Teresa Ovalle

Welcome to Me

How to Become a Groupie

on March 1, 2014

Becoming a groupie used to be a challenge. You had to do research by talking with people you knew about the group you wanted to find – which could be awkward – then you had to participate physically in the group. That can be a daunting task for the shy, quiet type and time consuming for just about anyone else. Thank goodness the internet has taken care of that for us.

The internet offers us a safe place to interact with others from where ever we may be at the moment. We can join a number of groups at any time and participate as much or as little as we’d like. As Wellman and Gulia say, “People can easily participate within the comfort and safety of their own homes or offices, for any length of time they choose at their own convenience.” (pg. 4) This makes becoming a groupie very easy. With only a few keystrokes, we’re connected and ready to observe or to participate in our groups.

Groups are a way for people to connect and feel connected to others. McKenna adds that, “One of the most basic interpersonal needs is to “belong,” to feel that one is a member of a group of others who share similar interests and goals, and to feel that one is a valued (and unique) member of that group.” (pg. 116) Whether you’re a shy, quiet type or a party animal, human connection is important to our lives. Online groups are a great way to fill that need.

The need we’re looking to be fulfilled isn’t necessarily the need to be around other people as much as the need to feel connected and have a sense of belonging. As McKenna puts it, “… it is not the physical makeup of the group that is important but instead the psychological state, “the subjective sense of togetherness, we-ness, or belongingness…” (pg. 117) Online groups allow us to bond with like-minded people from around the world. As Wellman et al. states, “It is not that the world is a global village, but as McLuhan originally said, one’s “village” could span the globe.” (pg. 2)

One of the things I find most interesting about online group dynamics is that, although we’re communicating from our own homes with others from around the world, once we enter the group, it’s comparable to visiting one person’s home. It’s like we’re there together, sitting across the counter or table from one another. Another great thing about an online group is that you don’t have to show up at a specific time, and you can leave when you’d like. The door is open 24/7 to anyone who is interested in chatting. And there is always someone ready to chat.

Groups are formed for a purpose; they are formed to meet the originator’s needs, as well as the members’ needs. As McKenna suggests, “At the most basic level, all groups serve two main needs for members: to attain the defining goal or central task of the group (i.e., the purpose the group was formed to achieve), and the fulfillment of social needs for the members.” (pg. 120) I think the challenge is to keep the group going and to have the group continue to meet the members’ needs.
When the dynamics of a group change, it’s likely its members will leave to find another group or create their own. It’s similar to staying at a party too long – why stay when your needs are no longer being met? Perhaps you’re bored or the conversation isn’t encouraging, or perhaps your strong-ties have walked out the door. Whatever the reason may be, it’s time to go. McKenna says it best, “If group salience is weak and the group fails to meet the task and social needs of the majority of its members, it will dissolve.” (pg. 125)

To summarize, if your goal is to become a groupie, but you’re uncertain how to get started, go online to any search engine and type in a community you are interested in. It’s likely you’ll have a wide range of options. Choose one or several of the listed groups and become a member. Visit when you desire, observe and participate at will, but if the group isn’t meeting your needs, then it’s okay to say good-bye.

References:
McKenna, K.Y.A. (2002). Virtual group dynamics. Group Dynamics, 6(1), 116–127.

Wellman, B., & Gulia, M. (1999). Net-surfers don’t ride alone: Virtual communities as communities. Networks in the global village: Life in contemporary communities (pp. 331–366). New York: Westview Press.