This paper argues that social media platforms, specifically Facebook, are ideal spaces for the formation and success of diverse virtual communities. Furthermore, this paper challenges the view that virtual communities detract from their traditional counterparts. This paper examines Facebook’s ubiquity as a factor in the diversity of virtual communities and the content they share as well as the benefits associated with this. This paper also examines the benefits of social media communities in terms of their ability to offer help and support for people who do not have adequate support systems in place in their physical communities. Finally, this paper also examines the benefits of Facebook and virtual community participation for online activism. Relying on examples of actual Facebook communities around the platform and a range of literature on the topic of social media and communities, this paper argues that virtual and traditional communities are capable of operating parallel to and complementing one another without significantly detracting from either. This paper also identifies room for further research.
Keywords: Social Media, Communities, Facebook, Virtual Communities, Traditional Communities.
Virtual Vs Traditional Communities: The Benefits of Facebook’s Virtual Communities and How they Differ from Smaller Traditional Communities.
With the introduction of Web2.0 technologies and the rise of social media platforms such as Facebook, virtual communities have become an increasingly popular tool for connecting with others. Presently, Facebook is the most popular platform and hosts the greatest number of worldwide users. The ubiquity of Facebook creates an ideal space for the formation of diverse and beneficial virtual communities that transcend the limitations imposed by traditional communities. Due to the global reach and popularity of Facebook, the communities that form within can be very large and diverse compared to smaller traditional communities. Traditional communities typically consist of smaller groups of individuals linked by a common place and shared views and social circles, people in traditional communities tend to be strongly linked by relationships, needs, goals, views and so on. Unlike traditional communities such as those found in areas with much smaller populations, one of the benefits of large virtual communities is that in addition to a diverse population, there is also a diverse range of views, opinions, and information sources shared amongst the community. Community members can be exposed to differing points of view, foreign news, different values, traditions, and so on. Virtual communities are not completely separate from traditional communities and can often exist parallel to each other. These might take the form of ‘buy, swap and sell’ pages, akin to a virtual garage sale, or local neighbourhood watch pages to keep smaller communities informed of important issues. Facebook has the power to bring together people both close and distant. In addition to information being less restricted in virtual communities, they can also offer a wider range of support for individuals who may not have support networks available to them in a face-to-face setting. The Facebook platform also gives individuals the tools to form virtual communities for the purpose of raising awareness and affecting social and political change.
As of February 9, 2021, Facebook is recorded as being the most popular social media platform in the world with over 2.6 billion users worldwide (Statista, 2021). The widespread of use of the platform in addition to its groups and pages features make Facebook a hub for digital community creation and participation. In an increasingly connected environment, many people find it difficult to avoid the platform whether it be for work, entertainment or for socialising. Understandably there are groups such as the elderly that struggle to use social media platforms. However, if they are fortunate enough to have a strong community around them to assist with navigating platforms, social media can allow these people to remain connected to communities such as family and friends. Facebook like many other platforms has become a pervasive element in the everyday lives of its users. People are found to be using Facebook for a variety of activities including connecting with others, using applications, ‘social surfing’ and even wasting time as a result of habitual use (Klier et.al., 2014, p.473 and Giannakos et.al., 2013, p.600). As a result of the platforms reach and ongoing popularity, it comes as no surprise that the platform attracts a highly diverse range of users. The platforms diverse pool of users means that there are also a diverse range of communities covering many topics and interests. Virtual communities continue to be formed around just about anything from shared traits to interests and politics, provided they do not violate the platforms terms of service. Virtual communities that Facebook plays host to include pages and groups like For Reading Addicts which boasts over 1.4million page followers, Animal Crossing: New Horizons a video game group with over 300,000 group members, and THIS CAT IS C H O N K Y [sic] a group with over 880,000 members whose purpose is to share content on overweight cats. The lists of communities and topics they can be formed around are almost endless and often attract audiences around the world. In addition, group administrators can take advantage of different privacy settings to create groups that cater to communities that discuss sensitive topics (Gibbons, 2019). This means that administrators and moderators of any group can regulate membership, ban disruptive members, and enforce rules to protect the community. While this might seem hierarchical and tightly controlled, community members who are dissatisfied with the administration of certain groups have the ability to find Facebook communities that they feel are more suited to their needs or to make and share their own to attract likeminded people. The kinds of groups that form arise from either necessity (because such groups do not exist) or because those already in existence do not cater the wants and needs of different parts of a community (for examples some virtual communities might be run by individuals who are not inclusive of certain groups of people and so new groups tend to form that are more inclusive).
