On Virtual Communities… Again…

Quite an interesting discussion the last post generated. I for one believe that virtual communities have their place, but they should not be allowed to upstage our real life relationships. I’ve made real friends from blogging that I would include in my Top Ten all time friends, but that has come about because at some stage I, or they reached out and made contact beyond what the very open forum of blogging can provide. I’ve tried to summarize the positions you all held and tried to comment.. Enjoy…

Farida talked about the opportunity to raise issues and fight injustices via the vehicle of blogging: I agree explicitly with you on that one. The global accessibility that the internet provides makes it a great tool to raise awareness on topical issues – if people get to read it that is. With the level of internet penetration in Nigeria though, I’d be very surprised if blogs do not merely cater to the already intellectually aware.

Rita talked about the benefits of open dialogue and the improvements it has brought to real world relationships: WOW… Great point you raised, open dialogue when conducted in a respectful and unbiased manner can only be for the greater good.

BSNC talked about the learnings and the feeling of family: Valid point. I do feel that our own corner of the Blogosphere has done pretty well in adding some ‘realness’ to the virtual connections that we have. Beauty of it is people can choose to share as little or as much as they want. Good to know you are learning and discovering yourself as you blog. LOL @ giving you a headache… Maybe some headaches are good?

Simeone talked about the sharing and interaction and the potential for awkwardness when we take relationships beyond being just virtual: I agree. I’ve always being intrigued by the huge potential for collaboration that online communities CAN provide, if done right. Feel you on the potential for some awkwardness that comes from going a little beyond virtual. I do agree we’re doing great in our own little corner too.

Caramel Delight talked about her original reasons for blogging and the potential dark side to building ‘extra-community connections: Good to know your original reason for blogging is still very much in focus. And yes, we do all have problems in our real worlds. Good to know also that you’ve made a ‘real’ friend from blogging – it goes to show that virtual community can expand into real community IF we do things right. Real insights into the darker side of virtual community too. Its very easy to spice up the details of our lives just to give the impression of being cool, more so a danger in the anonymous world that is blogging – real note of caution that we need to keep resounding in our ears for our safety.
P.S. The book is available on Amazon.

LuciousRon talked about the depths of the mind and the satisfaction that comes from interacting intellectually: Spot on LuciousRon… Writing often allows people to be what they can’t be in real life. I would aver that people who are timid in real life but who write well are possibly being stifled by the environment of intimidation or censure that they grew up in. Possibly the open discussion that blogging can promote can help them actualize their real potential?

Kafo talked about blogging making her more real: Success story. Thanks for sharing.

Cider talked about the wealth of things to read on blogger and touched on the distraction that technology can bring: Valid points Cider. Again the open discussion that blogging allows can only be for the better. Have to agree with the distraction thing though. I stumbled on the book cos I was feeling cluttered by all my online activities.

LoloBloggs talked about the benefits that technology can bring: Spoken like a true techie, LoloBloggs. As you hint at, its ultimately about balance – balance between the knowledge that technology can bring to our lives and the clutter that it can also engender.

Neffie talked about the openness of mind, a friendship she’s built through blogging and gave a thumbs up to blogsville: Valid points you raised. Again, the open mind thing comes from the ability to have open discussions in a generally respectful way. God to know you have a success story with a friendship from blogger.

Original Mgbeke talked about her personal experiences of virtual communities: Success story you have here that seems to illustrate that virtual communities only satiate our need for community in the short term. If real connections are the goal, then extra-community connections have to be built.

Buttercup talked about maturing through blogging: Another success story I think. Guess its another argument for promoting open, honest dialogue in all facets of our lives – not just on blogger.

Rose talked about gaining a wider view and the need for self-discipline: Looks like the benefits of open dialogue and the need for self-discipline are recurring themes. Thanks for sharing.

