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The Ebb and Flow of My Online Communities

Online communities, like those in the face-to-face world, are fascinating to watch. They coalesce, wrap in on themselves, fray around the edges, unwrap a little, shift, possibly acquire new members or even glom onto a new core group of members, coalesce, wrap in on themselves, fray around the edges… and on and on.

Take my own history as an example. I started this blog and started reading other people’s blogs, and in the space of a few months found myself squarely in the middle of a vibrant community of librarian bloggers. A year or so later, Twitter and the LSW Meebo room started up. Conversations started in any of those places and bled over into our blogs, but there were also new people in the group — people who didn’t have blogs at all, or didn’t blog about libraries. And slowly the LSW Meebo room group became my center. A year or so later, the librarian Twitterati started shifting to FriendFeed, so I followed them (kicking and screaming, I might add — I had a bunch of problems with FriendFeed, some of which still bother me even though that’s become my social network of choice now). FriendFeed is slightly different in that conversations can happen within or across several “rooms,” and I’ve seen communities coalesce, wrap in on themselves, and then fray about the edges in several of these spaces within FriendFeed. Meanwhile, the blogging community had frayed about the edges (Meredith also just wrote about this).

Each time I’ve found myself in the midst of a new coalescing community I’ve met new people who inspire me, question me, encourage me, and generally be good friends to me. But each time it’s meant that people who used to represent the core of my network have shifted to peripheral status. Not unimportant, just less present.

And now I find myself on the fraying edges again. Almost certainly, this means that I’m about to find a new home, or re-find an old home, but at the moment things feel a little foundationless for me. Luckily, I have a couple of really interesting projects I’m working on (which I’ll probably write about soon-ish), so that should sustain me until my new center coalesces for me.

7 thoughts on “The Ebb and Flow of My Online Communities

  1. I was never able to overcome my issues with FriendFeed, which, I guess, means I've become peripheral. Fine, maybe I'll see you in the next big social networking gizmo :-)

  2. Peripheral to the FF-only crowd, perhaps, but not to my non-tool-related sense of my network. Besides, you sat right in the VERY CENTER of the circle I was in at the LITA social. So there. :-)

  3. My online social networks and interfaces have shifted on a regular basis ever since I first got an email account in 1996. While it's sad to see people fade away from certain online presences, or to be the one fading, my life has been enriched by all of the different social networks I have been a part of, and wouldn't want to give up any of those experiences. I say, live for today, because tomorrow you may be moving on.

  4. Tom, what you mean is, you've never known someone who could butcher a sentence like I can? :P

    And yes, Anna, I certainly don't regret any of the networks I've been a part of. Looking back over the post, I realized that I elided two kinds of "fraying"… the one where the whole group sort of morphs and changes and becomes something new, and the kind where the group continues on, but my own center changes slightly.

    Anyway, the anthropologist in me enjoys watching how these things work while the "nostalogist" in me wishes nothing would change. Ever.

  5. Well put Iris. And Tom, I freaking LOVE you dude. Even if we don't hang in the same networks as often, that does nothing to make you periphreal to me as far as out friendhship is concerned. :) Same with you Iris dear. It is very interesting to watch it all evolve. My OSN experiences have been very similar to yours, although Twitter meant more to me than the blogging community ever did. Maybe because Twitter wasn't 100% professional. My blog is strictly about work and Twitter was about all aspects of my life. But then Twitter started failing – A LOT. When I found FF I realized how much I had missed being able to discuss things, in detail, with friends, whihc are not related to work. It could alsso be that about the time I started using FF I was also very burnt out at work and jaded about library consortial politics in general. So, I jumped out of the scene for a while here. Now, I'm entering a new phase of my career. One I'm excited about. And I am sure that I'm going to cycle back and start participating in the library networks again. None of them are perfect, they are merely mediums whihc allow us to stream our lives and connect with others doing the same. Thanksfully many of us get to share in the life streaming and as part of that we participate in the good AND the bad. Hopefully, like with most good friends, we get to see more of the good and can let the bad slide cause we like each other so much. :) You're always welcome in my life streams Iris/Tom. *hugs*

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