While critics of virtual communities are quick to denounce digital communications as detrimental, the reality is there are a variety of benefits and advantages to belonging to virtual communities. Virtual communities are home to more diverse groups of people than traditional communities, in addition there are fewer limitations on the flow of information also typical of traditional communities (Hampton and Wellman, 2018, p.644-647). In traditional communities for example religious communities, local communities and even family groups, individuals share certain common traits like geographic location, interests, and values. Individuals in these communities are typically exposed to and circulate information that is relevant to their area or interests and that support or represent only specific perspectives and values. For example, religious communities are more likely to adhere to practices and share information specific to their religious views and might be less likely to be exposed to the views and practices of different religions in other parts of the world. This is referred to as the filter bubble, an imaginary bubble in which only select information circulates around a community (Hampton and Wellman, 2018, p.645). By being a part of virtual communities, users are more likely to be exposed to a more diverse range of people, perspectives, and news sources. It has been found repeatedly that being exposed to a diverse pool of news and sources helps individuals learn about the world, broaden their views and opinions, and assists with decision making (Jehn et al. 1999; Mutz and Martin 2001; Van Alstyne and Brynjolfsson 1996 in Kitchens, Johnson, and Gray, 2020, p.1623). There are a variety of virtual communities around Facebook for people around the world to share news and other content for example the Sunrise page which is part of 7 News Australia. In addition to news content, there are groups and pages for sharing different countries cuisines for example there are dozens of groups pertaining to Vietnamese cuisine which exist to share recipes. These kinds of groups not only share recipes with the rest of the world, but they also benefit people who are away from home temporarily or who want to connect to their cultural heritage. These groups offer a sense of community that might not otherwise be available face-to-face.
Despite the benefits of virtual communities and the similarities between the virtual and traditional, some maintain that virtual communications are impersonal and do not produce the same ties as traditional communities (Memmi, 2006, p.2). This may be true for some groups within social media platforms, however, there exist groups that still resemble more traditional communities such as location specific groups for different religious congregations found around the United States and other countries. Other scholars have long held that the view of impersonality in virtual communities is one-sided or biased, as it neglects to mention or dismisses the things made possible by virtual communities that traditional communities are incapable of (Etzioni and Etzioni, 1997, p.295). This might include giving individuals a platform to ask an unbiased community for advice or to air a personal grievance to strangers where the information being vented is less likely to reach people that the individual knows. Misconceptions of modernisation and the prevalence of virtual communications can lead to a perception of them as responsible for the erosion of traditional bounded communities. The central idea is that people lose sense of community when they lose their connections to local places and change the way they socialise moving from face-to-face communications to online spaces (Driskell and Lyon, 2002, p.373). In reality, virtual communities provide individuals with ways to connect with other community members and places when they otherwise might be unable to make or maintain these connections. Facebook groups provide places for these kinds of virtual communities to form, they can take the form of buy, swap and sell groups, school pages, community organisation groups, and even neighbourhood watch groups. They function as traditional communities leveraging social media to strengthen community ties by allowing people within to remain connected with others and stay informed of relevant information they might otherwise miss. The literature suggests that these groups are utilised by individuals to remain connected to and play an active role within their communities and also to help form new connections when they enter into new and unfamiliar environments (Kelly and Finlayson, 2015, p.66 and Yang and Brown, 2013, p.404). Evidently, virtual communities can help maintain community ties and form new ties in ways that that traditional communities might struggle to facilitate.
