I’ve been talking a lot with my classmates about online communities, and whether or not they think they’re important. The one comment that some people kept saying was that they were not big online community people, and that they really only use Facebook. I personally don’t think Facebook is much of an online community anyway because it’s mostly your real life friends, and it’s pretty stagnant – but that’s a rant for another day. My point is that these conversations reveal that people who aren’t into online communities also haven’t been a part of anything major except for Facebook. And, well, it’s Facebook.
Still, these conversations have made me reflect about my own experiences in online communities. My experience has been fairly recent – growing up I only had dial up internet, so it wasn’t something I used a lot. I didn’t have full internet access until I went to university in 2007. It was pretty much a mind-blowing experience – what was this thing called Youtube? What do you mean you can download music? What do you mean I can watch movies online? Even then though I didn’t really use online communities. I did have Facebook at that point, but I only talked to my real life friends, and not very often. I mostly used it for the Facebook games.
Then in my third year of university I got on Twitter, and I started exploring other kinds of online communities (without really knowing what I was looking for). Twitter I found really interesting, but I mostly just used it to follow celebrities that I liked, and didn’t really use it as a microblogging tool. However, I did start to build up who I was following and explore the types of information I was accessing.
My fourth year of university my roommate introduced me to Lord of the Rings Online. I was exploring what gaming was and although I understood what Kins were in the game, I didn’t join one because I didn’t really like talking to people – mostly because I was so new and felt kind of stupid about everything. I didn’t want to talk to people and reveal that I was so naïve.
That was a year and a half ago. In that short amount of time I have honed my Twitter account into this awesome funnel for information about books and movies, fan info for Harry Potter and Star Wars, social media and library posts – pretty much allowing my inner geek to, well, geek out. I’ve built up a satisfactory following and have had amazing conversations with strangers across the globe.
In addition, LOTRO has turned into a major community for me. I joined a Kin a year ago, have met wonderful people who I enjoy playing the game with and even stepped up temporarily into a leader role. It has been an unbelievable experience.
So it makes me wonder when I talk to people and they say they are not into online communities, or that their only community is Facebook. Yes, it’s true that at one point I wasn’t part of online communities. But at some point I found ones that I now indulge in every day. So maybe it’s not that they aren’t into them so much as they haven’t found a community that works for them. If they have never joined good online communities then perhaps they don’t realize what they may be able to get out of them. And, well, I feel sorry for them that they haven’t achieved something bigger with their connections that they’ve been making online. So I guess my suggestion is…explore! Learn more! Go and see what kind of communities there are because I guarantee that one will grab your interest, that you will connect with people with similar interests and learn some amazing stuff. Although maybe if you’re reading this you’ve already found an online place to call home.