What Is a Cyber Community?

By Laura Latzko

Many people form online communities around common interests, locations, lifestyles or backgrounds, in a similar manner to how people formed communities in the past. A cyber community is a virtual community that includes one or more groups of people. Virtual communities allow people to interact with each other using different types of computer messages. Cyber communities can be open to anyone or to a select group of people, but they often fulfill a need people have to form friendships and romantic relationships or to talk with others about certain issues or topics.

Communication

Within virtual communities, users can frequently communicate through forums, blogs or instant messages. Although people in virtual communities sometimes meet in person to communicate or have webcam chats online, they don’t have to be in the same room or online at the same time to have a meaningful conversation. A virtual community gives people in smaller towns or cities the chance to communicate with individuals from other states or countries. Within cyber communities, people can have conversations about political, popular culture, life-related or other topics.

Relationships and Connections

Through cyber communities, people often develop connections with other people -- becoming acquaintances, friends, business associates or romantically involved with others. Sometimes people treat these online connections as less significant than those they form with people face to face, but some individuals develop strong personal or professional bonds with others through virtual communities. A danger of virtual communities is that some people lie about themselves, and it can be difficult to know whether someone is giving you truthful information.

Purpose

Cyber communities usually have a specific purpose, such as forming romantic relationships, learning about new ideas, selling items, playing games or communicating with others. Some virtual communities are centered around people’s hobbies, backgrounds or lifestyles. When a community has a specific purpose, it often has a better chance of staying relevant and interesting to members, especially if it doesn’t stray from its purpose and regularly features new information. Sometimes even topic-targeted cyber communities get infiltrated by people who want to discuss other topics, such as sex, or advertise their products or services.

Availability

Discussions within virtual communities, including conversations in forums and blogs, are usually available for others to view for long periods of time. Who is able to view these conversations depends on a website’s structure and settings. Some communities, including social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, allow people to choose what individuals will have the opportunity to see messages they put on their pages. Other communities, such as forums on many newspapers’ websites, are open for anyone to view.