Exploring The Mental Health Benefits of Online Communities
For a while now, we’ve been told that the online world is detrimental to our mental and physical health. It has been attributed to an increase in depression throughout society, low self-esteem amongst children, and a surge of loneliness in our communities.
However, social media and online communities have also become lifelines for many people across the globe. In fact, online communities have provided help, support, and much-needed company for those in isolation during the pandemic.
Today, we’ll be exploring the myriad of health benefits that online communities provide when they’re used correctly.
Are online communities an introvert’s best friend?
Social isolation has long been recognized as a trigger for mental illness. On the contrary, social connection, which is easily accessible through interacting in online communities, can help ease anxiety and depression, all while instilling feelings of happiness and contentment.
Online communities have become a lifeline during the pandemic. However, in pre-pandemic times, these same online communities provided a comfortable social space for introverted people or those who live in more remote areas.
One of the key benefits of using online communities is that they open up your social circle to a global population of like-minded individuals without any geographic limitations.
Extroverts make up around 50% of the global population, which means almost half of us are either introverts or a mixture of both; ambiverts. This means that around half of us will experience uneasiness, anxiety, and discomfort when we’re put into a social situation.
These negative emotions resonate with introverted individuals after a social event, discouraging them from partaking in another social activity. What we see here is a vicious circle of loneliness.
By grouping together like-minded individuals in an online space, what virtual communities do is make it easier for the introverts amongst us to meet other people without the familiar feelings of social anxiety.
Even if an introvert is hesitant to seek new friendships within an online community, simply reading about other peoples’ experiences can help to validate their own thoughts and feelings.
This connection and familiarity can immediately make individuals feel less alone. Online communities remind you that there are always others who can relate to what you might be thinking or feeling.
It’s easier to express yourself openly in a safe space
It’s not always easy to talk to your friends or family about everything in your life. Perhaps you feel uncomfortable discussing a particular topic, or they simply don’t have the expertise to address your question or concern.
A community can provide an alternative support network, home to hundreds or even thousands of people who are experienced or qualified in a niche area and who can provide advice that you might not otherwise have access to.
Some of us may find it easier to share opinions, discuss ideas, and exchange information online, with a degree of anonymity.
In an online community, expressing your opinions can be done through a variety of media such as text, photos, or even videos, which can feel less daunting than talking with family, friends, or to a room of people face-to-face.
Writing down your ideas can also help you understand them better. Alternatively, by reading about someone else’s similar experiences, you might be able to piece together your own jumbled thoughts, reducing any feelings of alienation and increasing your feeling of connectivity to others.
Simply knowing there is a group of similar people out there and accessible within a few clicks or taps is enough to provide a supportive feeling for many feeling alone, disconnected, or misunderstood.
Are meaningful relationships the key to improving your mental health?
Online communities group people together that share similar interests, experiences, or passions. Finding commonality between a group of people makes it easier for those inside the community to build meaningful connections and genuine friendships, and, as we explore in this article, true friendships can be an effective way to boost your emotional wellness.
Meaningful connections go beyond transactional chatting and focus on building mutually supportive relationships. Those of us who share common experiences, interests, or values are more likely to build a strong and long-lasting relationship.
By building deeper connections beyond surface-level niceties, relationships can help provide purpose and meaning in your life, encourage positive behaviors, and even help you better process your emotions.
Online communities contribute to keeping your brain young and active
An advantage of online communities that is seldom discussed is the connection between socializing and brain health. Keeping your brain active is proven to keep you feeling both mentally and physically younger.
It’s said that our brain’s cognitive ability starts to decline after we turn 25, and changing just a few of our daily habits can significantly reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Mental stimulation is shown to offset the chances of depression, dementia, and other diseases, primarily because it increases the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the brain.
Online communities naturally encourage discussion and knowledge exchange, both of which keep your brain engaged and therefore more healthy.
Conversing with others, picking up new ideas, solving problems, and learning new things in an online community are all great ways to improve brain performance.
Our Final Thoughts
Many of the mental health benefits of online communities come from the perks of socializing with people that share common interests, relate to your stories and queries, and empathize with your struggles.
At Panion, we recognize the benefits of positive social experiences where members can engage in online communities to improve their mental health.
Therefore, we are committed to building a safe environment that facilitates meaningful connections where members can meet like-minded people that help them feel more mentally well.