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Community Decline Fears Exist Online Too

Can online communities, with their potentially transient nature, actually support sense of community?

“…(M)any of the things that are seen as  nuisances or difficulties are exactly the mechanisms that propel the creation of  emergent cultures and social networks.”

This quote embodies the sentiments of community decline that center around lost local connections. The argument is made that true, strong community comes from struggling together–not simply having similar interests. Does the greater choice in leaving an online community prevent it from providing this opportunity to overcome differences and hardship, as opposed to say a neighborhood where someone may not be able to leave easily?

What’s interesting about this quote is that it is about changes made in the game Everquest. Players complained the changes made things too easy and reduced social interaction, even though the social interactions centered around time-wasting activities.

That the same complaints are made within online communities as have been made in arguments against them suggests our worries about community decline continue in mediated spaces rather than being created by them.

Being forced to interact, sometimes in time-wasting and otherwise frustrating ways, can provide ways for community members to forge strong bonds. And that may be one of the reasons that in my research World of Warcraft guilds showed relatively high sense of community scores.

The desire to work together may be what distinguishes strong community from weak, not the inability to leave.


Taylor, T.L. (2006). Play between worlds: Exploring gaming culture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.