I started my first blog in 2002. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved to write. So I began to write some sort of angst teenage journal in white small letters on a black background, on a now long gone Italian platform called Splinder.
I was writing it for myself and I didn’t feel the need for anyone to read it. But then people did.
We were all teenagers, we picked our nicknames from the lyrics of punk-rock bands. We wrote about loneliness, unrequited love, and all those struggles that seem so final and important when you’re 17. We connected through a common love for OK Computer and Pulp Fiction and a shared feeling of melancholy.
Most importantly, we were there for each other. We recognised ourselves in the others’ pain. We exchanged emails, we listened and gave advice, and we eased each others’ path through the rough times of being a teenager.
The more I learnt about Japan and Japanese, the more it grew and expanded. Once again, I connected with people through the blog. Some of them I met in real life, with some we are good friends now. We taught each other many things, we exchanged opinions about the Japanese culture.
Through that online community, I found relief when I struggled in my life overseas.
Then, one year ago, I created Hitoritabi.
I can’t begin to say how many wonderful and inspiring people I met through this blog. Besides discovering new resources, experimenting strategies and learning methods, support is still the main takeaway I get from this community. Since the very beginning, other learners and teachers have been there cheering me in my successes, empathising with me in my falls.
As an introvert, I’m used to time alone and I rarely get bored when I’m by myself. But finding people who share my interests is important for me, too, and not all of my real-life friends do. Besides, they’re spread around the globe – the perks of living abroad, uh.
For years, online communities have been the point where my desire for time alone met the need to connect with people and talk about common interests.
I can be home in my pyjama cuddling my dog, and at the same time I can vent out about my frustrations, or give advice to someone struggling with their progress. I can share an illuminating article or discover a laugh-worthy comic strap and get the biggest laugh of the day.
That’s why today I’d like to share with you why online communities are important for introverts, and how to find one.
So, why are online communities great for introverts?
It’s much easier to connect through a screen
Face to face interaction can be stressful if you are an introvert or a shy person. You feel awkward and you are absolutely sure that the other person knows you do, too. The slightest hesitation or slip of the tongue becomes a major drama and makes you freeze completely.
Through a screen, you feel safer. Sure, your real name and picture are there, but you can better hide all of your insecurities. This way, you can be yourself, be calmer, and build meaningful connections faster.
You can write
For many introverts, writing is the most natural way of communicating. We write for ourselves, we write blogs, we write all the time. It allows us to think about what to say, to formulate our thoughts and to come up with something we’re happy about.
How many times did you think of something brilliant to say hours after a conversation was over? When you communicate online, it isn’t as weird to go back to a conversation and add your thoughts at a later time.
You don’t have to reply immediately
And then, there are those days when we can’t stand any human interaction at all. We hide in our cocoon of thoughts and we isolate ourselves from the world.
Oh, the struggle of getting a message on one of those days… Is it just me, or this system of showing people when a message was received and read must be some sort of complot against introverts’ mental sanity?
Anyway, when you are in an online community you’re not expected to reply straight away. You can take your day off and get back to the conversation when you feel ready for some social interaction.
Where can you find online communities for language learners?
Language learning forums
Most of the biggest websites and apps for language learning have forums where users can get in touch with each other and find advice.
For example, Duolingo, Memrise and Clozemaster have forums where you can discuss with people learning the same language as you. On HiNative and Polyglotclub you can also ask native speakers to correct the things you write.
The language learning community on Instagram is so lovely.
Learners are willing to step out of their comfort zone and make mistakes, and everyone is there to look out for you through your journey, make kind corrections to your writing and make you feel welcome.
Plus, if pictures are your thing, you can practice your skills in photography, too.
If you already have a blog, you can join a link-up. It means that you write a blog post on a common theme as other bloggers, usually on a set date, and share the link. Then you read, comment and cheer for other learners, and they will read, comment and cheer for you.
The pace is a bit faster on Twitter, but you can still join threads and discussions in your own time.
A lot of learners and teachers are easy to contact there, and you can interact in a not-committing way in just a couple of sentences. For me, Twitter is a place where I can get in touch with others with as little stress as possible.
Follow people who learn and teach your target language, or for general content about language learning check the hashtags #langchat and #languagelearning.
You might also want to keep an eye on #langsummit, a big online event for language lovers coming up soon.
From time to time there are language challenges going on there, too. If you feel brave, they are always a fun way to connect with other learners.
Facebook is becoming more and more a place where people connect and socialise, and less a place where getting passive knowledge.
Showing up with your actual name and picture can be daunting, but in most of the groups that I explored people are, once again, kind and helpful.
And as you are here, nodding along at our shared introvert struggles, why not joining a newborn Facebook group, The quiet language learners’ nest?
I created it because I would love to build a warm and supportive community where introvert, shy and anxious language learners can thrive. There, no one will shout you must speak from day one, or push you towards fluency in no time.
Where is the fun in cutting the learning process short, anyway?
I hope to see you there to start this journey together.
Do you look for support in your language learning and community online? Which are your favourite virtual huts? If you have any good one to recommend, let me know in the comments. 🙂