Wilson discusses the debate surrounding whether online communities are “real”.He argues that although virtual communities do not occur face-to-face, they are representations of real identities and real connections between people. Sometimes the reality of online communities is forgotten when people post thoughts or opinions somewhere online. This isn’t a new phenomenon either. I remember in middle school (when everyone still used AOL Instant Messenger) a classmate made a giant group chat where people started making fun of one girl. She printed out the messages, brought it into school, and everyone had to have a conversation about why it was inappropriate to talk about people behind their backs online. In high school, people started attacking others on Twitter and there was a conversation/presentation at a school assembly about cyberbullying and its ramifications around the country.
Despite the fact that conversations like those take place at schools around the country all the time, cyberbullying remains a huge problem in elementary, middle, and high school environments. Studies have shown that about 71% of all students report experiencing cyberbullying and about 20% of students report multiple instances of cyberbullying in a month. 38% of frequent bully victims have had suicidal thoughts (See these statistics about bullying). I think that people forget that the things they post anonymously (or not) online are often about real people and therefore have real life effects and consequences. This is what makes online communities dangerous: a lack of understanding of the ways people are actually affected and impacted by what happens in cyberspace.