In addition to fostering new connections, virtual communities also offer a space where individuals can come together to find help and support that may not be available in a face-to-face setting. One of the more common forms of support communities relate to physical and mental health support. People participate in these kinds of communities to share and enquire about issues pertaining to their mental or physical health, as well as to share experiences and support other members. Despite the perception that people are using social networks to obtain medical advice Hale et.al. (2014, p.2) notes that existing research shows that Facebook’s medical support communities are most commonly used for support. There are a few benefits of these types of communities, which allow members to discuss sensitive issues with varying levels of anonymity and the members are not geographically bound (Zigron and Bronstein, 2018, p.130). Anonymity is important for these communities, groups can act to protect the privacy of their community members, but some members will also use aliases when looking for help or support especially when discussing sensitive or stigmatised topics such as suicide (Still, 2020, p.33). Physical and mental health support are not the only kinds of support needs that individuals use virtual communities to fulfill. The kinds of support groups one might expect to find one Facebook for example include grief support, animal health and wellbeing, technical support, career advice, minority support groups and much more (Bennett et. Al., 2019, p.4). The literature suggests that these kinds of virtual support communities can have a positive impact on psychological wellbeing even when participants are only participating by lurking in these communities (Batenburg and Das, 2015, p.585). These communities are beneficial because they support individuals at times where there is no equivalent or limited support available in their physical community.
In addition to these benefits, virtual communities can arise around different political and social issues in which community members either have a vested interest in creating change, raising awareness or for members to monitor and discuss issues with others in the community. The online activism that takes place in virtual communities often translates to real world events and movements and offers some community members the opportunity for face-to-face interaction which solidifies community ties. A common term for online activism is ‘Facebook activism’, communities can form around issues as they are being addressed. In these cases, Facebook is a tool by which new and existing communities can come together online to organise activities, raise awareness, or call others to action reaching people around the world as well as locally. Some groups use other Facebook tools for organisational purposes, like Facebook’s events tool with allows people to organise events including protests and demonstrations. These tools were used by a community of Syrian students during the Syrian revolution to organise activist events and also to raise awareness and gather support at a time when the state made this challenging (Rodineliussen, 2019, p.240). In addition, there are also a number of Chinese backpacking communities who communicate online and occasionally in-person. The literature suggests that individuals can communicate more freely in these virtual communities and take part in online activism, alongside this the offline interactions help solidify the individual’s connections to the community (Zhang, 2014, p.286). This is also an example of a previously discussed idea: virtual and traditional communities operating together to accomplish something that would otherwise be difficult to achieve. Other kinds of communities also arise that aim to promote change, for example communities of people with a shared interest in climate change that come together to share news and tips on sustainability. Some virtual communities form close enough ties that after an objective has been achieved the community remains active and maintains their relationships. One example of this is The Moonbat Bar and Grill which is a small Facebook community group with an interest in American politics.
The literature on virtual communities shows clear benefits to belonging to those communities that are both linked to traditional bounded communities and those that are not linked to any geographical location. Facebooks ubiquity and tools provide the ideal space for a wide variety of communities to form. These communities may not have the strongest ties but for many these groups can accomplish and fulfill needs that some traditional communities cannot. The benefits that online communities offer include a level of anonymity, diverse perspectives and sources of information, a variety of different kinds of support, and outlets to organise change. One of the limitations of this paper is that it focuses on Facebook communities in a broad sense without focusing on any specific type of virtual community. One of the limitations of this paper is its broad approach to analysing virtual communities. It is acknowledged that some of Facebook’s virtual communities will inevitably be exclusionary in nature and will see similar biases and information bubbles as traditional communities because of the tools and features that allow administrators to filter community members. This however poses questions for future research into issues such as examine whether virtual communities like those found within the Facebook platform can also form and succeed on more open platforms such as Twitter that do not share the same privacy features, and how they might look.
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16 thoughts on “Virtual Vs Traditional Communities: The Benefits of Facebook’s Virtual Communities and How they Differ from Smaller Traditional Communities.”
