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Social Networks Online: Are They Real Communities?

Two people sit back to back, separately browsing their social networks.

The technology of today means that humans are more connected than ever. People across the globe can speak to each other in real-time. Long-distance families and friends can share pictures and keep in touch. But do these online social networks count as real communities? 

The answer to that question depends on how you use them. While we can connect more, Americans often feel more isolated than ever when using social media networks. So, what makes a fulfilling connection online? First, let’s take a look at the difference between a social network and a community. Then we can look at how to find a true community in your network.

Social Network Vs. Community

A social network is a network of people connected by varying levels of interpersonal relationships. This includes everyone you know: friends, family, coworkers, fellow church members, classmates, and more. This connection can be both online and in-person. When addressing online social networks, the same applies. It is just everyone you know or come across online. Your social network is built one person at a time. 

An online community is a group of people that forms with all different backgrounds and histories. Not everyone knows each other but they are held together by a common interest or cause. Members usually stay within the community to either contribute to or benefit from the community. You can be part of multiple communities and sometimes they even overlap. 

All of the people you’ve met in the different communities become part of your social network. Your social network is the overall collection of all the people you know, while communities are specific to one of your interests. 

How to Find True Community While Social Networking

You can have hundreds of internet friends and never actually connect with anyone. Casually scrolling through social media or having the occasional argument in the comments section does not create connections. As the years progress social media networks have a bigger role in building community both in-person and online. But it takes active participation from the members to create a true connection. Passive participation builds no relationships. 

Online communities can be, and often are, real communities, but it depends a great deal on the members. One-on-one conversations, user-generated content, debates, questions, and more are all part of creating a connection. When people have a common interest binding them together, it provides a starting point for relationships. This is where a human’s need for deeper connection will be fulfilled. 

While it isn’t always the case, many online communities spill over into real life. They hold regional get-togethers, have local events, and even encourage group activism. The group called Trash Punx in San Jose, California is a community built on cleaning up the world around them. They are so much more than just a clean-up crew. Both online and in-person, they are creating deeper, more meaningful relationships as they interact. 

The members of individual groups are responsible for making sure a community becomes their community. A person’s time and investment ascribe value to the group. It makes them want to see it succeed, even if they don’t necessarily know the name of every member. 

Use Social Media Networks to Create Community with StayTouch

StayTouch is an app that combines modern networking and easy relationship management. Build a community with ease, instantly exchange information, and explore scheduling and time management functions. Make notes and create reminders to reach out regularly to your network of contacts, helping you build a stronger community. Get connected and maintain lasting relationships with your clients. Contact us to learn more.