November 2007


About two years ago, I moved. No, I didn’t leave my house in Los Angeles. I didn’t even have to leave my room. But I definitely took up residence in a thriving community, and have been there ever since, despite the fact that I have moved across the country and back since setting up shop in my new town. This “town” is actually a message board for my favorite band of all time. I originally joined so I could discuss the band’s tour dates and find out what the weather was going to be like in Dublin, Ireland, where I was going to be seeing the band play while I was in Europe. After a few quick and helpful responses, I began to read what other people were discussing on the board. I quickly learned that the board members pretty much talked about whatever they were going through in their lives, from trivial things like “what are you wearing today?” to life changing debates about cheating girl friends. The board had a lot more to talk about then just the band. After seeing the concert I went back to the board and posted my review of the show, and a link to some pictures and videos that I had taken. The response and thanks that I received was something I found satisfying, and after that, i was hooked.

Being a message board member, or any member of an online community, is healthy and fun when kept in perspective. Unfortunately, like in any community, fights do erupt, and these can make peoples true thoughts and beliefs surface in a hurry. The member who posts regularly, and someone who you think of as a peer with similar likes and dislikes, can become some shallow minded jerk in the span of a quick post. Although, because this a form of community that has no face to face interaction, it also means people move on and become friends again very quickly. The biggest thing to remember when being a contributing member of a board society, is this: these people, while friendly and often share your common interests, are NOT as important to you as your “real life” friends. There have been many instances of peoples marriages and relationships going down the tubes because of jealousies and fantasies that arise from message board friendships. There have also been relationships that have been spawned from message boards, despite the fact that the boards are not set up to facilitate love or relationships at all.

I think the reason these communities and the relationships they create arise and become so important to their users, are that the online community creates an unrealistic environment in which people interact under un-normal circumstances. People say and do things that they would never do in real life, giving them a new personality that does not fit the one they carry with them every day when they leave the house. All of these things are very important to keep in mind when joining an e-community, so you can become a contributing member, not a slave to the E-town.

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Questions

1.  Why would you ever consider joining an e-community?

2.  What are your thoughts on relationships that begin in non-dating e-communities?

3.  Why do you believe members of e-communities act so different than their real life personalities?

All in all, I really enjoyed the group presentation process.  All 3 groups that I presented to were very engaging, and each brought a new viewpoint into the discussion.  I not only got different reactions from each group regarding my research, but I also learned something each time from the many views being shared.