I really enjoyed your paper, thank you for sharing it! I wrote mine in regards to communities on YouTube and how they function to create a sense of support for members, so I found your paper interesting as a parallel. I liked how you focused on how geographic location does not necessitate community but rather shared ideas and values are what bring people together in a meaningful way. In this vein your comment about mental health; ‘People participate in these kinds of communities to share and enquire about issues pertaining to their mental or physical health, as well as to share experiences and support other members’ was very pertinent to todays digital landscape. Especially when you take into account what you were saying about anonymity. I think these sorts of communities are important to consider as a relevant support groups because they function as safe spaces regardless of geographic location. People can be annonymous if they choose to be, and they can share their problems and thoughts in a way that is not often possible in an offline capacity. I am intrigued by this idea and I thought you explored it really well!
You also mentioned that these communities ‘strengthen community ties by allowing people within to remain connected with others and stay informed of relevant information they might otherwise miss’, I wonder what your thoughts are regarding comparison theories and how this connection could foster negative feelings even though the intention might be positive? Sometimes remaining tied to people online when we never see or contact them offline can feel a little overwhelming. I wonder what you think about having a ‘curated’ online community?
I enjoy reading your paper. You have made an in-depth discussion and elaboration in the topic of ‘Virtual vs Traditional Communities’. I can’t agree more on your statement that ‘social media can allow elderly people to remain connected to communities such as family and friends.’ People leverage social media to stay closeness with the chosen communities, beyond the time and geographical limitation. I also discuss the positive impacts of social media on elderly community in my paper.
Recently many people leave Facebook. They feel that there are negative psychological effects of perpetual social comparison. I believe the best way to approach the virtual world is to be intuitive. Online communities offer the potential to develop familiar and lasting relationships. Human needs and interests do not change in the contemporary world. In ancient and medieval times we did this with others who live near us. Today we do the same, only our community is spread out globally.
Reference : Roach, T. (2017). Internet; Medival period:Digital Communities. Rock Products; Denver. 120 (12), 63. https://www-proquest-com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/docview/1977735438/CEB5214AFDA7463FPQ/3?accountid=10382
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my paper. I read yours also and saw the parallels between our papers, I am glad that some else also saw the benefit of social media for the elderly. I personally also know of several elderly people who are learning or are well versed in using social media functions to keep connected to their families and communities. Whether it be Facebook groups or video chats, they keep people connected that might otherwise find it challenging.
Good luck over the rest of the semester.
You’ve outlined some really good points about the benefits of social media for the formation of communities. Like you, I can recognise the use of online platforms for supplementing real-life communities, but this being said; I am still a virtual community critic. Ultimately, I believe the negative impacts of social media are equal to (if not; outweigh) the positive impacts.
Here are my arguments – I would love to hear your thoughts!
Firstly, you mention how real-world communities create ‘filter bubbles’, while online communities foster the exposure to diverse opinions. I, however, disagree that online communities are more diverse than real ones. Namely; you yourself mention that virtual communities can be exclusive and, thus, block certain people out. This can also lead to “echo-chambers” where likeminded individuals become more radicalised and isolated from other, diverse opinions – this is particularly true of virtual political communities (Conover et al, 2011). In the real-world, however, there are no direct ways one can cut certain people out of their communities.
Secondly, you talk about how virtual groups are useful for support and for minorities to find each other. I talked a bit about this in my own paper, so I’ll briefly outline my reasoning against this proposition. Markedly, I think physical-world support and unity is far more beneficial than any virtual support – but I will recognise that this is sometimes impossible for people. However, I do think the support social media provides to these cases can also do harm. For example, there are plenty of examples of online groups that have allowed bad communities and sub-cultures to form such as incels (“involuntarily celibate”), which is a group that demeans, ridicules, objectifies and even promotes violence against women (Holt et al, 2017). Arguably, social media has even perpetuated the formation of such groups, because in the real-world these groups would have been ridicules and marginalised (and rightly so), thereby preventing any community to form. This is also a case in which anonymity (which you mention can be beneficial) is having negative impacts as it allows certain people to behave atrociously without fear of retribution (Holt et al, 2017). Another example where likeminded “support” is harmful are communities such as the “pro-ana” groups, which actively PROMOTE eating-disorders, such as anorexia, and encourage vulnerable followers to starve themselves (Borzekowski et al, 2011). Both examples are evidence that vulnerable people, particularly, use social media for validation and support but end up being misinformed or radicalised (Holt et al, 2017).
