As internet related developments continue to accelerate, a relatively cheap and easy means of communicating and sharing experiences between different cultures and across vast geographical expanses can be realised, via cyberspace, from a computer terminal and keyboard without having to physically speak or travel. The main focus of this essay will be on cyber communities that offer a different dimension of human interaction from traditional geographically bound communities. The aim is to analyse the sociological definition and functions of cyber communities and to explore the make-up, means of membership, issues of inequality, and the possibility that real communities will become a secondary means of social functioning.
Cyber Communities .
Cyber communities, a place where people can meet, associate, and exchange experiences, found its gestation in the birth of the internet. Members of cyber communities use their keyboard and screen to exchange pleasantries, argue, engage in intellectual discourse, conduct business, flirt, fall in love, and more (Fernback & Thompson n.d). They do virtually everything they do in real life except they leave their bodies behind. The richness and vitality of cyber cultures is attractive and even addictive, noted Rheingold (1993, p.3). Real, or flesh and blood, communities are a group of people who are different yet interdependent and who are bound together by a common set of rules and responsibilities (Lewis 2002) and a place where inclusion may depend on economic, employment, gender or race status. Inclusion in communities within the realms of cyberspace, however, can be as easy as few mouse clicks. Just start surfing, find a group that appeals to your interests, create a profile, screen name, obtain a password, and life in a new community begins. You are now part of a community of likeminded individuals who could be situated anywhere around the globe. Geographical constraints on community participation and formation suddenly become irrelevant.