What was the first social networking site that you joined and why? How did you use the site to reflect your identity?
The first social networking site that I joined was Facebook. I joined Facebook because my manager at the time wanted our team to understand more about social media. At the time we were hearing a lot from the executives we supporting about starting a blog and a social networking site specific for our business. My manager wanted for our entire team to better understand the social networking tools so we could properly advise the executives of an internal social media approach. While I first joined Facebook as a silent “lurker” to observe the community, I became an active participant. My migration from lurker to participant happened gradually as I joined other “pages” and “liked” content that reflected my personal interest. I now use Facebook to reflect my identity through the content I read, “like”, visit and share. For example, I’m a mother, writer, runner and communications manager. I use Facebook to reflect this identify. I especially use Facebook to reflect my running identity. I love to connect with others in my running group, find races, check out racecourse maps, medals and event details…all through Facebook. I also love to post updates about my running and get “cheers” online while I’m running at an event. I find it extremely motivational!
How do communities determine status among themselves and their members face-to-face and online?
I believe that communities determine status among themselves differently online than they do face-to-face. McNeill (2013) says, “Social networking sites provide people with space for the freedom to interconnect with friends and explore new relationships” (p. 4). There are many relationships that I’ve established solely online. One example of this is through my writing community. I’ve written for several magazines, including Modern Parent and Little Ones, in which I have not met the editor or fellow writers in person. We collaborate online and, over time, have established both professional and personal relationships. One of the most fascinating components that McNeill (2013) mentioned is the fact that historically relationships were formed through physical proximity. Social media has turned this concept on its’ head. I was recently speaking with someone about a working relationship I had with a co-worker and she was fascinated that I had worked with this individual over ten years, but never met her in person. I’ve worked from home for ten years, although I’ll be going back into the office on November 17 (unfortunately). This will completely change the manner in which I’ve formed relationships and a community with coworkers. The main difference between social networking sites and in-person relationships is the ability for one to craft their own image through an online community. As McNeil mentions, one can create their own role identity through their profile picture or avatar. Essentially, one can be whoever they want to be. These online crafted images then can join projected communities, in which they establish online relationships based on common interests. McNeil (2013) describes this as the “digital propinquity effect” or “closeness inhibited by digital needs” (p. 5). This can create strong feelings of attachment. I am a member of “Fort Mill Fast Feet” which is an online running community in my local town. Even though we don’t all run together or know each other through face-to-face interaction, we are all close on our running group page because of our affinity for running. This can be described as digital propinquity effect. When runners are face-to-face, there may be more likelihood to bond with others in your same pace group, but online, we can all bond, no matter how fast, or slow we are…we are all runners.
How has the concept of community changed with the introduction of virtual spaces?
The concept of community has completely changed with the introduction of virtual spaces. Pfister and Soliz (2011) say that by reducing the cost and access barriers, websites and blogs help create a range of communities centered on shared interests. In our last course, we spoke quite a bit about alternative media and how it offers a voice outside of the mass media conglomerates. I think that there is power in the community of virtual spaces. I was just recently reading an article about Jezebel, an online community for women. Wazny (2010) says that while Jezebel never comes out and says it’s a feminist website, the site has become a feminist website due to the discussions and positions by the communities members. Wazny (2010) goes on to say that the community members define the site and content. Jezebel is one great example of an online community that is centered on a common interest. Jezebel is a women’s interest blog that launched in 2007 (Wazny, 2010). What I love about Jezebel is that they combine news, pop culture and human-interest stories with the female perspective. All of the writers, except for two contributors, are women (Jezebel, 2014). While historically feminist groups would need to form locally, online communities allow for a virtual, global presence. The online communities give power to members and provide them a voice in the virtual space.
Pfister, D. & Soliz, J. (2011) (Re)Conceptualizing intercultural communication in a networked society, Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 4, 246–251. doi: 10.1080/17513057.2011.598043
Wazny, K. (2010). Feminist communities online: What it means to be a Jezebel. U of I SLIS Journal, 8, 1-23. ISSN 2155-6687