Thirdly, you talk about community activism being facilitated online by rallying likeminded people. Again, I think this is a two-way street, with the beneficial community activists just as numerous as the bad community activists – and this isn’t even to mention “slacktivism”, which often replaces any real action. An example of bad community rallying is the example of hate-groups. After the 2019 Christchurch shooting by Brenton Tarrant, an avid user of social media who used various platforms to express, radicalise and promote his anti-Islam sentiments, there were notable spikes in likeminded hate crimes towards Muslims, around the globe (Williams et al, 2019).
But while all this has been said, I do think you wrote a really good paper! I do believe your arguments are still valid, despite my own arguments, but, ultimately, I remain a virtual community critic! Most notably, though, I think this opens up an important discussion between the benefits and downsides to social media communities which I believe needs to be discussed more. Both avid supporters of virtual communities and avid rejects of said groups should be more open to opposing views. But what do you think? Do you think the downsides to social media communities could be combatted – and how so? And, more importantly, do you think some balance has to exist between social media communities and real-world ones if it is to be beneficial (or can it out-right replace)?
Love to hear your thoughts! And, again; really great paper!
Borzekowski, D., Schenk, S., Wilson, J., & Peebles, R. (2011). E-ana and e-mia: A content analysis of pro-eating disorder web sites. American Journal of Public Health, 100(8), 1525-1534. https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/ref/10.2105/AJPH.2009.172700
Conover, M., Ratkiewicz, J., Francisco, M., Goncalves, B., Menczer, F., & Flammini, A. (2011). Political polarization on Twitter. Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, 5(1). https://ojs.aaai.org/index.php/ICWSM/article/view/14126
Holt, T. J., Freilich, J. D., Chermak, S. M. (2016). Internet-based radicalization as enculturation to violent deviant subcultures. Deviant Behavior, 47, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/01639625.2016.1197704
Williams, M., Burnap, P., Javid, A., Liu, H., & Ozalp, S. (2019). Hate in the machine: Anti-black and anti-muslim social media posts as predictors of offline racially and religiously aggravated crime. The British Journal Of Criminology, 60(1), 93-117. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azz049
Thank you for reading my paper and giving such a well-researched and thoughtful response. I can understand some people being critics or skeptical of social media and certainly there are downsides to different platforms and social media use as a whole. Personally, I believe that the benefits of social media outweigh the disadvantages. I also think many disadvantages can be addressed by the social media platforms themselves. I’ll take a minute to address your arguments below.
While I agree that some virtual communities serve as an echo chamber, I have to respectfully disagree with your first point. In my own experience with social media, I have found it to be most inclusive and widely beneficial. Personally, I am aware of and participate in a number of virtual communities that are incredibly diverse, bringing together individuals from around the world with some kind of shared interest or trait. These include video gaming communities, a women’s support group, and a few groups for readers, writers, and artists. Our members are global and several of us are quite close and supportive of each other’s pursuits. I can’t deny that there are some groups that are exclusionary and radical but I would argue that this would be a minority with the exceptionally radical racist, sexist or otherwise disruptive groups being weeded out by Facebook’s algorithms that detect hate speech. For individuals to be cut out of groups, I have personally only ever seen this done to people who exhibited racist, sexist, or otherwise disruptive behavior. While we cannot cut people out of communities, in the same way, I would argue that it is not all that different from ostracising a person in a physical community who is disruptive or unpleasant, and if they are engaging in criminal behavior, we do remove them from society for a time where appropriate. In short, while I concede that echo chambers certainly exist in social media platforms, I argue that they are likely to for a minority.
