Virtual community such as online social networks is great for information sharing. Empowered by internet and digital technology, virtual community is information superhighway that covers a wide spectrum of interests and audiences.
Speed, agility, and potential unlimited membership make virtual community the darling vehicle for social changes. Great hopes have been predicted. But is it really happening? Lets take a closer look.
In reality, virtual communities and their hundreds, thousands, or even millions followers do not guarantee social change. Just look at two popular campaigns: the Me-Too movement and Occupying Wall Street. Both received roaring attention and media coverage but fail to materialize in real social change.
[Note: Real change is systemic implementation that lasts.]
Why do virtual community fall short of expectation? Or is the expectation unrealistic? Unlike its physical counterpart, virtual community has no organization to carry the water. Instead, it attracts “clicktivism” or “slacktivism” which represents the lack of motivation or commitment from its members.
Without the structure of an organization, virtual community like street protests ‘turns at high speed and produces a lot of political energy. But the engine is not connected to wheels, and so the “movement” doesn’t move.’ This is why in the 2016 US Presidential Election, candidate Sanders could not run as an independent. He needed the Democratic Party’s support.
So is virtual community real? It is great in generating ideas and energy. But for the purpose of translating those into actionable steps with strategic purpose, virtual community is not it. At least not alone. For real social change, the old-fashioned (physical) community organizing is still the way to go.
How involved are you in your virtual community?