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Can Social Media Fill Your Need For A Tribe?

Social Media Tribes Benefit Mental Health

Do You Really Need A Tribe?

If so, can social media groups fill your need for one?

Reading the title above, what was the answer that first came to your mind? Do you think people need to be part of a tight-knit supportive community (tribe)? If so, is it possible for a social media group to establish a tribe capable of having a meaningful, positive impact on the lives of it’s members?

The answer to the first question posed is YES.

You need at least one tribe in your life, which you interact and identify with.

What Constitutes a tribe? Can on-line tribes become “your people”?

A tribe, as explained in an article by Steven Handel, The Emotion Machine [1] states:  “A tribe is a group of people that care for each other and look out for each other no matter what.  They are bonded by a strong sense of shared values, meaning, and purpose in life. In most cases, they are even willing to fight…to protect.”

Seth Godin, American author and former dot com business executive, explains in his TED talk “The Tribes We Lead” ( ) there are two things required to form a tribe:

1) A shared interest
2) A way to communicate.

By these definitions, yes indeed, people you interact with on social media can become your tribe. Whether or not this type tribe can meet your needs, depends on what your needs consist of, and how realistic you are about obvious benefits, limitations, and risks.

When you declare a tribe (or clan, network, family, etc.) to be your own, it essentially means you have found a group of people you feel at home with, and you have developed an amount of reciprocal trust. No matter what form of communication you use to interact, if you are providing each other the benefits that define a tribe, you are acting as a tribe.


When we take a look making honest comparisons, in some ways a social media tribe does not completely mimic traditional face to face tribes. The next paragraphs will demonstrate how online communications can result in more intense shareing between people who do care, yet at the same time, have the drawback of less intensely felt closeness than traditional tribes.

Is it really friendship?

Take a look below and decide for yourself: Are your social media friendships real friendships? Ask yourself, “Do I have people who are listening to me and replying, in a similar way I would speak with a physical friend on the phone?” If you’re uncertain, a comparison between the interactions you experience with your online tribe, and the descriptions below of friendship types, may answer the question for you.

Friendships can contain these markers:
  • Giving advice or collaborating
  • A kind person, who’s path has crossed yours and lifted your day
  • Reciprocal emotional support
  • Shared trusts and obligations
social media tribes meet; emotional needs

Degrees of Commonality and Finding Community 

Everyone, to some degree, instinctually desires a level of feeling connected to others.  You should not brush this want to belong lightly aside. Even if it takes a while to find “your tribe(s)”, this yearning for a place to belong needs to be filled in some way, or miss out on the benefits. This includes self-proclaimed loners; they too desire to identify with ‘something’. At some junction, they will either yearn for, or seek out, others they see as similar to themselves.  Whether or not it is realized, if this emotional need is not met, the inner self suffers; at minimum, potential growth is stunted.

Benefits of a Tribe That “Fits You”; On or Off-line

Just as with traditional tribes, benefits you can derive online involve your emotional health. When you participate in these tribes, you receive benefits that fill your emotional needs. We all have these needs, and when they are filled, we use them to experience inner growth, and thrive. Here are some of the emotional needs that can be satisfied by your like-minded tribe (on or offline):

  • Inspired
  • Respected
  • Heard
  • Accepted
  • Encouraged
  • Valued
  • Belonging
  • Comfort
  • Motivation
  • Emotionally Supported
  • Safety and Strength in Group Felt
Potentially More Benefits

Not only do these positive feelings from your tribe contribute to the overall well-being and mental health, but there may be physical rewards as well.  Some neuroscientists have suggested that human beings could be wired to feel pain when we are bereft of social connection, just as evolution has wired us to feel pain when we are deprived of our basic needs (e.g. food, water and shelter).[2]

In some cases, a social media tribe is a good option

Participating in a social media tribe can be especially beneficial if little to no tribe support is in place off-line. We all have a need to feel we are seen when present, and missed when absent.

With this positive, recall a caution: Neglecting one part of your life for another is a no-win. Consideration should be given to whether or not other areas of your life will become impoverished, due to time on-line for social media tribe(s). Now, if you do find a conflict, please remember:

Life is not black and white; you may just need to redistribute your time. It is not always a choice between “one or the other”.