In your second point, you argue that physical support systems are more beneficial than virtual communities. Here I must also disagree, I don’t think that physical communities give people the opportunity to have their voices heard or network in the same way that virtual communities do. Eve Kelly’s paper in this conference does a good job of highlighting the benefits of virtual support communities for assault survivors for example. Virtual support communities give people the opportunity to speak anonymously on sensitive topics or personal experiences, to have their voice heard in an environment that is safe and without judgement. These communities can be empowering places of support. You mention incels and the incel communities, I would personally exclude these groups from the category of ‘support groups’. Incel groups, I believe, are more along the lines of radical sexist ideologies, I argue that these groups are ridiculed and marginalized online as much as they are in the physical world. As I’ve previously stated, this is something that should be addressed by the creators of social media platforms. Groups like this often share content that would violate community standards and terms of service and so shouldn’t be allowed to flourish into a community, to begin with. I do concede that some harmful communities exist, but I would again argue these to be a minority and don’t believe that condemning all virtual communities because of the harms of a minority number of bad groups to be the answer.
I do concede your point on slacktivism, I would argue that slacktivism is more widespread than true activism, however, I still believe online activism has its place and has done well in the real world. I do once again have to point out that this radical thinking that has led to real-world violence is a reflection of the need to strengthen hate speech detecting algorithms and social media policing of these issues because these groups should not be able to ordinarily form or thrive.
I agree though, that this does open the door for research into the pros and cons of social media, and exactly how many “bad” groups exist on a platform, and whether they outweigh or are more active than others. A study of this sort would likely take years because of the vastness of social media and the speed at which online environments change as a result of real-world events. I do wonder though, if such a study were undertaken and found that the disadvantages of social media outweighed the benfits, what you might suggest could be a good solution? We cannot really do away with social media because it is so deeply ingrained in so many peoples lives, and it has clear benefits for a number of people so a solution would need to be centred around minimising these disadvantages. It is a very challenging thing to consider.
Thank you again for taking the time to read and offer another point of view on my paper, it is most welcomed.
I’m glad we can have this discussion – because I do think we both present reasonable arguments (and like you mention; it is close to impossible to determine, explicitly, whether or not the cons outweigh the pros, or vice-versa).
One point you made that was very thought-provoking for me was the assertion that everyone can have an equal voice on social media, as opposed to in the real-world. And, admittedly, I must agree. The only counter-consideration I have regarding this is that PERHAPS people with more followers/friends still have a “greater” voice than others. But again; hard to determine.
To answer your question about possible solutions to combatting the negative aspects of social media, I have to admit it is difficult to say. To put it plainly; I think social media, itself, is not entirely to blame for its problems. Aspects such as the explicit presentation of “friends”, “likes”, “upvotes” and “followers” can lead to self-comparisons, and also the ability to have public profiles can lead to problems too. Ultimately, however, the problems emerge more-so from our biological human nature to compare ourselves to others, to try to present our “best” selves, to want to feel belonging, and to seek validation from likeminded people. Social media, thus, just exacerbates this to larger scales. My answer, therefore, is that we should have more of these discussions (like what we are doing now) about how social media can definitely be beneficial but that there are still certain aspects that can be harmful. I also think discouraging the use of social media for adolescents would be beneficial too, as they are the most vulnerable and impressionable people in society who also greatly need physical communities (more than anyone) to help them in the social development.
Anyway, with this all said I will admit that my main concern with social media is that it is these very attractions and benefits (of safe virtual communities, likeminded unity and online, anonymous support), that are inadvertently encouraging people to move away from the real-world. Social media, I recognise, has definite positives – but as a SUPPLEMENT to our real world relationships and NOT as an outright replacement. For example, it was good that people could stay in touch during Covid lockdown, but ultimately what we all needed after it ended was to be out with our friends/family, and physically in their presence.
There is no substitution for spoken, tangible and visible affection.
And, at the end of the day, I think any given best-possible physical relationships is better than any given best-possible virtual relationship.
Thanks for the discussion!
I apologise for my lateness but I am also glad we have had the chance to debate a little.