Readydee talked about a lack of true community, and the potential for addiction: I agree largely with you. The book has a whole chapter dedicated to the subject of virtual community. I’d really recommend you grab a copy for a more detailed look at the subject. Virtual community is described as cotton candy, which goes down easy and satiates our immediate hunger but doesn’t provide much in the way of sustainable nutrition. As you touched upon, real friendships can only be built on a platform of sharing truthfully. I would add that a blog is open to the general public and only by providing skeletal details or staying anonymous can a distinction between intimate friends and virtual friends be made. That’s where I feel extra-community interactions come in. The friends I’ve made on blogger who I would add to my real friends list came about by talking a whole lot more than responding to blog posts.. Good luck on the de-blogging mode… I really hope you get to pull it off – or at least find a way to achieve balance between the real and virtual worlds.. Trust me its really difficult, sometime radical surgery is the only solution there is.

Temite shared her personal experiences: Good stuff, a BFF and three sisters? That has to be an unmitigated success. Key is to know where to draw the line though, between being part of the community for the sake of being part or grabbing yourself some improvements as a result.

Bwari Boy talked about the widened perspective on issues and the exposure to other people’s ideas: Another great advert for open dialogue in our real lives I think.. Thanks for sharing.

Justdoyin talked about her reasons for blogging and touched on the more open view that has come about by blogging: Valid points. Guess the key is to keep the original reason for blogging in view. That should help prioritize the kinds of connections you build on blogger.

Sirius talked about her reasons for blogging and hints at the darker side to it: Valid points you raised. LOL @ loving gist… Very succint summary i think.

On Technology…. Flickering Pixels…



I jumped at the chance to participate in BlogTourSpot’s review of Shane Hipps new book:  Flickering Pixels – How Technology Shapes Your Faith for two reasons. I was at a stage where I thought the clutter of technology was squeezing sense out of my normal life, plus I’d get a copy of the book for free.

The author’s background is in advertising, which has given him a unique insight into the working of media and how it is changing how we think, which ultimately affects how we share and live out our faith. The book sets out in broad strokes the insidious dangers that the changes media brings to our lives can generate, and by sounding out a clarion call, we can be on the lookout for them and avoid them as they arise. Several key points stand out
1. All Faith is based on communication – either from God to us or between us as adherents, and the way we primarily communicate affects our interpretation of our faith.
2. Each more ‘efficient’ means of communication we pick up has a dark side – it increases the propensity to clutter rather than clarify.
3. Media is not neutral – the message we actually get from communicating is both dependent on the message and the medium.
4. Pictures & Images (such as television) hijack our imagination. Words and printed matter however encourage us to generate our own images of the concepts being discussed, as opposed to being fed an image which in reality is one man’s interpretation of the words behind the image.
5. We have slowly become a tribe of individuals – sharing experiences on an unprecedented scale (shared experiences build community, a ‘tribal’ ethos) but yet utilizing the self same tools to build an illusion of closeness whilst in reality, it is only yet another layer of interaction, another screen between the real us and the next person.
6. For Christians, we are both the medium and the message and all other forms of communication should only be to facilitate that primary, face to face communication model, not replace it.

In addition to blogging, I’ve been active in virtual communities for a long time, as well as being the administrator of an online home for my class from undergraduate school. I’ve seen virtual communities both work and not work. The key differences between successful and failing virtual communities seems to be

  • A defined role for the community: A place to vent, a place to collaborate, or even a place to demonstrate your coolness (which sadly is becoming more and more a reason to be in a virtual community these days). Being part of a community just for the sake of it detracts from the usefulness of the community as a whole.
  • Extra – community connections: Virtual community “satiates our immediate hunger but doesn’t provide much in the way of sustainable nutrition”. Often I have found that the communities that succeeded were those in which members were communicating on a more personal level outside the context of the community, or using the interaction at the level of the community to sustain real life connections.
  • A sense of scale: Members of virtual communities have day jobs – things they do in their real lives. Keeping the community going is dependent on being able to keep our interactions at the right scale. Recognizing the potential danger of clutter is key to succeeding. I found that out the hard way when simply reading blogs began to take over three to four hours of my daily time.

I’d like to throw out a few discussion questions

  • How have online communities affected the way you think, act and maintain your relationships in your real life?
  • Why did you start blogging and how would you rate your current state versus your initial expectations.
  • Are there any real life connections you’ve built entirely from an online starting point and are there any you’ve lost as a result?
  • How would you rate our own corner of the Blogosphere on the critical success factors for online communities?

Up for some more stimulating discussions? Join the debate here