Being Active in a Community

Being part of an online community is something that I have been doing actively since I guess 2013. You could say that I’m a real newbie. What I mean by ‘actively being in a community’ is being part of conversations with people I don’t know, but have shared interests with. Until then I had been passive user of social media since the Bebo-age! I joined Facebook in 2008, Twitter in 2011 and Instagram in 2013.

Why do we hashtag? It’s to be part of the network- to be seen to be doing and contributing. For some it’s actually all about getting more followers on Instagram- I’m not 100% sure whether Instagram is a great place for community or just an open stage for fickleness. I’m not being very original in saying that social media has helped people feel included in a group.

I saw that I began to be actively part of online communities in 2013 because that is I joined the Picbod scene. Picbod is a second year Photography module at Coventry University which aims to raise discussion on picturing the body not only in the class, but in the wider community beyond the walls of our building. Matt Johnston ran this module pretty much completely from Google+ Community. We actively had our class of around 20 contributing our work, notes and thoughts which excited the ‘remote students’ and encouraged them to be part of it. That kind of community development was so successful that I became very much connected with Charo Ruiz-Davila– she then worked with developing their photographic community in Santander to do something and that something was Santander-Photo. From January 2013 to June I was hooked onto the Google Community- the buzz is addictive. Luckily I didn’t have to wait much longer before doing #Phonar and become tapped into that (more stable, in some ways) community.

Anyway I find myself now on the edge of the Picbod community- I dip in and have a look, make a few comments and +1 a few posts. I still contribute not my pictures, but pictures of others to the community. I am much more hooked into Phonar still as much of my interests seem to slip more into the challenges that community has to address. I am now part of more communities which I have not been extremely active in but my observation of them has given me so much information and resources.

Since last year, I have been a member of the Get Your Belly Out Facebook community which is a support group for people with Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis disease. In its early weeks before it became extremely well known I actively gave advice to some members who wanted to know more about some medications (some of which I have or do take) and procedures. It’s now a thriving community (2951 members today) which is one that I wouldn’t say I have a great presence in, but at least I know it is there as when I might need it. Many of the active members are those who are having a tough time, thus sticking together and supporting one another in their battle to go into remission again.

Having a successful community is really about having a central discussion point- that can be around a particular interview (with Phonar’s case) or just an idea that people contribute their thoughts and resources to try make sense or find an answer. The community needs to be exciting and have committed people contributing to it – there is a bit of a cycle that means you need both of these attributes.

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