Change of scenery? Change of community.
Since moving back to Toronto in late 2001 I’ve moved around quite a bit. Part of it was born of a desire to rediscover my hometown after being away for over a decade, and determine where I wanted to finally ’settle’. I’ve recently done so again and am out in a neighbourhood I’ve wanted to live in for way too long to remember.
As I’ve been out and about exploring the new ‘hood, I’ve been consciously aware that although we are all Torontonians, and Canadians, the folks out here roll differently. If I want to get the most out of this community, I have to find out what makes it tick and what the ‘when in Rome’ rules are. Reflecting back, I’ve only gotten enjoyment and fulfillment out of any new community (work, home, play, study) when I take the time to listen and explore vs. bulldoze my way through, oblivious.
The same principles apply online and with social networks. Each network, although they may look outwardly similar, or have the same type of backbone software, is unique based on the individuals who populate it, and, drilling down, those who are its "power users" are, in a fashion, the ‘community elders’ and have more say in what the norms are. Of course, as with everything in life, as new people move in (join), the standards can begin to shift, but this usually (unless it’s a revolt, but that’s a different tale altogether) happens organically from within the network vs. by external pressures.
It’s important to keep the thoughts of your ‘real life’ community in mind while exploring and engaging in the social space online. Just because something worked a certain way on MySpace, doesn’t mean it’ll be the same on Flickr or Twitter. Just because you’d say something a certain way in an opt-in email or on a brand forum, doesn’t mean it works in a Facebook group.
Each community, and each community subset, is just as unique as the folks who populate your neighbourhood, or mine.
[photo credit: gracias! via Flickr]