Flipflops in the Rain


Community Through Blogging

Editor’s note: I wrote the following essay for a class about social dynamics through communication technology, which is why it’s a bit longer than normal. If it’s not your cup of tea, my feelings won’t be hurt, but since it’s about the community I found through blogging, I’d recommend giving it a read. If you still don’t want to read it, then go watch a Pirates of the Caribbean marathon instead.

The world is becoming a smaller place, thanks to computer-mediated communication (CMC). Although some researchers argue that CMC may lead to superficial and less-inhibited relationships (Thurlow et. al, 2004), I believe it actually strengthens our bonds with other people. With CMC, we can just as quickly chat with our friends 3,000 miles away as we can with those sitting three feet away. We can even create live diaries, or blogs, that live on the Web and allow people to read our innermost thoughts, breaking down distance boundaries by building up emotional connections.

According to Baker and Moore, “Blogs can bring together likeminded and supportive communities and thus provide opportunities to relieve feelings of isolation” (2008, p. 747). This paper will expand on that idea and demonstrate how personal blogs build cohesion and encourage interaction, leading to a deeply engaged and enthusiastic online community.

Building Cohesion

Four years ago, I was living in Washington, D.C., where I hardly knew a soul. My previously active social life was nonexistent, and I was desperately homesick for the West Coast. So, using an alias, I created a blog, which I shared with my friends back home. Many of my early posts were painfully honest, expressing feelings I wouldn’t normally share with anyone, but the lack of face-to-face communication made me feel somewhat anonymous and free from the restraints that usually accompany offline communication (Thurlow et. al, 2004). At the same time, my vulnerability and self-disclosure helped my faraway friends feel a relational closeness that we may not have felt over our typical CMC methods, such as email or Facebook posts (Griffin, 2009).

Research has shown that blogging can have many beneficial effects on one’s well-being (Baker & Moore, 2008), and through consistent posting, I began to notice a change in my overall disposition and offline confidence. My writing began to morph, as well, and chatty musings and anecdotes replaced my diary-style therapy sessions, eventually leading to a much more diverse audience. “For many young people, keeping a Web journal is less about soul-searching than about keeping in touch with a circle of friends and perhaps expanding it” (Gallagher, 2002).

Encouraging Interaction

I soon discovered readers from all over were visiting my mundane little corner of the world. Even though I was posting for people back home, strangers with similar interests commented on each post, leading me to realize that the Internet could help me interact with new friends while still reconnecting with my old ones. Using my blog as a networking tool, I soon discovered other D.C. bloggers with similar interests, leading to several offline friendships I may not have otherwise found.

Personal blogs are an easy way for people to create new friendships because the authors are voluntarily disclosing personal information to the masses, which leads to social penetration among peers (Griffin, 2009). The potential for intimacy increases because readers feel a relational closeness to an author who reveals private details about his or her personality. The blogging forum allows readers to engage directly with the writer by posting comments at the end of each post. Many blogs also include email contact information, allowing shy readers to communicate with the author in a less-public domain. These interactivity options provide a desirable advantage for building relationships and maintaining open dialogue (Thurlow et al, 2004), which helped me communicate with bloggers both inside and outside of the D.C. area.

Online Community

My personal blog and new blogging friendships motivated me to seek out 20-Something Bloggers (20sb), a network with only two requirements: “Be in your twenties. And have a personal blog” (20sb.net, 2011, para. 3).” The network was created in 2007 and has since grown to more than 10,000 members, all looking for an online space that connects them with like-minded people around the world.

20sb provided me with a sense of belonging almost instantly, since I was interacting with individuals who also wanted to fit in as members of a cohesive group (Thurlow et al, 2004), especially one tailored to those finding it difficult to adjust to their impending adulthood and their “age 30 deadline” (Henig, 2010, p. 2). The network attracts many who feel that “the 20s are a black box,” (Henig, 2010, p. 1), and I soon formed bonds with other 20-something bloggers with whom I could commiserate and celebrate our major (and often unsettling) life changes through CMC, even though we had never met in person. By connecting its members, 20sb has become an online community with highly engaged members who feel passionate about their inclusion and often feel more connected with their online friends than those they know offline.

Conclusion

My time in D.C. may be over, and my blog may lie dormant most days, but the community I found through blogging will not soon be forgotten. It helped me maintain friendships from 3,000 miles away, as well as cultivate new ones, through a unique method of CMC that encouraged self-disclosure, cohesion and interactivity. Many of the friendships I found on 20sb are the best I have today – even though we still communicate primarily online. More research stands to be done, but my personal experience supports the idea that blogging can build an enthusiastic and engaged online community.

References

Baker, J. R. & Susan M. Moore. (2008) Blogging as a social tool: A psychosocial examination of the effects of blogging. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(6): 747-749. doi:10.1089/cpb.2008.0053.

Henig , R. M. (2010, August 22). What is it about 20-somethings? The New York Times. Retrieved from http://nytimes.com.

Gallagher, D. J. (2002, September 5). A site to pour out emotions, and just about anything else. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://nytimes.com.

Griffin, E. (2009). A First Look at Communication Theory. Boston: McGraw Hill. 7th Edition.

Thurlow, C., Lengel, L., & Tomic, A. (2004). Computer mediated communication: Social interaction and the Internet.London: SAGE.

20 Something Bloggers. (2007-2011). The bloggers with the most to say. Retrieved from http://www.20sb.net/page/about-20sb.

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