A Virtual Community Evolves as Members Develop Affective Bonds
Blooms and Blossoms evolved from a wish to connect with others in a format that allows for extended/ongoing communication and drop-in/informal interaction. Reviewing the prior literature on community building in an online environment guided the blog structure. Those researching the psychological sense of community agree that McMillan & Chavis (1986) model is the most influential. The model serves as a starting point for creating place-based and virtual neighborhoods.
“A feeling that members have a belonging, a feeling that members matter to on another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together” (p. 9).
Jones (1997) describes a virtual settlement exists when a posting framework exist and membership is growing. A virtual community evolves as members develop affective bonds. After reading Jones distinction I knew it was important to me to create a sense of belonging in our online neighborhood.
McMillan and Chavis name four elements important to achieve a sense of community.
- Integration & Fulfillment of Needs
- Shared emotional connection
The following example illustrates the dynamics within and between these four elements.
“Someone puts an announcement on the dormitory bulletin board about the formation of an intramural dormitory basketball team. People attend the organizational meeting as strangers out of their individual needs (integration and fulfillment of needs). The team is bound by place of residence (membership boundaries are set)and spends time together in practice (the contact hypothesis). They play a game and win (successful shared event). While playing, members exert energy on behalf of the team (personal investment in the group). As the team continues to win, team members become recognized and congratulated (gaining honor and status for being members). Someone suggests that they all buy matching shirts and shoes (common symbols) and they do so (influence)” (p. 16).
Continued reading on the ideas presented by Jones and McMillan & Chavis led me Blanchard’s (2004) works on community building in a virtual environment. A couple key articles were:
The Experienced “Sense” of a Virtual Community: Characteristics and Processes
“… there’s more to it than that. Building a virtual meeting place may produce a virtual settlement. But a virtual community is a virtual settlement in which a sense of virtual community coexists with a set of community-like behaviors and processes” (p. 77).
Blogs as Virtual Communities
“Blogs have the potential to evolve into socially beneficial, self-sustaining virtual communities. Future studies of blogs as virtual communities should continue to assess not only members’ sense of community but also how members adapt to and modify the technology to meet their needs in developing a vibrant virtual community” (p. 9).
I continued my research to further understand how experience in an established community contributes to enhancement of life. Lambert et al, (2013) article Sense of belonging enhances meaning in life published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin supports the idea of a sense of belonging.
“Belonging can also contribute to a meaningful life, since being a part of a group connotes being a part of something larger, something that expands beyond the boundaries of our own self, thus promoting a sense of lastingness and continuity” (p. 6).
The literature over the past 30 years support the McMillan and Chavis model for creating a sense of belonging thus supporting Jones distinction of settlement vs community. This review of literature creates the foundation for the Blooms to Blossoms neighborhood.
Recently, Huffington Post contributors, Spero (2015) and Chan (2017) outlined key factors when establishing a community of ‘like-minded thinkers’. I expect membership in our group to grow from those who share similar opinions, ideas, and interests. It is my hope that we also debate, discuss, and challenge each other to promote lifelong learning and personal development.
Below is a summary of the relationship of McMillan and Chavis’s, Spero’s, and Chan’s perspective on community building to Blooms to Blossoms. I cannot prescribe or direct how each of you apply the concepts presented. I can recommend that you think about what you gain from and how you contribute to current affiliations, place-based or virtual. Then go the next step…what can you do to contribute to Blooms to Blossoms community.
Blooms to Blossoms
Wrapping Up & Looking Forward
Affiliation with and acceptance by others provides a sense of belonging. A community will result from a group who extends interaction beyond the acquaintance level. We each differ in what “belonging” means. Our virtual community, as with any community, will have various levels of engagement. The community will thrive as members gain acceptance and support each other as individuals and as a group.
I’m excited about the future of Blooms to Blossoms and the opportunity we have to work and live together so our community will thrive.
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