The report finds:
- People can experience a strong sense of community from membership in such groups
despite the lack of physical proximity.
- Online groups are a still fluid form of human organization that in many cases attract
members and leaders who are marginalized in the physical societies they inhabit, and
who use the platform to build new kinds of community they could not form in real space.
- Many of these groups have counter-cultural norms and are what political scientists might
call “cross-cleavage” communities. These groups cut across traditional social groupings,
and bring together people normally divided by geography around a shared trait or interest.
- The flexible affordances of online platforms have enabled new kinds of leaders to emerge
in these groups with unique skills in moderating often divisive dialogues, sometimes
among millions of members.
- The leaders of many of these groups run them as a labor of love; they are neither trained
nor paid, the rules that govern their internal operations are often uncodified, and the
hosting platform – in this case Facebook – holds significant power over their operations
- These groups, some of which have huge memberships, remain emergent and largely
unrecognized: they are outside traditional power structures, institutions and forms of
- More research is needed to understand whether and how these groups will operate as
genuine communities over the long term, especially given the tensions that derive from
conducting public life on a private platform such as Facebook, and how such groups and
their leaders can be supported to ensure they provide maximum voice, participation and
benefit to their members.