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Cyril Ellis G.



20 May 2016

Social Media-based Communities: Are They Real Communities?
(4. Can social media truly create a community? What are the limits?)
Recently social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. have taken
over task-specific websites like those for e-mail service, chat, and file sharing as
platforms for communication within the World Wide Web. It is because all of these things
that can be done by different websites back then can already be done by only one social
networking site today. Also, social media have become a venue for people of similar
interests, thus establishing a so-called online community.
An online community is a modern kind of community wherein individuals are
bound by similar interests and communicate usually not in a physical or face-to-face
manner, but rather through binary codes sent and received through a wireless worldwide
network. Since online communities most of the time have this virtual interaction, one
may argue that not interacting physically may not satisfy as a criterion for a genuine
community. In an online community, interaction may not be physical but it cannot be
denied that one is still interacting with real individuals, even though they seem to be only
interacting with walls of texts. As Habermas has said, an individual becomes an
individual when he or she interacts with other individuals, and through this interaction a
society or a community is formed. In an online community, there exist the interaction
that is necessary for the creation of a community although it may be nonphysical most
of the time. Thus we can say that online and outside-the-Web communities are both
established and sustained by the interaction of their members. However, a problem with
online communities is the questionable stability of membership. But I would argue in
order to be certain about a stable membership, continuous interaction must be done with
other members of the community. Thus we can say here that interaction truly takes an
important role in a stable online community.
Moreover, interaction in an online community actually does not stop within the
Web. A community that is established online can also interact physically, contrary to
what others may say that online communities only communicate in the Web. This kind of
interaction usually happens when online communities hold gatherings or meet-ups.
However it is also important to note that the whole community cannot participate, but
only some of them can, in such physical interaction due to personal reasons, e.g.
availability and proximity of the place.
Online communities are genuine communities because there exist the interaction
that is the foundation of communities according to Habermas. Not only interaction
defines these communities but also a specific purpose, a membership process, and terms

of use and community rules, which is actually the same with outside-the-Web
communities. This only means that real and virtual communities are founded and
sustained the same way. Certain differences, however, still occur between the two, but
the most significant thing that makes an online community unique or different from
outside-the-Web communities is its openness despite language differences.