7 reasons why you should join an online community
If you are active online, you should consider joining an online community forum where you can discuss topical interests, news or politics with like-minded individuals. Whether you’re into gardening, hiking, motorcycles, birdwatching or painting, there’s a social group waiting for you. No matter what your hobby, chances are there is a like-minded person looking to share a common interest. And best of all, almost all online community forums are free.
Psychologist Grant Brecht agrees that social groups help to keep people connected. “Social groups are incredibly important, especially for those over 50,” he says. “Social support is one of the major buffers we have against depressive disorders and a flourishing level of mental wellbeing. This is very important for engagement and remaining connected once the kids have left home and provides real meaningful pursuits to look forward to.”
Researchers have suggested that internet use that promotes information acquisition and community building – such as online discussion forums, social networking and blogging is more positively correlated with building relationships, than uses that instead pertain to entertainment and diversion such as social media, gaming or watching online movies.
So what are online interest groups, communities and forums?
An online community is a community that forms on the Internet. A community is a group of people interacting, sharing, and working toward a common goal. Whereas neighbours may converse in their yards, in an online community, members interact via online platforms such as community forums, social media or email.
Members of online communities talk about the same things with their online friends as they do their offline neighbours, but they also rally around a specific topic, product, or cause to share ideas, offer tips, or act as mentors. Many times, they join communities because people at home in the offline world don’t share similar passions. So they come online to talk at length with the folks who ‘get it’.
So now that we know why these social groups are created, let’s explore seven reasons why you should consider being part of an online community:
1. Participate in conversations with people that have like-minded interests
One of the advantages of online communication is that it may allow people to fulfill needs that are not being met offline. For example, people with an obscure interest may join an online discussion forum to obtain information or social support that is not available in their own community. An online community forum is great for keeping active in topics that you find interesting, and may allow you to discuss issues that you would otherwise not be inclined to discuss offline with friends or family.
2. You’re always learning something new about your hobby or interest
Just when you thought you knew everything about your hobby, someone posts something new. Online communities are a great source of information and can even help you be more productive. With such a large number of users contributing for the greater good, the possibilities are endless! There are plenty of interesting, intelligent and creative people online who share tips and tricks for you and the rest of the community.
3. Offers a diverse range of hobbies or interest areas to suit anyone
It doesn’t matter what field or hobby you’re interested in, you can rest assure that there is at least one large community out there with people that share your enthusiasm. Maybe you’re into photography, share trading, politics, cooking or sports – you will literally find hundreds of social networks that you can join, free, in just a few clicks. Communities bring users of all ages from all over the world together.
4. Share and receive feedback from people with the same interests
Sharing opinions is a big part of any community, and that makes it an excellent place to post some of your work, thoughts or ideas and see what others think of it. Worst case scenario, you learn how to improve yourself. Feedback is always welcomed, especially from people who enjoy the same things you do. Best-case scenario is that you receive recognition for a job well done. However, don’t forget to be an active member of the community by joining discussions and by giving feedback to others as well. It’s important to not treat it as a one direction funnel as individuals are on there for the same reason you are.
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5. Online relationships are just as beneficial as offline relationships
Online communities are all about social interaction, but there is belief from some people that online friends and relationships aren’t quite “the real thing”. This is not necessarily true. Communication is the foundation of such relationships regardless of how you communicate. Furthermore, remember there are real people at the other end of the line, and if the community is large enough you can even find people that live close to you and get together.
Some may question, “why waste time with online communities when you can simply go out with your friends?” In most cases, your friends will not share all of the same interests and topics. Online communities are focused on allowing anyone that shares the same interests to discuss all sorts of conversations. In addition, communities can have hundreds or thousands of people talking about a certain topic, which is impossible offline!
6. Prevents the onset of depression (or recovery from depression)
At the individual level, group identification has been robustly linked to health and well-being, both in terms of effective coping with situational stressors and in the longer term. For example, a significant body of work is accumulating that suggests social group memberships, and more specifically, engagement in activities associated with such groups, can play a significant protective role in both the onset of and recovery from depression.
