Sociology. Volume 57(3). Pages 516-532.
This article offers a critical examination of the role played by migrants’ online communities. With much of scholarly analysis focusing on the new ways in which online groups enable migrants to connect, interact or socialise together in digital space, little attention has been paid to how these groups are actually formed, by whom and with what motivations. Drawing on qualitative interviews with moderators of online groups created by EU migrants living in Wales, UK, our findings reveal the diverse and sometimes ambivalent roles played by these groups, acting not only as networks of support for migrants (‘communities of interest’) but also driven by commercial motives. To capture the impact of this commercialisation and the complexity in the field, we introduce the notion of ‘communities for interest’. The article thus offers new empirical and conceptual contributions that advance our understanding of migrants’ online communities beyond the much-discussed online/offline and virtual/real dichotomies.