I have to agree with your first point, people with great influence, more friends, people like celebrities for example definitely have a wider reach and are capable of being heard more easily than some other social media users. That said I also think this is a double-edged sword of sorts, while people with greater reach have a louder voice, I think the nature of this particular beast is fickle. It can be easy for a celebrity, for example, to say something that the wider community disagrees with and they would be hounded online for their words and actions. As they say, the bigger they are, harder they fall, and I feel this to be true for social media as well. Being in a spotlight means a persons words and actions are far more open to scrutiny.
I agree with your assessment on the negative aspects of social media, greater knowledge, and discussion about elements of social media would go a long way to addressing its negative traits. As with anything raising awareness s key but also, it is necessary I think for people to be willing to change their mindsets before the meaningful change actually occurs.
I agree with limiting social media to young people, to an extent. But I feel this also has a place in young people’s lives. Some young people might not have in-person support and social media may benefit them to a degree to seek help and support. I also think that virtual communities can play a role in the socialization of young people and social media is a place where different types of online cultures and expressions take place, so it is a challenge to find balance.
I also agree that social media is a supplement to physical interaction but I also still firmly believe that physical communities offer some benefits that physical communities simply cannot provide, and for this reason, they are essential spaces for some people.
Thank you again, and best of luck for the remainder of this semester.
You have made some great observations with the virtual vs traditional communities and makes a great debate and further analysis.
Your introduction kept me engaged straight away with the social relationships between a traditional communities and social media communities such as Facebook.
Facebook has enabled a user to connect to so many different communities through a wide variety of interests and to share similar views. This has changed our everyday culture on the way we interact and share information.
You provided interesting examples such as gaming and reading addicts. Do you think that each community might need a different set of rules and regulations to help regulate content in case things do intend to be harmful or lead to hate speech? You have made that statement clear by the group page administrator having control but what about Facebook themselves. Do you think that soon you might have to apply to set up a group page with a list of policy agreements?
I also agree with how you discuss how people lose the sense of community. With the amount of information that is being circulated, users can maybe change their values of communities and also they have been misinformed and they change their opinions and sense of direction. Do you think people are more subjected to change their minds and change ideas because of virtual communities. People have so many more views on topics and news media can also influence peoples change of thought. I discuss these on my paper and how online communities have changed because of political influence and how citizens are having the freedom of speech
I write more about the political online communities and political influence.
You mention how virtual and traditional communities operating together and in January, Trump gained the attention worldwide of joining his twitter platform of virtual community with American supporters who have strong ideologies of patriotism and nationalism to create a deadly riot. This was possibly another change of communities and how by combining the two will have more power and be heard on political matters that are important to everyday citizens
Great paper and well done
Good afternoon Nakia,
Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my paper.
To answer a few of your questions, I do not know if different communities need different rules and regulations online per se, because much of the regulations are covered by the same terms of service that all Facebook users are subject to. However, I do think that specific rules are put in place by different group administrators for a reason, not so much to avoid hate speech because that should theoretically be a given. But more to prevent unintentional harm or to keep content shared within the group relevant. To make an example, there are groups on Facebook for people to share different experiences or just vent frustrations. These groups have rules not covered by Facebook’s terms of service such as adding a content warning or trigger warning to posts that discuss experiences and topics that might unintentionally cause distress to other readers. There are also some groups, like those dedicated to specific game fandoms like Animal Crossing that welcome personal expression but also enforces rules that prevent people from debating politics and/or religion because of the tendency for things to get ugly. I think for groups, the rules dictated by administrators need to be modelled specifically for the needs of the community they relate to and I don’t believe that Facebook as a platform is capable of delivering and enforcing these rules and spaces as effectively as the group makers.
To an extent, we already agree to do this when making pages and groups, rather than applying, we agree that our page or group will not violate community standards and terms of service. Beyond the actions Facebook already takes to uphold its terms of service and community standards, I don’t think there is much else Facebook can do to deal with violations. I think applying to make pages and groups will likely be a deterrent to platform users, there would be wait times for applications and no guarantee which groups will and will not be approved. It would likely stifle free speech and dictate what topics are allowed on the platform ultimately crippling the usability of the platform.
