Photography is great on its own. I find it easy to go out in the field on my own and capture images because it is time that I can set aside for just myself. While I enjoy these moments of solitude, it is not what photography is all about and there is more to be had with the photography community!
Perhaps the image capturing is a very individualistic process for most, but when it comes to the learning, developing, and growing in photography it is a very social hobby. When you share your photography, after all, it is a very social process! There are many communities built around every part of the photographic process. The range of groups goes all the way from capturing images to processing to sharing them and everything else related!
Photography can be practiced in solitude to meditate or keep it to yourself. It is a valid way of applying the hobby in your own life to avoid the communities that exist and leaving it individualistic. The problem with doing this is that you are depriving yourself of everything more that photography can be! We are social beings and thrive off of connections. Connecting based on similar interests and skills can do great things for your life!
There is a downside to sharing photography with others and being a part of the photography community. I would be doing a disservice if I ignored the negative side. There are many out there that treat photography as a competition all of the time. There is plenty of critiquing of images that is not asked for, and many groups like to create hard lines in the sand you are supposed to stay within. There is also the brand loyalties like that with Nikon vs Canon.
The downsides don’t outweigh the positives because of how much you can learn, benefit from, and be a part of these communities! Building yourself up and making yourself a better photographer in the process is much easier when you are an active part of photography communities. There are many out there and it is good to be a part of any and all that you find value in! Just to list out a few I am actively a part of would include Photog Adventures, F-stop, collaborate, and listen podcast, Fstoppers, Photography Talk, and Master Photography.
Lastly, I would encourage you to get into an in-person photography group. There are many out there and if you live near a large city there is almost a guarantee that they meet up regularly. Check out the local listings, photography gear shops, meetup.com, and Facebook for your own local photography group! I have one through PhotogAdventures that has met up several times over the last two years and is growing! Going beyond that you can also get involved in workshops or photography conferences like the Out of Oregon workshop that happens later this year on the Oregon Coast. Get out there and get more social with your photography within the community!