October 10th is World Mental Health Day, a day for all of us to reflect on our own mental health. Here at Take This, the preeminent non-profit mental health charity for the video game industry and community, we’ve always believed that it’s dangerous to go alone. Having community and feeling connected to people is good for your mental health. As technology and online communities have changed over the last ten years, the road map for building community has become complex. So, how do we find our online community, and create healthy, fun, and valuable online spaces for others?
Fortunately, Take This has its first team of Streaming Ambassadors to ask. They bring a wealth of experience and ideas on how you can build a supportive community, not only for yourself but for all the people with whom you interact online—be it as a streamer, on Twitter or Facebook, or in a private online community.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but if we’re engaged in some sort of activity, whether it’s streaming, playing a team game, watching the latest Acquisitions, Inc. C-Team stream, or just chatting, it’s easy to forget to be actively inviting people to join a group. Our Streaming Ambassadors tell us to be deliberate and methodical to create a better community.
Talk to the people who come into your stream. I mean REALLY talk to them. If they are willing to answer your questions then ask them about their hobbies, interests, where they are from, etc. Most of the time people love talking about themselves, so get them to do it and hopefully when they come back to your stream you will have something to talk to them about. It creates a snowball effect, because maybe someone is new to your stream and they see you asking about others a lot and they will want to talk as well…. then you have people that want to stay and thus a community in the end. – MissKyliee
That’s just good advice for online and IRL! Talking to people is a great way create a welcoming environment, but there are other ways of subtly creating a welcoming community. That includes creating exclusive spaces for members of your community.
Twitter and Facebook can be overwhelming and toxic. At Geek Therapy we have created spaces that are exclusively for members of our community. It is easier for us to keep those spaces safe and because there are less people, it is possible for more people to be heard. – Josué Cardona, Geek Therapy
Listen and Respond to People
Being welcoming is a great start, but why stop there? To create connections, we shouldn’t try to seem interesting, we should appear interested! Truly listening and authentically responding goes a long way.
Listen to your community, to their feedback, and to them when they’re celebrating good times or going through rough times. A real community helps one another through bad times and rejoices in good times, and as mentioned, you need to set a good example of what you want in others. Plus, sometimes all someone really needs is just a friendly voice willing to take some time to listen and show that they care. – NihonTiger
It also helps when people know they can expect positivity and inclusion instead of criticism and scorn. People like reaching out to fun people who won’t be negative and dismissive!
The internet is full of people who hate everything—the ones w ho judge before even seeing a movie or game, etc. Although that can make you feel pressured into having a strong (read: negative) opinion about things, know that people will think you are a breath of a fresh air if you just like the things you like, and then disregard things you think might not be for you instead of loudly disagreeing about them on stream or social media. – Mxiety
“I Learned it by Watching You!”
In any community, especially if you’re a leader, you set the tone for others. Even if you’re not officially a leader, upstanding behavior can make you seem like a leader to others.
Model what you want. Community members will take cues from you about how to behave and talk, if you want people to be respectful and kind towards each other then you need to do the same thing. – RandomTuesday
You also set an example for how to behave offline, so think about what you want people to see. If they see you being healthy and setting self-limits, they know it’s okay to do the same.
Make “Burn Out” a dirty concept in your community – How better to encourage people to take care of themselves than serving as an example yourself? The idea of “hustle” and “forward always” are so prevalent, that if you want to be unique, you are better off showing a work ethic that includes time off when you’re feeling run down. No, this doesn’t mean cancel all the streams you want, it means giving your community a head’s up when you’re feeling low and watch them support you taking a break for a bit… someone might even let you know when they do the same! – Mxiety
Set Limits and Enforce Them
One important factor in building any kind of community, whether it’s online or offline, is consistent standards of behavior. Consistency brings a sense of ease and safety. If you’re any kind of leader in an online community, you set the tone and must enforce it.
Set boundaries with viewers if they seem to want too much personal information from you; or seem to be intrusive. Again, remind them what does and does not fly in your community, especially if they are new and seem to not be working alongside the community values. Boundaries are healthy for everyone, and should not be seen as a way to keep members of the community away or at arm’s length, but to show that both broadcaster and audience/moderators have a good sense of what is appropriate and what isn’t. – CypherofTyr
Your community’s rules and guidelines define your community’s spaces so it is very important to enforce them. Whether you give a warning or drop the ban hammer is up to you but somehow make it clear that some rules cannot be broken. For example, at Geek Therapy we try to strictly enforce “Don’t Yuck My Yum” so everyone feels safe to talk about things they care about without fear of being made fun of. – Josué Cardona, Geek Therapy
It’s one of those truisms in psychology that reinforcing the behavior you want to see shapes things far better than punishing people repeatedly. If you see the people around you doing the type of stuff you like to see, make sure to let them know.
Reinforce what you like. When your community does things that you like let them know! They are much more likely to keep doing these things! – RandomTuesday
This also applies to when others reach out for reassurance:
Sometimes people come into your stream with the same issue and it can get tiring to hear it, but if that person keeps asking for reassurance, chances are they really need it. Respond firmly but with empathy always, even though you may feel like a broken record. Point them to professional resources and remind them they are loved and the community cares that they get themselves better. – Mxiety
For this and other tips, make sure to join some of the Take This Streaming Ambassadors for the Take 10 Charity Stream on October 10th – World Mental Health Day. Help us fight mental health stigma by spending 10 minutes of your time giving to others, and consider giving $10 to help Take This fight mental health stigma!