Reaching The Online Generation

An Initiative of CityTeam Ministries

How Groups Function Online

Posted on | October 3, 2008 |

Many people mistakenly see ‘Facebook’ or ‘MySpace’ or other social media services as groups or communities in an of themselves.  I hear things like, “The Facebook community…” or “The MySpace community…”  Truth is, Facebook and other social media services are more like online megacities - many diverse communities gathered into an online space.  But, unlike offline megacities which function in a single geographical area, these online megacities don’t use a single social media service (aka online geographical area) to meet their need to connect with other human beings.

That paragraph may be as clear as mud if you don’t interact online regularly, so let me give you an example.  There is a community of over 100 men and women, from the ages of 15 to 50, spread across the world, who like to knit and crochet.  They use the strengths of many social services to connect throughout the day.  They talk in depth on their blogs, chat in Plurk and Twitter, share photos with Flickr, and video with YouTube.  They buy and sell products through a social network for knitters, called Ravelry.  Update:They interact in a Facebook-like social network called Ravelry.  They also buy and sell products using a service called Etsy.  They meet offline in small gatherings, even though all the offline members do not necessarily interact online.  They constantly talk about family, cooking, work, projects, hopes, and failures.  They encourage one another all the time.

There isn’t a single social media service that fulfills all their needs, so they use many.  And they are pretty typical.

So, what does that mean?  Well, being active in one social media service isn’t going to cut it.  We have to follow the trail of community interaction and use what they use.  We cannot say we want to start a spiritual community in Facebook and think that will get the job done.  We need thousands of communities that operate across multiple social media services if we ever want to make an impact in lostness online.

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4 Responses to “How Groups Function Online”

  1. Liz
    October 3rd, 2008 @ 1:35 pm

    I wouldn’t say Ravelry is about buying and selling. It’s a social network just as Facebook is. As well as a practical place for sharing patterns, projects and ideas. Etsy is where they sell, or via their websites. Maybe they promote on Ravelry but they don’t really sell on there. And Etsy is another social network as well as marketplace…

  2. Liz
    October 3rd, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

    BTW, I’m enjoying your series:) forgot to say that! I agree that the different online networks overlap and interact and complement each other. Liz

  3. Paul
    October 3rd, 2008 @ 1:40 pm

    Hey Liz,

    Thanks for clarifying the roles of Raverlry and Etsy in the knitting community. I had seen the two referred to regularly and almost always together. Thank you so much for your input.


  4. Paul
    October 3rd, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

    Thanks, Liz, I’m glad you like this series. Don’t hesitate to jump in if I need to change, update, or clarify something.

    Thanks for reading.


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    Who is God?' was one of the top three sentences googled in 2007, according to Google Zeitgeist. According to Alexa, the top two religious websites are Muslim, with BibleGateway coming in at a close third. The Online Generation is spiritual. They are seeking. And the church is the last place they would go to find spiritual fulfillment. This site is dedicated to those walking with The Online Generation and living lives of obedience to all the commands of Jesus Christ.
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