My first online community experience was the result of isolation- both geographic and ideological. It was 1995 and I was living in England, a US ex-pat artist & writer, partnering with a British scientist in a non-profit environmental education NGO.
My hippie ideas weren't always going over so well in Blighty, a fact that came squarely home with a funder's offhand comment about an article I'd carefully researched and written on ecopsychology for our newsletter; "You're not in California anymore, you know!" So I reached out and brought "California" home to me - via an international group exploring the nascent field of ecopsychology through a mailing list. That group is still active today, 13 years later. Now we have, in addition to rich conversation among peers, a website, collaborative blog, online journal and a directory of research practitioners - all without funding or any external support beyond the University of Leed's hosting of the mailing list.
Today I am part of more online communities than I can count. Well that's a slight exaggeration, but I'm active on a lot of them and they are vital elements in my personal support system, my professional development and capacity for learning, my intellectual obsessions, creative inspirations and almost spiritual yearning for collectivity and shared consciousness. In other words, they're an integral part of my life, and I am very grateful to have access to the abundance of resources they offer.