According to Merriam-Webster, a “community” is a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society. This definition provides no clarification as to if “living together” literally means physically living together or simply spending a great deal of time with one another in any given space. Therefore, I think it’s hard for one to argue that community doesn’t exist online; especially now, with all of the endless amounts of specialized spaces and forums that different types of people use to connect with individuals with similar interests. Second Life, Facebook, ESPN.com and many other online forums all provide a way for individuals with common interests to communicate with one another and share thoughts, ideas, etc.
There are numerous examples that blatantly show communities being formed online and individuals digitally aligning for a common cause. Whether these community formations and connections are a good thing or a bad thing is debatable, but I think it’s safe to say that the internet is indeed helpful to the idea of community; there are entirely too many successfully created communities to deny that fact. The article from “Wired.com” shows how all types of communities can be created; both good and bad. Furthermore, the article on this website shows how, just as in real life, there is a possibility for actual tension between communities in the digital world. Throughout most of the article, we see a tension between the disruptive Patriotic Nigras and various other Second Life communities who wish to simply be left alone. The Patriotic Nigras band together for a common purpose against other groups, and vice versa, other groups band together to fight back against the Patriotic Nigras. Again, this is evidence of community as groups with shared interests are coming together in a space for a common purpose.
Just as in real life however, even communities with a common purpose can show tension. The website talks about how there is even tension within the community of “griefers” themselves. “Patriotic Nigras, /b/tards all, look on the somewhat better-behaved Goon community — in particular the W-Hats, a Second Life group open only to registered Something Awful members — as a bunch of uptight sellouts” (Dibbell 2). Again here we see that even communities within communities can be formed. Eve n though to some they can be considered bad communities, the fact of the matter is that they’re indeed defined as communities, thus proving that the internet is useful in aiding these formations.
The Eating Disorder article is the act same way. There are so many websites online that both speak for and against unhealthy eating habits. Which community, the pro-unhealthy eating habits or the anti-healthy eating habits groups, individuals choose to side with is up to them, for our purposes, again, I think it’s important for us to recognize that each are actual communities within themselves; housing individuals with commons interests and common goals all strengthened with the help of the digital world. Mccabe’s article sites a quote from another source stating that, “The interactivity, anonymity, and perceived credibility of Web sites create a powerful means of persuasion for those who access them” (Mccabe 3). This quote just attests to the power that the digital world truly has in regards to community formation.
The following image is from a “Pro-ana” website which refers to the promotion of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.
To conclude, I think Baym’s article does a great job of really showing the benefits of these online communities. As we know, it is so easy for interactions to occur and actual relationships to be formed; all of which can transition back and forth, online to offline. In regards to community, Baym’s article also speaks about the idea of shared identities; which essentially is what I’ve been speaking about throughout this entire post. Online communities, being a place where people with similar goals and interests can come together, incorporate this idea of shared identities. Baym states that shared identities, “include personalities and roles assumed by individuals”. It also says that, “Identities also include a shared sense of who “we” are that may be pre-existing or develop within a group” (Baym 7). All in all, this just supports much of what was talked about in that Dibbell article on “Wired.com”. In regards to the Patriotic Nigras, members looking alike, black skin, afro, and suits, all seem to assimilate into these pre-existing identities.