Open or Closed Community, That is the Question

Online Communities

Online Communities have been a part of life since back in 1973 (Lake, 2009) and have grown to be a big aspect of social media use. An online community is “a group of people who interact online around a shared interest, challenge, or goal” (Tribe Blog, 2021). Currently we see the use of online communities on social media networks like Facebook and Reddit. Facebook has the ability to hold open and closed communities while Reddit is considered an open online community.

So you may be wondering, what is the difference between an open and closed community? According to Dr Elson Joy (2019) from Youtube, an open community is where anyone can join or contribute. As mentioned above, Reddit would be considered an open community. A closed community is a community that has intentionally limited its members. They can also include access to member-only resources.

According to Marjorie Anderson (2018), one of the main pros of an open community is that you can have a large reach and can get in touch with many people. Going off of that Dr Elson Jay from Yotube also shared that an open group can show up within a SEO search making it easier for people to find. A major con of open communities is that their is a lack of privacy for members and it can be hard to monitor trolls. In an article by Sarah Zhang (2018), shared a story where the administrator of a sexual assault group administrators suddenly changed it into a group for sharing erotica, and trolls began harassing the members. Obviously this would be traumatic for the members and makes this group an unsafe environment. Overall, when choosing to have an open community, it can really depend on the type of group you are hosting. If it is light-hearted and fun, or even just a group for like-minded people an open community could be a great idea, especially if your goal is to reach many people. If it a group for sexual assault survivors or more private and serious matters, a closed community may be a better option.

A big benefit of a closed community is that it has a tendency to come with member-only perks. By joining the closed group, you may have access to resources that are only for those certain members. In a closed group, members also get a sense of privacy and trust. As mentioned by Zhang (2018), there was a group of for DNA NPE members who were so worried that a father might kill someone upon finding out that his child was the product of an affair. Privacy of members is an important part of a closed community. When a closed community limits the members of the group to people who genuinely are considered a target audience, making the conversation and dialogue consistently relevant. This can be a double-edged sword as this means less people may be likely to join the group.

Overall, there are many different reasons to consider when deciding whether or not to create an open or closed online community. Both offer many benefits, but it is also important to weigh the cons when deciding for your specific group. Are you a member of any closed or open online communities?

Anderson, M., & Name. (2018, June 17). Should the door to your community be open or closed? Community by Association. https://communitybyassociation.com/2018/06/02/should-the-door-to-your-community-be-open-or-closed/.

Lake, M. (2009) Timeline: The evolution of online communities, Computerworld.

Waddington, S. (2019, June 17) Facebook group ‘saves two lives’ as people open

“What Is an Online Community? (And How You Can Grow One).” Tribe Blog, 25 June 2021, https://tribe.so/blog/what-is-online-community/

Zhang, S. (2018, October 26) Facebook Groups as Therapy

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