Note: An earlier version of this post by Meredith Gould appeared on the #hcsm blog edited by another External Advisory Board member, Dana Lewis. Says Meredith, "It didn't need much tweaking to make it relevant for #mccsm members and visitors." Meredith Gould is a member of our External Advisory Board.
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I did not initially join the healthcare social media community as a social scientist. At first, I simply viewed myself as a marketing communications professional committed to enhancing health literacy. This, by the way, is my cleaned-up version of saying I’m committed to slashing ridiculously confusing medical jargon out of health and healthcare materials.
But old habits of education and training run deep. I’m a sociologist and within weeks of participating in healthcare community chats on Twitter, I could see a social world emerging in real time. Enthralling!
Soon I was tweeting about the social construction of health and the healthcare industry, although a content analysis of cached data would reveal my enthusiasm for proper spelling, grammar, and syntax. I quickly realized online communities generate social structure and develop as do communities in real life (IRL). One significant difference: community development happens more quickly when happening online via social media.
And so does the potential for community destruction from either outside or within, which is why I'm going on about the role of elders. IRL communities, elders are vested with and take on key responsibilities that ensure community survival.
Everything I’ve observed so far persuades me this is also true for online communities. While it may not be immediately obvious, I believe growth and survival of any online community depends, to some extent, on the positive ongoing participation of its elders.
If you’re a long-time participant in an online community, here are three (interconnected) responsibilities:
So, now consider this: Are you an elder in any online community? Are you emerging as one as the Mayo Center for Social Media and the Social Media Health Network grows? If so, how are you helping these communities community develop and thrive? What's your commitment to doing so?
Tags: Community Development