I do think people can change their minds and perspectives by engaging in virtual communities. Being exposed to people and ideas that are foreign might change beliefs based on stereotypes and myths that some people perceive as reality. I believe that being part of a diverse community can change the ‘us vs them’ narrative and prevent othering to an extent because community members have some kind of commonality to bond over.
Thank you for linking your paper as well, I will check that out some time today while work is otherwise quiet.
The complexities of online communities are advancing all the time and its hard to moderate the content and also citizens behaviours. I think something has been set up to help others can turn into something quite different. I also think people are experimenting more on trying new things and connecting to other communities they might not once be involved with. It also can create another argument is how authentic is someone being and involving themselves. Is the possibility of being someone you are not which is creating another problem?
You support your claims which is great, and you have done lots of research with your chosen topic and you have raised some great points. I guess it’s where are we going now? How are these virtual communities going to further develop? What social changes will there be and the impact on citizens social networks. Are we going to have to look at doing verbal communication courses soon and how to talk to someone? The digital culture is changing all the time and its hard to keep up with it all sometimes and I think its going to get more advanced.
Good luck with the rest of the semester
Virtual communities can indeed be very complex and I feel that we can certainly put on a ‘mask’ of sorts when we are interacting online just as we do in person. I think this varies depending on the community we are engaging with, in some in-person communities and settings we might interact with people that we ordinarily wouldn’t or be nice to people we don’t like for any number of reasons. I feel some online communities are no different, for example, neighborhood watch groups and small community pages, or business groups where we interact with some people out of necessity.
I don’t know how virtual communities will develop but with the ubiquity of all different social media platforms and the changing shape of online interaction, I can only guess. I would predict that virtual communities will become increasingly popular and pervasive in everyday life, but I also predict that people will be forming weaker ties as communities grow vaster and our participation becomes more fluid.
It will be very interesting to see what the future holds for social media and its users.
Thanks for the discussion and good luck with the rest of the semester
This is a huge topic you have chosen for your conference paper, no doubt you could have written a whole book on virtual versus traditional communities and choosing Facebook’s virtual communities also gives you a plethora of choices as you make mention of in your paper with over 2 billion users. This is such a well written and well researched paper and you make so many great points especially regarding the positive aspects that the virtual communities offer in comparison to traditional communities.
I totally agree with you that virtual communities offer far greater diversity in the groups available for users to join as well as a far freer flow of information with less restrictions or limitations. You also mention how virtual communities have played a pivotal role in raising awareness of important political and social issues and have been an indispensable tool in affecting change. Another pertinent point you make is the help virtual communities offer those seeking assistance with mental illness and support for those feeling alone or depressed as these communities offer a sense of anonymity that makes it so much easier for these users to open up and receive the help they really need.
I truly believe that the positives of these virtual communities far outweigh the negatives and after reading your wonderful paper you have simply enhanced my beliefs.
Thank you very much Crystal for a brilliant paper.
Good morning Bernie,
Thank you for such high praise, I’m glad that you’ve found my paper so informative.
I found your paper interesting, particularly the comment about the possible existence of filter bubbles on Facebook. However, you do say earlier in the paper that online communities are less likely to be affected by these because of their exposure to news and information from a variety of online sources. I think that’s a good point, and I’m inclined to agree. But then, under what circumstances would a filter bubble be likely to work on a Facebook group? Did you have particular kinds of groups in mind?
Thank you for your response, I’m also glad that you’ve found my paper of interest.
I would argue that there are a few kinds of groups where information bubbles might be present. I had mentioned groups like those belonging to different religious congregations such as those found in the United States, where a congregation can be a tight-knit community of people that attend a specific church. There are also neighborhood watch groups and private groups dedicated to the goings-on of a specific area. For example, there is both a neighborhood watch group for the small rural town that I live in as well as a group dedicated to sharing town news and information about businesses and local events.
I think that in these types of groups, certain information might be rejected on the basis that group members disagree with it collectively, or information is simply not shared because it seems irrelevant to the group. These are the types of groups I had in mind.
Can you think of any examples I might have overlooked?