How to Feel Comfortable Joining in Online Discussions
By Cynthia Bates
There are literally hundreds of thousands of discussion groups online in which people partake every day. Everything from religion to politics to support groups are available on the Internet and you can join any of them. Most discussion groups require you to register, as this helps reduce the number of people who are only looking to start arguments (and there are plenty of them). Some even require authorization from a site administrator and may ask several questions about your intentions in the group. However, many people do register and never actually join in, spending their time lurking until giving up altogether. Feeling comfortable can be difficult, even when you're hiding behind a computer monitor.
Many new members of discussion forums find that the community seems very tight-knit and unwelcoming. Many people have been going to the same discussion forums for several years and have developed close bonds with other members. Some have even become close friends outside of the forum. This can be very intimidating for new members since there are often inside jokes and references to personal details. Joining new discussion groups can be just as stressful as trying to join a new circle of friends.
Making a good first impression is vital when you first join a discussion group. Many members may feel territorial about their online community and feel like they are being intruded upon when new members join. Spend some time looking around and getting a feel for the general atmosphere. If there is a welcome section, make sure your first post is a quick introduction of yourself. You don't need to divulge any personal information, just say hello and perhaps a few short lines on why you have joined.
Also try and avoid joining in on too many controversial topics right away. People may see you as being too aggressive and avoid your posts. Stick to lighter topics and try to stay away from appearing too opinionated. Once you have some posts under your belt other members will stop thinking of you as a newbie and you can be as open as you like.
Many new members of discussion forums leave after posting a few times, feeling that no one cares if they post or not. Give it some time and understand that some of the other members have known each other for years. Be patient and continue posting, and before you know it you'll feel like part of the gang
Cynthia Bates is an Internet specialist, and periodically writes support group discussion articles for SupportDiscussions.com.
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.