Sunday, October 11, 2015

"My Time for Change": a fitness virtual community

“This group is meant to provide support, encouragement, and motivation to help YOU achieve YOUR health and fitness goals! Welcome to the group! It's time for Change”.

This is how the Facebook group “My Time for Change” defines the aim of this virtual community. It was created in 2013 by Alida Steele, a canadian young mother with 2 daughters and the third one on the way. When her younger daughter was only 2 months old their lives changed dramatically. Alida’s husband moved away to begin a new work and she became a mess emotionally and physically. She tried a lot of things to feel better but nothing worked. So one day she decided to do something radically different. She started working out every day by watching Training DVDs at home, and her husband did the same thing while he was away. They shared their photographs and gave each other mutual encouragement. It was a long journey for them. It took almost 3 years to reunite.

Based on her story, Alida realized that what she did could help a lot of people that are trying to feel better emotionally and physically. Alida noticed that by working out at home (following sports routines on TV) and modifying eating habits her life could change in a very positive way. She felt stronger, determined and happier. So she created a blog and several accounts in social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. She was convinced that by sharing her personal story she could inspire others to change. Her Facebook group is the most famous of all. It has near 750 members and a lot of people contribute daily by posting pictures and videos of their progress. The goal is to engage people from all over the world that are seeking for their own “Time for Change” to come. This virtual community gathers men and women with the same concerns and interests in several online platforms in order to daily strengthen the main purpose of the group, which is to “achieve change”. All of them agree that following workout routines on TV and changing their diets is the best way to obtain positive results.

Members of these online platforms can share their stories too. In Alida’s blog there is a place for posting testimonials and successful stories that might help others. She created labels as well to identify the topic of discussion, such as “Diet”, “Motivation” and “Nutrition”. Everyone is welcome and invited to collaborate. However, the Facebook Group is a private place to share posts. Only the administrator (Alida) can add people based on their perceived interest in being part of this “family”. This restriction seeks to avoid having people that don’t want to contribute to the main purpose of the group.

I think that Alida’s initiative can be described as a virtual community because of its highly interactive nature; it is a wide space where people have the opportunity to express themselves because of the various social networking accounts. And all of them are based on content created by the users. In this sense, Alida provides the channels and the members feed them with photos, videos and text, so everybody can feel that their contributions are real and they have impact on other people’s lives. The feedback is important; the interactions between the members of these social media tools strengthen the main purpose of the community itself, which is to help others. The activity within these platforms is constant regardless of time or space. All in all, virtual communities are formed by a group of users interested in the same topic and allow socialization with different kinds of people based on collaboration and mutual respect.

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