By Nurashikin Saiful Bahri
A virtual community is a social network of individuals who interact through specific social media, in order to pursue mutual interests or goals. It is also the platform for gathering of people in online space where they come, communicate, connect, and get to know each other by sharing their common interest.
All of the virtual communities encourage interaction, sometimes focusing around a particular interest or just to communicate. Some virtual communities do both. The members are allowed to interact over a shared passion through various medium such as message boards, chat rooms, social networking sites, or virtual worlds. The virtual community will be what members want to refer to their strategy and the way to make it. Virtual community also gives impact in their life and they should know how to control it.
Virtual community is one of the platforms that can teach people to know about something and the medium to add new knowledge. As with any and all community engagement techniques, online community engagement is not a solution. It has advantages and disadvantages. It is a relatively easy technology for some and relatively more difficult for others.
One of the advantages of virtual community is flexibility. People can use their 24 hours per day as long as they have Internet connection. As students, they have more advantages because universities provided them with free internet connection. The second is levelling. People who do not talk too much can have their own opportunity to talk about their interest rather than in their real life because most of their time was manipulated by talkative people. Furthermore, virtual community is documented. People can revise it back because it is lasting and can be revisited.
The forth of the advantages is that virtual community encourages reflection. The participants don’t have to contribute until they have thought about it and feel ready to answer. In real life, if we make a discussion or attend a meeting, we have to give our full commitment. The fifth is we have a choice whether a quick question or comment or a long reflective account are equally possible. The last is isolation. Some learners prefer to learn on their own and don’t want to participate in the discussions. This is due to have their own space to study and learn by their own in convenient way.
On other hand, virtual community also have the negative side. One of the disadvantages of virtual community is text-based. It will be challenging for those who don’t like to write or have poor keyboard skills. Nowadays technology can be described as one of the most important things in life. If we do not know how to use the technology, we will be in trouble due to most of people know how to use it to communicate. The second disadvantage is absence of physical cues. When we communicate in online community, we do not see their facial expressions and gestures. It can make the misunderstanding occurs between the members.
Third, does virtual community have threads? Sometimes, logical sequence of the discussion is often broken by users if they do not to stick with the topic.
Besides, virtual community makes a time leg. If we log in 24 hours a day, it can be a long time if we are waiting for a reply from the readers or members. Sometimes, it also can make us left behind when they have the discussions but we do not participate. The fifth of the disadvantages is it’s inefficient. It takes longer than verbal conversations due to take time to type and sometimes our point is hard to understand. Furthermore, it can be information overload when we are offline. A large volume of messages can be overload information and hard to follow, even stress-inducing.
Virtual community is very important in our life. Even though it is important, we have to know how to manage our time when we go online and chat with our virtual community. As a good student, we have to determine our priority and responsibility first before we communicate with our virtual community. ***