Greater self-esteem and a feeling of inclusiveness are just some of the psychological benefits to belonging to a virtual community, according to a new study

Members of virtual communities have higher levels of satisfaction and self-esteem, according to a new study.

The report: How do virtual community members develop psychological ownership and what are the effects of psychological ownership in virtual communities?, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, surveyed 300 individuals from a range of ages and occupations, and found that those who regularly interacted with a virtual community of some kind demonstrated a positive relationship between psychological feelings of ‘ownership’ and self-esteem.

The study also found that members of an online community are more likely to be protective of their community and relay positive judgements about the community to non-members, and that the longer an individual is a member of the community, the deeper these feelings are.

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Furthermore, the study notes that “the routes of control and self-investment in the target have the potential to be more powerful than coming to intimately know the target,” which means that for many the simple act of belonging and personally investing in an online community (through time spent there, or in communicating with other members) is more valuable than the content or aims of the community itself.

Researchers Jumin Lee and Ayoung Suh said that “Our research begins to provide an empirical foundation for future research on psychological ownership in virtual communities,” and noted that this study “shows that psychological ownership increases our ability to predict and understand satisfaction and self-esteem”.

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