The power of online groups
We often read about the negative sides of the internet, chat groups, social media and other forms of online ‘hangouts’. As a parent I notice these articles, I devour these stories, I often read them with vigour, with the intent to arm myself with knowledge to protect my children from this lurking threat.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that we have experienced the dark side of these sites. An incident involving my teenage daughter lead us to involving the police in order to protect her. I know the possible negative impact, we have felt it, witnessed it and it can be deep and far reaching.
Thanks to that experience which confirmed my existing attitude, formed in no small part by the articles I choose to read, I was very unsure of any online groups. I felt the need to connect with ‘like minded’ people and while the internet seemed ideal it also seemed fraught with danger and people hiding behind keyboards being who they wanted to be perceived as and not who they really where.
There are no checks and balances, nor a tone in someone’s voice or expressions or mannerisms to help draw your conclusions on a person's intentions. Typing just isn’t the same as chatting is it?
What I have come to learn is no, it isn’t, but it can actually be so much more.
Generations of problems have been solved over tea and biscuits, while a group of women get together and discuss anything from their partners and children, politics and religion, to the world at large.
One of the problems probably hotly discussed during these regular get-togethers was a woman’s place in the world and their desire to be treated equally and have opportunities for work and fulfillment outside of the home and outside of their families. Incredible progress has been made in this area – sure, more is desperately needed, but today's world is a far cry from the one our grandmothers experienced.
This progress has resulted in opportunities for these casual catch ups over tea and cake diminishing, and women NEED connection. To connect well with our partners and children, we need to connect to others, as women find a connection to self, the most important connection of all, in this process.
We are also more likely to move not just houses, but suburbs, cities, states and even countries now more than ever before. In doing this we lose our long established connections, and with the pressure and busy-ness of everyday life, we can struggle to make new, meaningful connections.
It is for these reasons and many more that people in increasing numbers are turning to online groups. As women we still crave connections, we crave interaction, we crave a variety of relationships. Online groups have the added benefit of being able to search for groups with specific likes or interests or beliefs, so you already know there is a greater than average chance of having something in common with the other members.
In 2014 there were over 620 million Facebook groups alone!! Anyone can create a group on any topic.
With so many options, how do you choose the right group for you?
I guess there is a bit of trial and error; certainly asking for recommendations from like minded friends can help. Even the group platform itself can assist. One example is Facebook now offering sponsored suggestions based on your profile and Facebook activities.
I personally receive a huge amount of support, growth, development and encouragement from my favourite online groups and I consider many of the members as friends. I came to one of these groups originally by following a lady’s page that I went to for EFT. I didn’t love the EFT, but I really liked her and I liked the idea of what she was doing so I followed her page, and over time she started a free online group which I also joined.
Then she offered a paid course which I decided to do and with that came a Facebook group. This group probably knows more about me than anyone else! It is an honest and safe place to be me.
Clearly it would be naïve to think all experiences run this smoothly. I advise taking your time to get to know the group and the members before opening up too much; take your time. Wait until you feel safe, much the same as you would if meeting a new group of friends at work.
I believe the more you share of yourself in these groups the more you get in return from the other members but be cautious, reveal yourself honestly, but slowly. Do not ever share personal details prematurely.
Choose your groups wisely, follow your instinct when it comes to how much to share and who to trust, but the reality is that the internet and its myriad of platforms can allow you to form the most incredible friendships and support systems right from the comfort of your own home without the barriers of time or geography!
Times are changing, meaningful friendships and support groups can definitely be found online. Your online space can become a supportive, social and even educational collective.