When The “Invisibility Factor” Is A Benefit

Tribe relationships founded on social media platforms are a different breed. There are indeed limitations with online communications, as they are restricted to typed words and emoji’s. If you are like most, to some degree you rely at least somewhat on visual and audio expressions when you normally communicate.

Ironically, when people do express more than the usual emotion or thought online, the credit for ‘opening up’ often is given to the cloaking of their visual and audio communication tools. When visual (body language/expressions) and audio (tonal inflection/pitch) are absent, this withholding of senses can become the very reason a person finds it easier to open up more honestly; sharing on a deeper level. This baring of the soul is prevalent in some tribes due to this ‘feeling of invisibility’ factor.

Did You Notice?

Have you ever noticed if you, or someone you know, has been more open about deep feelings/belief systems online, vs. face to face? Everyone does want to be heard, though they may recoil from the possibility of repercussion. This is where another factor of comfort sharing on line comes in: Members of an online tribe traditionally are not involved in our daily lives. Meaning, chances are they most likely will have no bearing on it beyond speaking to you. (Whereas venting to a relative or someone nearby with an “opinion” can cause us to limit sharing). With sharing online comes a feeling of “safety”, resulting in some of the masks we put on in traditional society come off.

Factors I believe contribute to our being, “Willing to Accept Vulnerability When Being Heard”:
  • Removing the visual and audio ways in which we might be misunderstood can allow us to relax more. Focusing more on what we’re trying to convey, allows the chance to more accurately describe how we feel.
  • This level of quasi-anonymity can especially relieve nervousness if being seen, and audibly heard, is not your best form of communication. Literally, no one see’s you sweat. This feeling of having an “invisibility factor” puts us at ease, allowing truer feelings to emerge; plus extra time to think before speaking.
  • As the speaker has the same lack of visual and audio cues from their listener, inadvertent signs of lost interest, or focus drifting, are not known, so the speaker can assume they are being listened to attentively, putting them at ease.
  • The listener may indeed listen much closer! When you can give proper attention “later”, when you really have time, a more in-sync helpful answer can be given.
  • This leaves the speaker more apt to share openly again in the future. .

The downside of your invisible cloak…

Without the ability to communicate through body language and the tone of your voice, we do pay the price of missing some of the closeness that develops face to face. The reason we can’t exactly duplicate a face to face closeness online is due to this fact:

The more senses we engage while communicating, the closer we will feel

Levels of Closeness

For example: Bring to mind a person you’d like to meet who’s famous. Imagine you have an appointment to communicate with them for an afternoon. Now, consider your communications with this famous person in each of these different scenarios:

  • (A) You receive and read a letter personally written to you from them, via physical postal delivery
  • (B) They text back and forth with you all afternoon sharing thoughts
  • (C) The two of you talk on phone, deep in conversation all afternoon
  • (D) You guys have lunch at a quiet cafe, lingering hours to talk
  • (E) The famous person you just met gives you a friendly hug and smile at the end of a long lunch; were full thoughts and laughs were shared
So, does our sensory intake matter?

At the end of the afternoon, if you had spent the same hours communicating, through each of these different levels of senses engaged, which interactions do you think would leave you feeling “closer” to them? The more senses we engaged while communicating, the closer we feel.

Real People, Real Communication; Not Just Keyboards

On-line communications are real communications. By interacting with others online about shared interests and emotions, you are participating, in a very similar way that you would interact with some people in your physical life.

While there are limitations in place, these real communications can impact us in a very meaningful way. You’re not playing a game against a machine; there are human beings with keyboards, just like you, on the other side of your screen.

