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Soaps + Online Friends = Community

Which online community do I belong to? I belong to my online work community. I email a group of people frequently and feel as if I know them. I have never met or talked on the phone to them. There are some people who telecommute exclusively and online is the only way to reach them.
I actually found the Baym article on soap operas and community creation quite interesting albeit dated. While I try to avoid getting hooked on soap opera type shows, I can see how it can happen. Yes, I do admit to being hooked on Melrose Place a few years ago. Every week, first thing in the morning, my friend and I would talk about it. We must have had too much enthusiasm. Our co-worker finally asked us one morning what kind of friends we had that slept with everyone else. Apparently he didn’t watch Melrose. Anyway, the soap opera community is obsessed with fictional characters played by actors/actresses that they do not even know. On the other hand though, they have developed an online community built around a single passion, soap operas. If you feel like posting, spoiling, or updating, go ahead! If you just want to lurk (of all words), go ahead! Feel like introducing yourself, then go ahead and unlurk! Beyond the topic of soaps, it is truly interesting to see how the group structure (standards) of R.A.T.S. was developed over the course of time. I was actually surprised at some of the rules and their simplicity – abbreviated soap names, key words in the subject line (update, trivia, TAN), etc. With structure, it makes sense that these created communities last and draw in new members. Just as in any conversation, opinions and insights are part of the R.A.T.S. community. Through this, the group gets to know one another better and have a stronger sense of belonging.
I was surprised that when Friendster was launched, the founders expected users to list their actual friends instead of others. But it makes sense to me, that if you want to meet new people, show a different side of your personality (true or assumed), create an aversion to a boring life, then why would you only include the people that you already know? An option would be to create duplicate or fake Profiles, but Friendster was not happy about this decision. As the article states, “One of MySpace’s early strategies was to provide a place for everyone who was rejected from Friendster or who didn’t want to be on a dating site.?

In these online communities, I think it is easier for people to communicate. Users have more time to think about responses, can delay answers (or even decide not to answer questions), word questions carefully, and avoid gestures that may give away more insight than is intended. There is a lot of good that can come from digital communities. There is no limit with whom you can communicate with. It’s like the pen pal from school but on fast mode (no more waiting weeks or months for a reply). But, in my opinion, there is nothing like a face-to-face friendship in a physical community.