We recently initiated an online community for a large chunk of the western part of Hot Springs Village. Using a commercial website called Nextdoor, we went through the process of defining the territory we wanted to cover, then slowly began asking a few people to sign on. There’s a time-frame within which a minimum number of verified residents must join in order to keep the new online community intact. We surpassed the minimum recently, so we can plan on keeping the thing going.
So far, there are only about sixteen members (one more, I think, than the minimum), so the community has a long way to go before it reaches a critical mass, ensuring regular activity and use. Already, though, its intended purposes have found utility: communication and information. We’ve had lost dog postings, notification of a neighbor’s death, requests for information about a flowering plant we saw last Spring when we moved here (I posted that query), and an offer of a soon-to-expire free pass to our fitness center. My sister-in-law is responsible for a couple of the postings, so it remains something of a family community at the moment, but I’m confident it will grow.
One aspect of the community that has the most potential, I think, is the ability to connect people who might not otherwise be able to have social connections. For example, people who can’t get out of the house much due to physical limitations might be better able to stay in touch with their neighbors through an online community. In an environment like Hot Springs Village, where so many residents are elderly, that capacity should be a real draw. Of course, the technology of online communities is apt to be foreign to a lot of that same population, who did not grow up with or have much exposure to online technology. That will change over time, though, so the younger people in the village and those who retire here in the future will be more comfortable with such things.
For now, the challenge is to get enough people on board to give the community a shot in the arm.