It seems too often forgot that just because you can’t “see” the person in real-time, does not negate that fact they are there. An you are affecting them, just as they affect you. Remember this, and apply it to how you view being courteous to others. Also remember this when it comes to how seriously you take potential dangers. (Please see the important link [3] below)

Important safety tips to read:

[3] Considerations and warnings about assumptions with online communications and “real people”: Just as in physical life, there are scam artist, and those who put on false pretense with intent to harm. Due to the fact that you are without some of the factors used to assess situations in our physical lives, like visual confirmation standing in front of you, caution should be used when divulging any information. Even if the intent of the person you are dealing with online is not in question, information can be, and is hacked. Just as you do not walk down a dark ally alone at night in a dangerous area, nor should you be taking risks online you are not willing to pay the potential consequences for. They can be financially and even physically detrimental. The following link is one of many with specific information on potential dangers, and measures to keep yourself safe online:

[2] http://


social media tribes mental health benefits

What if You Don’t Have a Tribe Now?

If you don’t have a tribe, or you’re experiencing difficulty finding a good fit, don’t give up! One thing to keep in forethought is humans have so many individual differences making them unique, that there is no one exactly like you.

Just Remember:  In this community you are searching for, are others “like you”.  Just as you are consciously (and unconsciously) putting out feelers, scanning for your people, your future tribe has their radar up too.  If you don’t find them, they will likely find you.  In the meantime, see the following paragraph on how to make the most of things you may be over looking.

Signs your tribe might not be right for you:

  • False pretenses on your part are encouraged, to “fit in”
  • You are shown disapproval or indifference regarding you creativity
  • Attempts are made to stifle or downplay your individualism, or the diversity you bring to the group
  • Lack of support for your true self

A truly beneficial connection with a tribe does not involve you changing who you are to conform to the norm of a community.  A tribe that is well matched to you will not require false pretenses on your part to “fit in”.  Rather, it will feel like a wonderful discovery of others who reflect who you already are.  The right tribe for you will not diminish your creativity, or stifle the diversity your individualism adds to the group.  In short, belonging to a tribe you truly identify with, will support your sense of identity, not replace or diminish it.

How Hard Is It to Join a Tribe?

I’ve been tribe-less at times.  A few years ago, all five people in my physical core-tribe moved to different states. While the people I encountered at various activities were nice enough, they didn’t quite get me; I had to fit in.  Eventually, my right-fit tribes were established again. The two solutions I found needed to be repeated over and over until my tribes surfaced were:

1) Be Patient

2) Continue putting out what I am looking to receive

Perfect Filler or As a Suppliment: Strangers

Whether or not you have claimed a tribe, there are many different levels of sameness you can experience when interacting outside a tribe.  One type of connection that can be found in any circumstance, and is very effective in keeping connections alive is what I call “Stranger-Bonding”.  This type interaction is usually brief (under a few minutes) and often powerful; especially if both parties were extending friendliness or overt kindness.


The effect from this “Stranger-Bonding” type connection, can last minutes to several days.  There are some stranger connections I will never forget.  While they did not look like much to an average passerby, in the midst of the situation it felt almost magical. An instant communication connection can be very fulfilling. Even the fact that both parties could easily have chosen to ignore the other but did not, brings a feeling of common humanity, and deep down hope that the individual kindness of many will keep the balance or tip the scales, for brotherly love to win out in the long run. I squeeze every last drop of happy out of these stranger-bonding experience; it makes practicing gratitude a breeze.

Need to brush up on gratitude?

See this Life with Holley link:  

The First Step to Locating Your Tribe Begins Before You Meet Them

As discussed in my last blog post, How To Use Hindsight To Improve Your Future (read here: ), we all engage in the social interaction of stereotyping. Stereotyping is a natural process we all use to pre-sort information about others. This natural cognizant technique, called heuristics, is one of the ways our brain speeds up intake of information.

We all encounter so much initial information each day, that this process helps us gather as much as we can.  The key word here is “initial”.  The important distinction to make, is initial stereotyping in itself is not a negative action.  Negative impacts like prejudice can develop though, even without learned behavior influence, if we don’t take the time to finish processing. Assessing individuals as individuals is a responsibility we can choose to take.

The thing to remember is:

Like attracts like; be aware of how you present yourself if you want people that share your core values to surround you.  

Never Lose ‘YOU’!

