can create their own community.’
So why does it feel like, to me at least, the online community gets a bad rap for making people disconnected with the real world? I think it goes back to something I wrote about a couple weeks ago. I talked about the idea of “always on” in my article “The Dangers of ‘Always On’ Are Always Wrong” and how we still perceive new technology as a threat to our way of life (at least that’s how the older generations seem to view it).
When we are able to get past the notion that our digital life is less valuable than our real life, despite the fact that we’re making real connections with real people, we can appreciate the value that it holds for those that view their communities as families.
Photo Credit: EdTechReview
Photo Credit: Reddit Inc.