Online Communities – Friendships, Facilitators, or Both?

I was able to read about FledgeWing after tracking down its web site and scrolling through to see what it was they were trying to offer. The link that was on our virtual classroom board was not working so I had to search on my own. I only bring this up because as much as I love technology, this is a prime example of how when it doesn’t work it can cause problems if you rely on it too heavily to complete an assignment. Anyway, I left the FledgeWing site with much intrigue. I graduated with a degree in marketing from Northeastern University in Boston, and if you are not familiar with Northeastern, its 100 year-old co-op program is considered to be one of the largest and most innovative in the world. When I was a student there, I gained experience in fields that helped me to not only decide what I wanted to do (advertising and marketing), but more importantly what I didn’t want to do – accounting!! Basically you would go to school for five years and during that time period you would alternate between taking classes and working at a job related to your major. One of the best parts – you would get paid!! Even better – you could graduate with a full-time job which is truly a novel idea in these crazy times.

At Northeastern we had academic advisors and co-op advisors. The co-op advisors worked with the companies that Northeastern has partnered with for years to try to place students in a job. They also spread the word to other companies about the co-op program to try to create new partnerships with other large and even smaller companies alike. For the students it meant getting contacts and actually going on interviews like a grownup person and landing jobs in our intended fields. It is definitely better than putting lifeguard at the local pool on your resume, but maybe not as much fun. But now with FledgeWing, entrepreneurial students can have access to case studies, mentors, jobs, and networking events that bring them together with professional entrepreneurs and investors.  Northeastern has jumped on the bandwagon of FledgeWing and is one of 155 universities that sponsor this site. Some of the other schools include Dartmouth, Stanford, Babson, and Columbia. This is definitely a win-win for students and universities as the academic experience is enhanced by adding a real world component that helps students market themselves in the job world.

Remember Northeastern drop-out Shawn Fanning? His founding of Napster paved the way for the new and improved (and legal Napster) as well as other sites that offer music downloads. Fanning wasn’t meant for co-op. He was meant to create innovative companies such as SNOCAP, another digital music site as well as his latest, Rupture, a social networking site for gamers.  If he didn’t have the help of his uncle in getting Napster off the ground then he probably would have needed the connections that FledgeWing offers.

But enough about FledgeWing. My assignment was to track down another online community, evaluate it, and apply what I learned from “Neighboring in Netville” to the site I picked. If I were really cool then I would have picked a hip site like Fanning’s Rupture. However, since I tend to be practical and I am writing my thesis about family communication patterns of households with ADHD children, I looked for an online community for parents who have ADHD children. It wasn’t that hard; right away I found Facebook.com/adhdmoms. At first I thought it was an online community for mothers who have ADHD, which could have been helpful as I sometimes feel like I have ADHD given everything I have to juggle. If I could only sit for one hour straight! The site is actually a community for mothers who have ADHD children of their own, which between my son and my thesis, could be helpful. On this site moms have access to vent and share experiences about dealing with their ADHD children and all of the issues that go with it as well as receive professional advice. This community gives moms a resource where they can communicate with other mothers who understand what they are going through. For example, the discreditable stigma that goes along with this condition sometimes makes it more difficult to explain what exactly is going on with the child who is affected by this disorder. I would have to say that having to deal with a child with ADHD can be pretty draining so if this community can give me advice on how to better handle the situation, then I am all for it. I don’t want to make friends with these people; I just want some expertise. My idea of a community is that it brings people together based on location or similar interests. There has to be a common interest and you almost have to share a passion for a particular subject or activity for the community to work. However, I don’t equate that with friendship. I think that maybe the NET-L in Netville helped those who were reticent to break the ice in terms of meeting others, but I don’t think the reason friendships were formed was because they happened to live in the same neighborhood. NET-L was the facilitator that brought the friendships together. The Facebook.com/adhdmoms community is just another facilitator to bring me together with others who are dealing with an ADHD child. There is still only so much I would even talk about regarding my son’s condition in this community. If I really wanted to talk to someone, I would talk to a friend.

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