Reality Bytes: Online vs Physical Communities

Communities and cultures form around shared practices or beliefs and common ground. Literal ground, often enough, informing on national identity, neighbourhood communities and locally tied interest groups. In the digital age, this ground has become more and more figurative, moving into a cyberspace rather than a physical one. Does that mean the communities there are any less real?

Growing up as a Millennial, I’ve spent the majority of my lifetime connected to everyone around me via my computer or my phone. The idea that one of my friends is more than just a text or a Facebook message away is foreign to me. Doesn’t mean I care any less for them. It also doesn’t mean that genuine friendships and communities can’t develop, take place and flourish all within an online environment.

Take for example Reddit user Generique’s ReVenture project. You could argue that this is an imperfect case study since he did actually, physically visit the people he connected with online, but that’s what I think makes it stand out and reinforces the point that online communities add to our human experiences rather than detracting from them.

Generique has the amazingly fantastic boon of being able to travel rev status, paying only for the taxes of his flights. Being a young, unemployed, unattached, recent graduate, he decided to use this to help out anyone on Reddit who asked.


He got to teach English in a remote school in Thailand, rode an elephant while he was there, helped an injured American move home, took a tour of Valve’s offices and got to use their motion capture software, went bobsledding in Calgary, on a pub crawl in Sydney and gave a guest lecture in Forensics at a high school while down under. These may seem like primarily personal experiences, but the Reddit community was a part of it too; first through the suggestion of his activities, through the fact that Generique’s travels physically involved members of the online Reddit community and then also through the sharing of the images and stories in the forum. Everyone got to enjoy his experiences, regardless of if they participated in them or not.

The medium is more than just the message, it’s the people who receive it too. The medium is the community.

But is the online, social media community any less relevant than those that take place in physical places? Would Generique’s project have meant more if he asked ‘real’ people from a ‘real’ place rather than a digital one? Almost 1 in 5 married couples started online. More people consult to the internet than their doctors for sensitive and embarrassing conditions. Gamer communities can be so strong that when one of them passes away, despite physically being countries apart, the group bands together for memorial services. Do these activities sound any less ‘real’ than actual, physical ones?

Q: Does the fact that a relationship or community starts or takes place mostly in a digital space devalue it? Is an online community less valuable than a physical one?

Bonus Q: Are you a part of any primarily online communities? How do they rate against your mostly-physical ones?




Home is where my wall is

The medium is the message, but the message is also intrinsically tied to the medium in a reciprocal relationship, especially when you consider social media. Why? Because with social media, the medium is the audience.

The way you frame your content has to be paramount when you consider social media messaging. Sure, there is considerable overlap, eg. Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook all skew to a female demographic while YouTube, G+ and Reddit, but there are also great divides, like Tumblr with their young audience and Linkedin is much older and affluent. An employed woman isn’t going to respond to a video about cupcakes the same way a teen boy would, so why would you post the same content with the same message to both those mediums and, hence, both those audiences?

I know this is a bit adsy/online marketer of me to point out, but it’s something that I think is increasingly relevant as more social media technologies come into play and lazy practitioners just decide to copy+paste their content to all the social platforms, regardless of if it’s appropriate to the medium.

Q: What social media platforms do you use the most or are your favourites for a particular activity? Why?

Bonus Q: Do you fit into the ‘average’ user type for that social media platform?

Talk Social To Me: The Language of Social Media is Social Media Itself

CherryChoogles presented Reddit with this very interesting query a few months back:


Which got me thinking. We talk about social media in our real world lives a fair bit – I admit that I have brought up Facebook posts in conversation when I talk to my friends about other friends. It’s how I find out a ton of crap about people I used to go to high school with – you know, the fuel for gossip. But social media pervades our lives even deeper than that.

Social media has become not just the topic of our talk, but a part of the language itself – we talk about how we talk using words related to the medium through which we talk. The message is the medium. And if that’s not confusing enough, check this out:

OMG, I liked your status yesterday about the Vine of that YouTube video. I even tweeted it. I saw it again on Tumblr today and reblogged it. Did you know the channel guys are doing an AMA on Reddit tomorrow? IMHO, it’s gonna go viral and totally pwn Gangnam style. I mean, Bieber doing the Harlem Shake and Miley twerking together can’t compete. It’s #awesomesauce

Anyone care to one-up me on this? Some of my favourite from the Reddit thread are:


Q: What’s the most absurd sounding sentence/paragraph you can make that would completely baffle someone from just a few decades ago?

Bonus Q: Do you think this language shift a bad thing? For language, for my generation for … anyone?

Extra Bonus Q: Has this happened before? Can you think of an example of other medium specific jargon that has seeped into common usage from bygone eras? 


The Medium is the Dumb Way to Die

The medium is the message … literally. A YouTube video goes viral and Facebook will post it around, a news site will blog about it which will then get tweeted and then the creators of the video will host an AMA on Reddit to discuss the coverage and how the traffic it brought in made their website crash. All because one little video got 38 million views in it’s first month.

Anyone remember the ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ campaign from a while back? Melbourne Metro Trains put out a YouTube video then supported it through other online channels like Tumblr and a website, posting up .gifs, stats and the like. Then they released the song on iTunes and a follow up app for both iTunes and Google Play which was very popular.


The video exploded on the internet, most news websites and tradeTV, print, radio, etc. covering it. A humble, lowly YouTube video became the talk of the world, a status which was in turn talked about through social channels.

And so the social medium becomes the social content which is pushed through more of the social medium which … You get where I’m going with this, right? It’s the social circle of socialness.

Aside from DWtD, I also really like the ‘Unlock the 007 in You’ video or anything by RedBull really. 

Q: What has been your favourite marketing campaign in the social circle of socialness?

Bonus Q: Do you think any of these viral videos / social campaigns could work in another medium – ie. a more ‘traditional’ channel?