Digital media provides multiple platforms that allow users to connect and communicate to each other, regardless of space and time. This presents incredible possibilities to meet new people online who share common interests. The development of these online relationships on a certain platform are often called ‘online communities’. Some niche websites and social media provide space for the development of online communities.
The term ‘online community’ is widely discussed by authors such as Baym (2013), who explained that “online groups develop a strong sense of group membership.” Some niche websites, such as Rotten Tomatoes for example, relate to a specific topic and encourage the audience to participate by sharing relevant information, commenting or rating. Other websites, such as the Experience Project, do not relate to a single topic. Instead, it encourages users to create different groups, where everyone can participate and share their own experience. Some of these groups, such as “I don’t want kids” and “I have done things I am not proud of” allow people to find others who struggle with similar issues, and share their story without being judged. In this sense, online communities often define their own norms of behaviour, that allow users to relate to each other. But are these online relationships as ‘real’ as offline relationships?