In “Virtual Communities,” Ashlee Humphreys discusses the phenomenon of online communities and their characteristics. While reading, I couldn’t help but picture Twitter as the social media platform in question – although no specific platform was identified by name. While Facebook serves the purpose connecting with current friends, I view Twitter as a space for building a community around those with similar interests.
Humphrey mentions that online communities can be found for any and every interest – this is true on Twitter. But how do different types of Twitter groups showcase the three characteristics of virtual communities in various ways? Three recent and relevant community examples come to mind: the PUSM class, Dakota Access Pipeline activists, and Grammy viewers. Each group’s Twitter presence displays different characteristics on the surface – one an established class of academics, one a social movement, and one a live event audience. However, each exhibit consciousness of kind, shared rituals and traditions, and moral responsibility in an appropriate way for their specific community.
Consciousness of kind is most obviously communicated through hashtags. Hashtags are mindfully created in order to identify groups and establish mutual recognition. Our PUSM class has #somediapitt, Dakota Access Pipeline activists have #NoDAPL, and the Grammys use #GRAMMYs each year. Twitter users recognize those who employ these hashtags as belonging to the particular community, while group members use the hashtag to view tweets of fellow members.
Shared rituals and traditions also differ depending on the community. For example, while PUSM has two Twitter scribes that comment on class every Tuesday and Thursday, members of the Grammy community typically only tweet one day per year. The volume of tweets is much higher, though (I admit, as a Grammy fanatic myself, I tweeted 10 times over the length of the award show this year.) Therefore, it has become a ritual for PUSM classmates to tweet at least four times per week about an intellectual matter in the same way that it has become a ritual for Grammy viewers to tweet multiple times once a year about celebrity performances
Finally, moral responsibility surfaces when members of these communities support and defend one another. Tweeters of the No DAPL community found virtual ways to rally around those fighting for their water. By retweeting threads created by protesters, activists were able to quickly spread videos and testimonies of unfair police treatment occurring at the DAPL site. This effectively raised concern among citizen outside of the group, which in turn increased members and support. In the context of a much less vital situation, Adele also experienced moral support after forgetting lyrics to her Grammy performance and asking for a “do over” on live television. Viewers and fellow celebrities took the responsibility of defending the songstress by publically praising her efforts.
Although very different groups in nature, PUSM, DAPL activists, and Grammy viewers all implement characteristics of virtual communities. Some features overlap, like the universal use of hashtags. However, it appears that most groups adjust these characteristics in order to suit their own unique community and further their interests.
Humphreys, Ashlee. “Chapter 11: Virtual Communities.” Social Media: Enduring Principles. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. 215-233. Print.
Image 1: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/425027283561827421/
Image 2: http://giphy.com/gifs/jimmy-fallon-reaction-gif-hashtag-ub43ozIc6hXSE
Image 3: https://www.accesshollywood.com/articles/celebs-tweet-support-adele-after-she-restarts-george-michael-tribute/