It’s true that receiving acceptance, validation, and the feeling you are of value to others, all have a positive effect on your overall sense of well-being.  However, you also need to keep in mind:

Beware the temptation to adopt the opinions of others as the only factors about your worth; especially if their opinions seem too high, or too low. Regardless of the source, whether praise, or criticism, what others think should not replace the belief you need to have in yourself.

Don’t Misunderstand

Don’t misunderstand me; it is very valuable to take all honest input into consideration, positive or negative.  From another’s point of view, sometimes tell-tale signs about our behaviors can be seen that we are too close to recognize.  Go ahead and take a look at what’s being said, but, factor in all of your realities that may not be seen, or not understood, for what they really are. Then be honest with yourself about what you find. Stick with the facts, not just someones opinion of the facts.

One of the key basics to living life with a positive outlook, is calmly experiencing realities for what they are, and continuing on. It is a slippery slope to buy into overly critical or overly praising voices.  Ensure the self-image that resonates with you is an positive, honest one. 

social media tribes mental health benefits

Anti-Challenge Reframing ©

Refresher and Holley’s Observations

Anti-challenge Reframing © 2018” was created from an idea, and partial
terminology, derived from a comment made on my June 25, 2018 Instagram
spoof-post: “International Anti-Selfie Day”.  Thank you to Vaughan
(@vaughan.knight  Instagram) for your insightful, witty words: “You could offer a ‘reframing’ service; new opportunities from old!  Start a new
anti-challenge whenever life doesn’t live up to expectation; therein lies
something not to be found in the successful events.


  • Read through my final observations below, and consider: What do you take away from time spent online.
  • If your actions do not reflect: Setting boundaries for yourself, treating others as you would like to be treated, lending a hand to others when you can, making adjustments to any online times conflict, or if another part of your life is suffering as a cause… then you ought to take a look at reframing your thoughts on social media interactions. There is no need to miss the online benefits, or create chaos in the other areas of your life. With balance, you can make room for both.

As I observed my own daily actions by practicing mindfulness the last few years, I’ve also noticed repeat patterns of behavior found in certain personality types. After stepping back, and taking into consideration all I’m aware of about others and myself, there were a few ‘self-evidenced truths’ about my online experiences which stood out clearly. I’d like to share 5 from the top 10:

5 Self-Evidenced Truths – Holley’s Observations (2017-2019)

  • More often than not, what I put out into the world is what I draw to me.
  • There are indeed groups of people who meet all of the criteria to be classified as “tribes” of benefit (on the platform Instagram).
  • Dialogue languages, and signs specific to these groups, do exist. I have experienced improved clarity of communication, once learning the nuances of this special language are in play.

I have chosen diversity; alike people come in different packages

  • Reciprocal common threads of kindness, courtesy, and compassion run through the communications I have with my tribe. “My people” are from all walks of life, economic means and languages spoken; nationalities and genders. Their personalities and cultures range from one side the spectrum to the other, thought they all have a common need: A desire to connect with other humans; to hear and to be heard. There have been few exceptions, which have not affected me to a discernable extent. Those who do not share the same outlook, wander off on their own 99.9% of the time.
  • There is indeed a dark side to even polite Instagram. I have seen and encountered the criminal and offensive “underbelly”. It’s my educated guess that most likely, sooner or later, everyone encounters negative or harmful people online. I also know, for a fact, that the possibility of encountering danger happens every time I walk out my front door as well.

Both Online and Off

It is my responsibility to keep myself in a relatively healthy environment both on and off-line. When negatives present themselves, the choice is mine to not engage. Especially online; it could not be any easier or more obvious that we literally have the option of walking away. Do you want to know the surprising part of it?

Rarely have I had to walk away, oddly enough. It has been my experience that in “being myself”, I rarely draw the negative that I’m trying to avoid. If you’re looking to have a relatively hassle free online experience, perhaps keep this saying in mind: You’re less likely to get muddy, if you’re not playing in the mud.

Social Media Tribes Benefit Mental Health

Feature Image: “Play With Me” 
f/6.3 – 1/160– ISO 200
focal length 75mm
Canon EOS 80D  
June 12, 2019

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