What is the Worldwide Online Community?
The Worldwide Online Community is simply a group of people from a wide variety of countries and continents who come together to share their skills, experience, and/or love for a subject. Online communities are a fairly new faction and are not fully understood, their importance is neglected and may not reach their full potential until the next generation incorporates them more and more. It wasn't until the '90s that the Internet or World Wide Web really became a part of the culture, but in less then 20 years its impact has changed society from top to bottom.
In order to really delve into the importance of the worldwide online community, one must first define what it is. There are hundreds of different definitions of what an online community is, but this statement is generally accepted throughout these definitions.
Worldwide online communities are groups of people who join together on the Internet with a common interest.
So why do you need an online community? After all don't we all have friends who enjoy similar topics like art? Sure you do, but you are forgetting something: Let's say you live in the most populated country and have made every connection possible there... Then what happens to the contacts you could make in the other 195 countries on Earth? There's a lot of people living there as well. Combined, almost certainly more than your country has. With a worldwide online community in today's world people can mutually work on projects, paid work, etc. anywhere in the world.
Benefits of Text-Only Contact
One of the amazing aspects of an online community is that prejudices don't drive the community. Race, religion, age, sex, etc. are not even considered when first corresponding with another member. Now, picture a society where there are no prejudices, no matter what color your skin is, what your sex is, whatever your sexual orientation is, it doesn't matter. Well, let me now welcome you to that society.
Online, there is only as much as you give away. If you wish to name yourself Jane Doe, then your name is Jane Doe until you reveal otherwise. In this way you have the ability to create friendships under anonymity that can then last if you later choose to reveal details about yourself.
This is not to say that there aren't any arguments online, of course there are! History has shown us that arguments are human nature, and online communities are driven forward by the diversity of opinions just as much as communities in real life are. However, it allows a member to create a friendship that may not have been started otherwise. Then, if a user decides to share information about themselves that relationship will likely last. For example, when I first came onto deviantART I was 13. I made connections and friends with people 10, 20, 30, 40 years older then me. But, that didn't matter! Because I acted maturely, they could not tell if I was 13 or 33. In fact, in January of 2011 I posted a poll asking what people thought my age was. At the time I was 15. Of the 307 answers I got, only 15 of them, or 4.9% correctly aged me as "15 or Under". In fact, almost 40% of the responses I got aged me at 6-10 years older then I was ("21-25"). Six to ten years is a significant jump at that age...
Under this same idea, amateurs and professionals have a unique opportunity to work together in a worldwide community. Let's say a professional photographer is contacted by an amateur photographer. In an online setting that professional may not be able to immediately know if they are being contacted by an amateur or professional like them. Without that information, they may be able to start a friendship or relationship that benefits both in the long run that would never have been started otherwise.
The alias is a powerful tool. It has been used by many to hurt others but can also be used very safely. Many people are concerned with online bullying. Now it is quite an issue on websites like Facebook where you openly declare who you are, where you are, your age, all your photos, etc. but, with an alias it is not as open. 'Online safety 101' says don't share your address, phone number, full name, and any other revealing information about yourself you don't want to be public knowledge. This is absolutely true, and unless you have a reason to share it with a particular person, don't. Instead this information can be hidden under your alias.
(Please, never share numbers like your credit cards, bank accounts, etc.)
Using the example from above, if your username was Jane Doe, then no one knows your full name, (perhaps your name is Jane or Janet, but it also could be Georgia or Bob for all another person knows), you never shared your address anywhere that it is not safe to (for example, you share it as a shipping address but not publicly on your profile), and you never shared any other revealing information (location, age, etc.). Chances are, you're pretty safe. Yeah you will meet the occasional online "bully" but most communities expect that and implement a blocking feature that will take care of them.
If they continue to contact you, most online communities have a staff team (or group of moderators) and can handle the situation. The point, however, is that the majority of the people out there are friendly, helpful, loving, caring, and like you, a part of this community to love, grow and develop. That is something most people cannot find anywhere else, even in their own neighborhoods.
FAQ #96: Can I block people from my profile page?
A Central Message
There are many communities that try to span a large area such as deviantART. dA covers "Art" as an entirety from literature to photography, film, traditional artwork, and much more. Because of that, it is important to connect with a sub-section of that community. In other words, it is hopeless to try to connect with 22 million members on deviantART, instead connect with a small group of writers or photographers. Communities will naturally create these sub-sections of, for example, digital artists or painters, and within these sub-sections the communities will grow.
Projects and contests are a major bonus of this. Many sites will host large and small contests that are aimed at a few of these sub-sections. Sometimes these can be sponsored (a photography contest from Sigma for example), or they may be run by a small group of users inside the community. However, without being part of these sub-sections one might not have the contacts or resources to learn of the contest, enter and potentially win. The method of critique and comments are also very helpful. Everyone can learn from one and another no matter how "pro" someone is, they are still learning, for that reason having an online reach is absolutely an amazing tool for anyone.
I recently directed, edited and filmed a short documentary, The Symbol of Peace. The film is based at home but stretches across many countries. In creating this film I created a private contest on deviantART. I asked for submissions containing peace signs and promised to showcase the winners in the film. As a result I collected nearly 100 contest entries and used a small number of them in the final film. In doing so, I managed to stretch the film worldwide instead of just having it be at home. I had entries everywhere from across the United States to London, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Mexico, Austria, Italy, as well as many other countries.
Why deviantART isn't my Homepage
Now with all of these benefits, one might ask why an online community isn't my homepage? Or why it isn't everyone's homepage? Well quite simply put, most people's friends and family don't get it. There is a gap in understanding why someone would put energy into creating a "second life" on the Internet. It is very hard to explain to a friend in a short amount of time, so many people's homepages are other locations. Overall, I would say that the next step for online communities needs to be outreach. There are now over 7 billion humans on Earth. Yet most recognized communities are in the low millions of members... Within this future, hopefully more people will be able to expand their minds view and see the importance of the worldwide online community.
Online communities are a huge part of our future. They cannot be neglected, and must be a part of the lives of teenagers, students, and adults.
Questions to Think About!
- Do you think that online communities have a huge future? If not what do you think will take their place?
- Have you experienced the benefits of the online communities? Tell us about your experiences!
- What stories do you have thanks to online communities? Have they changed your view of the world?
- What do you believe needs to change in online communities in order for them to become "normal"?
- How can members of a community bring about change that will change communities forever?
Article written by `TimberClipse
Header by `admx
Skin by ^bradleysays
Edited by `SanguineEpitaph
~wapy ("Computer Talk")
*armene ("The Unknown")
`larafairie ("Faceless Composition")
~Yair-Leibovich ("Wolf Pack")
~macsimc ("Community Meeting")
~Saswat777 ("The One With The Family")