Membership, Influence, Fulfillment of Needs, and Shared Emotional Connection

By: So Yun Ahn  

In 2016, Facebook changed its mission statement for its very first time. Now they do not aim to “make the world more open and connected” but to "give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together". In the following years, Facebook not only introduced a wide arrange of new Group features, but also launched the Local app, proving the statement’s invocation of community is not a strategic rhetorical decision but the actual direction this digital giant is heading. However, so far, social science scholars have only defined Facebook as an online social networking site or social media, and most applied network theories for macro and mezzo level analysis and borrowed measurements from communication studies to test individual level effects. This paper aims to return scholarly attention to the concept of community and suggest applicable frameworks for future research. First, the network and community aspects of digital platforms are distinguished. Then, the theoretical framework proposed by McMillan and Chavis (1986) is applied to demonstrate that Facebook has evolved into a network-turned-community. The four critical elements that define community according to this framework, membership, influence, fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connection are assessed scrutinizing Facebook’s affordances. Next, how examining Facebook through the lens of community adds new dimension to our previous understanding of it as a network is illustrated through real cases. Finally, the far-reaching implications that provide numerous directions for future research are summarized.

Facebook, Social Network, Sense of Community, Community of Practice
Media Theory
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

So Yun Ahn

Graduate Student, Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States
United States