7. Most online forums and community platforms are FREE
Almost all online communities are free. All you need is internet connection and an email address and you’re up-and-running! You get to meet and interact with users, share ideas and feedback, all for free. You can even start your own online community if you can’t find any groups on your searchable topic of interest.
But a word of warning, don’t give away too much personal information about yourself and especially any banking information. Whilst the majority may be on the platform for the same reason as you, it’s important to be skeptical of anyone that asks too much personal information.
Get started today!
Jump online and search for topics or hobbies that you’re interested in and would enjoy chatting more. Maybe it’s chess, footy, share trading, mental health, bushwalking, wines or whisky, antique cars, antique jewellery, politics, ANYTHING! Whatever it is, it’s likely that there’s an online community of forum out there. Some may be Australia-based, or international. That’s the fantastic part of being online, your reach is global.
We’ve listed a few random topics as examples. As you’ll see from the list, the searches are endless. A great place to start might be with Whirlpool’s Lifestyle discussion board. They have 837,641 registered members and offer a diverse range of discussions.
Online forums & community groups to get you started:
- Australian politics – Oz Politic
- Mental health conditions and questions (such as anxiety or depression) – Beyond Blue
- Chess – chess.com or Aussie Chess
- AFL – Big Footy
- NRL – The Kennel
- Art, for artists and art enthusiasts – Deviant Art
- TV Shows – Whirlpool TV Shows forum
- Travel – Whirlpool Travel forum
- Share trading – Hot Copper or Aussie Stock Forums
- Music & jazz: Music Banter
- Antique cars, automotive: Antique Automotive Club of America
- Everything Female forum: Female Forum
- Men’s health forum: AHMF
- Bushwalking – Bushwalk
- Cricket – Planet Cricket
- Range of discussion topics for Over 50s – Silver Surfers forum
Tips to find a community group you’re interested in
Below are some helpful search technique to get you started. These will vary depending on what you’re looking for but is a good building block:
- Begin with: community forum or online interest groups, or something similar
- Only use keywords in your search (i.e. running, share trading, sculpturing, gardening, Alzheimer’s)
- Narrow down your community to region specific (i.e. country, state, city, or leave out entirely if you want to include all areas and countries)
- Include age group (i.e. Over 60, 60-70)
- Include gender if you want only women or men participation
- Include skill level or preference (i.e. technology basics, liberal national party, advanced painting, water aerobics)
- Example search: community forums over 60 gardening Sydney
Good luck, and happy socialising!
– Louise F. Pendry L, Salvatore J. Individual and social benefits of online discussion forums. Computers in Human Behavior Volume 50, September 2015, Pages 211–220. Read article
– H. Tajfel, J. C. Turner. An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. The Social Psychology of Intergroup Relations, 74 (1979), pp. 33–47
– N. Ellemers, R. Spears, B. Doosje. Self and social identity. Annual Review of Psychology, 53 (1) (2002), pp. 161–186
– Healthcare Hacks. The Benefits of Being Socially Active, November 27, 2012. By Fred Lee. Read article
– J. Dimmick, S. Kline, L. Stafford. The gratification niches of personale-mail and the telephone: Competition, displacement and complementarity. Communication Research, 27 (2) (2000), pp. 227–248
– S. A. Haslam, S. Reicher. Stressing the group: Social identity and the unfolding dynamics of responses to stress. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91 (5) (2006), p. 1037. Read article
Learn more insights on the health benefits of being social
Volume three “The Why’s of Goodness” provides a different perspective on the normal issues relating to your health, such as exercise, nutrition and relaxation. Everything we do in life has some form of influence to our subconscious, and these are great examples. Chapter 3.2 focuses on the importance of staying social, and how making new friends and keeping in touch with existing friends does wonders for you mental well-being and health. Read more on Volume 3.
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