Do You Belong to an Online Community?

Do You Belong to an Online Community?

Other than your general Facebook and Twitter activity along with reading blogs and occasionally commenting, do you belong to an online community? I’m a member of a few, where there are message boards, photo sharing, etc.

Some have a specific topic while others have started on a single topic but morphed into close-knit almost-families that discuss anything and everything over the years.

Online communities are my way of staying connected, sharing ideas, coming up with new ones, and learning more than I ever would if left to my own devices in my own small suburb. It sucks the energy out of me to go out and try to meet new friends with similar interests, but online? It’s a Web search, a little lurking to see if you fit in, a couple of posts to test the waters, and boom—you’re in.

Having an online community doesn’t require scheduling for support or sharing ideas. I don’t have to say, “Oh, my husband has plans with his friends that night, so I can’t meet you for coffee. I don’t have a babysitter.”

I put my daughter to bed, make myself a hot beverage, and catch up. It’s easy. Convenient. It’s social interaction without all the social anxiety and timing conflicts, and you can get feedback from all types of women at once.

These social networks can give women, moms especially, so much that they might otherwise miss while trying to keep up with the demands of everyday life.

The flip side of that is that you get to feel like you’re giving something back, too—advice for a new mom, dating wisdom to the college girl, a shoulder to cry on when a woman has nowhere to vent about her husband’s affair because she doesn’t want the people in both of their lives to know yet

An online community is like an invisible safety net, where we can bat around ideas–frivolous or serious–without much complication.

Finding a good group of women and multiple perspectives can keep you sane and provide the adult conversation you crave. At the same time, you may find more purpose in life through the strong friendships that develop in the process.

There are no distractions, just words that could make you shift your perspective, feel comforted in a rough patch, or feel capable again when you help someone else. It’s a way to share a passion with other people who understand your hobby, support each other if you want to give up (fitness and writing communities are especially good for this).

Do you belong to an online community? How does the interaction with those friends affect your life? What does the community give to you and what do you give back?