How to Mirror Face-to-Face Communities in Online Groups

martinazerbo
3 min readSep 3, 2021

It has been established that a community is a group of people that care about each other and feel they belong together. With the ever-continuing expansion the internet, it is natural that more and more communities are being created and propagated in the online world. Some are more successful than others. Some online communities that are not so successful have extremely successful in person communities. Could there be some behavioral factors of in person communities that when mirrored by online communities create a similar successful environment online?

Face to face meetings are so important because of how present a person must be. One must be actively listening, processing, and responding in face-to-face communication. At that moment the individual is kept on his toes as interactions are happening all throughout making it impossible to not participate. The most successful online communities have very high engagement levels. When people are truly interested and invested in a group, they participate. Therefore, creating engaging content that promotes interaction is crucial to mimic an in-person meeting.

Connecting with new people is another factor that is facilitated in in-person communities as many bring a friend or a family member and introduce him to the rest of the group. This is an easy way for people to meet new members. However, according to Pew Research, the majorities of teens who spend time in online forums say they play a role in exposing them to new people. Most of these teens expressed those online forums played some role in making them feel more accepted, helping them figure out how to feel about important issues, and helping them through tough times in their lives.

Face-to-face communication is still better than virtual when it comes to building relationships and fostering trust, therefore, a free and open communication flow is crucial to be established in online communities to create a similar environment. A sense of nurture and comfort must be fostered by the group members to build these relationships and genuine care for each other. A good community not only supports each other but consistently nurtures its members to reach their full potential. An open flow of communication will encourage the members to share personal details and nurture others doing the same. This will also bring a sense of comfort. Being comfortable as an individual in a group, with the group’s members is crucial to building a strong online community. These factors cannot replace the connection a physical hug or eye-to-eye connection provided by in-person interaction, however, they will still create that general feeling if implemented correctly.

These requirements for a successful online community that matches the energy and feel of an in-person community put a lot of pressure on online administrators. A Facebook group, for example, cannot run smoothly without a supportive and attentive administrator. This administrator must be very involved by frequently checking in on its members and aiding in their progress as a group member and an individual. An online administrator must also be aware of trolls entering and endangering the group’s trust circle as much as possible. Even though this is not 100% preventable, by monitoring social media comments, an administrator can do a good job of identifying any unsupportive or disrespectful interaction. In these cases, the appropriate disciplinary actions must be carried out to ensure that other members do not become wary of sharing their opinions online with others and that the group’s trust is maintained.

References:

Anderson, Monica, and Jingjing Jiang. “2. Teens, Friendships and Online Groups.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center, 28 Nov. 2018, www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/11/28/teens-friendships-and-online-groups/.

Chang, Mina. “Why Face-to-Face Meetings Are so Important.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 20 Feb. 2015, www.forbes.com/sites/ellevate/2015/02/20/why-face-to-face-meetings-are-so-important/?sh=21c57af5aee9.

Pfortmuller, Fabian. “What Does ‘Community’ Even Mean? A Definition Attempt & Conversation Starter.” Medium, Together Institute, 7 Feb. 2020, medium.com/together-institute/what-does-community-even-mean-a-definition-attempt-conversation-starter-9b443fc523d0.

Relates, Ashley. “5 Trinidadian Secrets to Building a Healthy Online Community.” Medium, Medium, 31 Aug. 2019, medium.com/@ashleyrelates/5-trinidadian-secrets-to-building-a-healthy-online-community-438847435f73.

Watkins, Michael D. “Making Virtual Teams WORK: Ten Basic Principles.” Harvard Business Review, 27 June 2013, hbr.org/2013/06/making-virtual-teams-work-ten.

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martinazerbo
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Creative non-fiction writer. UF Global Strategic Media graduate student trying to maintain a 4.0 GPA. An Italian with above average pizza making skills.