Nowadays, people spend much time in online communities to network with virtual friends and play role plays. They provide an advantage for people with special needs who cannot leave the house, because they benefit from the accessibility of the internet. Moreover, they help people who often move to stay in touch with their friends. Nevertheless, spending too much time in online communities leads to drawbacks in the development of the user’s personality. More energy is dedicated to the virtual life than to real life and people lose track of their personalities while busy building online ones. Also, frequent users of online communities have difficulties beginning meaningful real life relationships. Virtual friendships are shallow due to the physical distance and the anonymity of the internet and it is common to have more friends than you are able to care for. Therefore, it is more rewarding to invest into physical relationships.
Virtual friendships Danger of online communities Anonymity of internet
The Effects of Online Communities on Physical Social Relationships
Meeting for an after-work drink at the pub, going to yoga classes twice a week and having coffee with the ladies afterwards, organizing events for your local church community – all of those are only examples of what you can do with friends. At all times, relationships consisted of activities and common experiences which form an unforgettable bond between people. Sharing a memory gives a feeling of belonging and is something that can be laughed and talked about still a long time after the experience. However, times have changed.
Nowadays, it seems to be common to solely communicate with people over the internet. First, there were e-mails and chat rooms and now many so-called online communities can be found in the world wide web. People meet online to run blogs, meaning online diaries, share information and photos, exchange Youtube videos or unionize in a political, cultural, social and economic way (Das Internet als soziales Erlebnis, 2007). But not only can real life people get together and share common interests, they can also abandon their individual personalities and become somebody else: Second Life, a virtual world, allows their members to create an avatar of their choice and guide it through its world with virtual people, entertainment, opportunities and semi-virtual marketplaces (Second Life, 2008). According to Computer Industry Almanac Inc. (2007), more than 1.2 billion people use the internet worldwide and the largest online community has over 200 million members. Nevertheless, the effect on physical relationships must be investigated. Although online communities provide social advantages for certain groups of people, they cannot replace real life relationships due to their limitation of peoples’ abilities of developing their own personalities and the loss of the sense of profound interpersonal relationships.