We all need to be members of groups that are larger than our own families. This need to join groups is driven at first by the need for security. As a newcomer you are mentored and taught the groups culture. As a member you work to improve your knowledge and status in the group. You find ways to help the group succeed. Finally as a senior member you need to secure the future of the group and the succession of new members into leadership roles.
The most obvious groups, may simply dress the background of your life. Professional, sporting, cultural or religious organisations are part of everyone's life. They are the social cement that mark you as a community member. It's in these groups that the rules of "how you live here" are taught and reinforced. It's here that you develop self confidence and the social skills to be part of an effective team. Team members are respected for their contribution.
Most of us make a committment to some group or activity that becomes a heavy personal investment of time and effort. There may also be quite a significant financial investment. Some of our friends or family may think that we over-invest in this activity. For us the choice of taking up this voluntary role helps to define who we are and what we stand for. An interest can become a hobby, then an obsession and later your profession.
We learn best and almost without effort when we are with people we know and trust. Of course you can learn by reading a book, but understanding takes time. If we can talk to others and work with them our ability to use new concepts develops rapidly. When we choose to invest heavily in some organisation or activity, we will develop expertise and knowledge that few people have. When others recognise your growing knowledge, opportunities to take up leadership roles will develop.
Modern online networks extend your ability to find groups to join that meet your current need for information and for membership. You join simply by offering a name and an email address. You become a member when you begin to take part in the discussions. You are recognised as a peer when other people begin to respond to your knowledge. In your role as a member and peer, you are able to give to and to tap the full resources of the group.