Online Communities: A Place to Socialize and Belong - dummies

Online Communities: A Place to Socialize and Belong

By Deborah Ng

Some people are more outgoing in online communities than in the real world. Thanks to a phenomenon called keyboard courage, a wallflower type can come out of his virtual shell and make some real friends.

In fact, much of the socializing that happens in online communities leads to deeper relationships. Online friends take it private and have more in-depth conversations via e-mail, private messages, phone calls, and instant messages. Some of these relationships blossom into offline friendships and even into romances.

Many shy people are surprised by how much easier they can communicate online than in person. They’re not embarrassed to take part in a conversation because they’re laptop to laptop, not face to face. In fact, many active community members often remark, “I’m actually quite shy offline.”

Also, people who spend a large portion of time confined to their homes no longer feel lonely when they can communicate online. Though communicating online isn’t the same as having friends to talk to every day, an online community helps take the edge off loneliness.

Communities give members a safe, welcoming place to hang out and talk about their interests, even if those interests are “uncool” subjects that cause snickering at school or at the office. Forums and newsgroups are available for almost every topic.

Participants find these communities by accident, usually while they’re looking for information about the topics they enjoy. As they find discussion groups, they may lurk for a while and then eventually become members.

Communities are also safe places to talk about personal issues that many other people may not understand. Expert communities have people who can help sort out problems and refer members to sources of professional help, if necessary.

The beautiful thing about online communities is that people no longer have to feel that they have no one to turn to or anywhere to go. Online, people can be anyone they want to be.