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Communities

The traditional concept of community is based on geographical proximity of community members. Looking back at old Ireland, it is obvious that communities were formed around skill sets, services and goods.

For example, communities developed around people with various skills e.g. tinkers, weavers, farmers, blacksmiths. This was an example of communities formed out of necessity rather than personal opinions or believes. This proves that been part of a community does not require strong social ties, but rather a mutual goal or understanding . This is an example of a mutual assistance and sharing a common purpose rather than a moral commitment. Though these communities may not have been founded on common social beliefs, multifaceted social relationships often develop when people live in the same locality and interact involuntarily with each other over time (Anderson)

Though primitive societies formed out of necessity and mutualism, as society and industry advanced people were granted the freedom to form communities based on common norms, values and belief systems.

Being a member of a community, however, does not always require the presence of strong social ties.

With the development of the Global Village (McLuhan) people have been provided alternatives to interacting solely with their offline community. Instead, individuals now have the option of connecting to virtual communities instead of only subscribing to traditional ones.

Rather then relying of proximity, the internet provides the opportunity for groups of like minded  individuals from all geographical locations to develop virtual communities. These on line groups are generally composed of people who share a “moral commitment to a common purpose” (Anderson)

By joining an on-line community, people can find support that may not be available to them in an off line setting. Benifits of online society membership include:

  • Instantaneous companionship
  • Emotional support
  • Feeling of membership and belonging
  • Development of personal identity
  • Creative, non judgemental environment
  • Anonymity

There are many potential drawbacks to online community membership. These may include:

  • Poor social skill development
  • Judgement from members of the offline community
  • Removed from the “normal” life routine
  • Isolated, unsocial loners
  • Moral Panics

Moral panics have caused stigmas to arise, with online community members being labelled as weirdos or perverts with little to no social skills. Moral panics, coupled with the opinion from some offline community members that online communities are not real communities, it is inevitable that individualswill find solace in such fake communities.

At this moment, communities do not play an integral  role in my life. I feel the only offline community in which I interact revolves around college. On a daily basis I will interact with fellow students and classmates; because of the nature of my college assignments some of this interaction may be online via Facebook or Twitter.

On reflection, I believe teenagers have been pushed off the streets and forced to form communities on line. There is a negative social stigma for teens who ‘hang around’ on street corners or at “the wall”, many of whom may be labelled as “yobs” and “hoodies”. The anti-social behaviour of these teens has given birth to the ASBO society.

By congregating on line, teenagers can choose the communities they wish to join. This can have both positive and negative outcomes. In addition of the previously mentioned benefits of online community membership, teenagers are also likely to experience some negativity from the online world. These negative experiences can include:

  • Over saturation to unrepentant violence
  • Instant access to hardcore porn
  • Poor development of critical thinking skills
  • Biased or inaccurate information

In review of both online and offline communities, I have observed both benefits and challenges facing community members. In relation to teenagers, I feel the internet and on line communities can play a very important role in their progression to adulthood.

I feel it can be a non judgemental tool to acquire opinions and believes, shared among members of their community. They can grow up and develop without judgement on issues like sexuality, believes, understandings and opinions.

But, I feel with the uncensored nature of the internet,  teens and adults can access biased and often inaccurate information which, if not recognised, can lead to misconceptions and uneducated opinions.

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