One of the benefits of various social media platforms is the establishment of virtual communities to compliment real life ones that users are involved in on a daily basis. Nancy Baym discusses this idea she states that there are, “Five qualities found in both online groups and many definitions of community that make the term resonate for online contexts. These include the sense of space, shared practice, shared resources and support, shared identities, and interpersonal relationships. ” (Baym, Personal Connections in the Digital Age) We elaborated further on this definition within class. Ultimately, there are qualities that both a virtual community and real life community possess, including a shared space (third places), shared practices among members, shared resources, support of one another, shared identity and even the formation of interpersonal relationships. While in a real community, for example a college dorm, there are often rules both listed and unspoken that all members must abide by in order to be considered a part of that community. Equally, this is evident on an online community such as closed Facebook groups where members can communicate with one another in a shared space, but in this case most of the rules seem to be learned rather then taught unless they are listed in the bio for the closed group. Meaning that in both a social media community and real community there are social norms in which members, establish, learn and follow. Another extremely important characteristic of both forms of community are the different types of support that each provide for the members. Often there is support in the form of common interest among members of the group, and even in some cases emotional support whether that is advice through direct communication, commenting on statuses or the act of “liking.”
Image courtesy of flickr user Grazitti Interactive
Recently, in the summer of 2015 there was a new app created by two women similar to the dating app tinder. The iphone app is called Hey!Vina, it is a social media platform that allows women to make new female friends. Jen Aprahamian and Olivia June Poole are from the Silicon Valley, California and created this app so that women can communicate within an online community to empower and connect with one another. It is a space in which they should feel supported, comfortable, free and happy.
Screenshot Image courtesy from http://www.vina.io
The Iphone app is currently only available in a few cities including San Francisco and New York City. The app works through Facebook, just like many other apps, supporting the idea that Facebook is the portal to everything social media. Facebook tends to be the doorway to making profiles on other social media sites, that and email. Once you are properly connected and accepted through Facebook then you have to take a short quiz by answering a few questions about yourself. This simple set of questions establishes your profile. Following that, the app uses a set of specific algorithms to give you a list of profiles of other women that are already your friends on Facebook to swipe through. Just like in Tinder you can now swipe through the given profiles and make matches. Once you match with another user the app then begins a chat between the two and gives a set of locations to meet at. Hey!Vina is a new app that empowers women to literally tap through their online network to make connections and friends online while leading to one on one relationships out in the real world.
Hey!Vina as a social platform can be used as a tool to bridge virtual and reality communities together. It offers a common space for users with similar interests to meet. It helps to establish and set up interpersonal relationships that might not normally occur in a real community. It does this by eliminating some of the first steps or “awkward moments,” such as approaching one another and small talk, all of that is done for you through the app. The connections to the people you are talking through are visible through each other’s friends giving the sense of community through a visual aspect. This is one major difference between virtual and real communities. Apps and social media platforms have been able to solve some of the most difficult parts of real life social interactions within communities. It seems to be much easier to meet people through something as simple as a swipe. It is also more accessible to find similarities when the apps are using algorithms to present them for you as the user.
Screenshot image courtesy from http://viralbongo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/heyvina.jpg
Hey!Vina even takes it one step further by tweaking even some of the issues with other social media platforms and quote on quote dating sites. “Catfishing” (when you talk to someone on a site but then end up not being who you say you are) or the creation of fake profiles by users has been a common problem. Hey!Vina erases this part by connecting you through Facebook and friends of friends or acquaintances. This sets a standard, as you already know the people you will be potentially matching with. While this app is only available in certain cities it has been successful in its mission of breaking down barriers and opening up new friendships and will be coming to other locations soon.