Saturday, June 04, 2005


There was a post somewhere last week that has really had me thinking. It started a discussion about online communities versus real neighboorhood communities. I've had some thoughts there for more than awhile that I'd like to explore.

First, what causes a feeling of community? I'd say that it is more than a feeling of proximity, it is a sharing of something. Now, originally, this was taken to mean a sharing of the same way of living, as in a town you will share a government, recreational programs, you will see each other at the grocery store, or at the library, or at the school meetings. What caused the outreach for community to change? I think there are many things which that can be attributed to, but one certainly is the ability to stay away from it. You can, after all, now divert your attention by the use of the television, the computer, the telephone (24/7 with cell phones), and technology isn't slowing down. On the other hand, all that technology has created new communities as well, and helped them to thrive.

I want to talk first about the leaving behind of the "neighboorhood community". In my case, I live in a middle class town, with middle class people. Though my state is part of blue America, the people are very much more red. By that I mean they are less scholarly, and more simple. They are less intellectual, though no less intelligent. However, if I want to escape my born-again Christian neighbors, who mean well, but start to drive me away with their lecturing, if I want to disengage with the moms at library group that happily sit and prattle away about who is pregnant, breastfeeding, and look at me like I'm insane when I bring up a historical or political discussion, or worse yet, when I say I loved going to Iraq (that's always a shocker), I can. There was a time when I couldn't. I had to choose between alone, or being more tolerant of the differences between myself and others. (Which wasn't a bad thing, and is something I want to explore more in a later post.)

Then, I found blogs.

Now, I have met 4 of my very best current friends because of the blogosphere. I'm talking about people I would let hold my life in their hands and trust them with it, emotionally as well as physically. I can't say I had found 4 people like that in the past ten years in my "real world communities". Why? Because the internet allows people to connect by their likes and beliefs and interests. So, while two of my best buds are on GMT-8 time, two more are on GMT+3 time. Me, I'm on GMT-5 time. Do we form communities? Yes. In fact, we form such communities that we are driven together in different ways to actually form our own "real life communities". Why do you think there are so many blogger/blogging forums going on, and why are they so popular?

This is the essential and very important point. We can have online communities, with our iSights and our webcams, and Skype, and online videoconferencing. But it will never be the same as being there. (Just ask any of our guys and gals in the military!) The need for human touch is strong in most of us, the need to truly see in real live dimensions, and not through a second lens, the need is so strong that in the strongest of communities it drives us toward each other, reaching past the distances to find a way to come together. And we have, and we do, and we will continue to. My world has both become a whole lot larger, and a whole lot smaller in the past year in large part because of blogs and the internet.

And the bottom line is, when I lose connectivity in an ice storm, I enjoy checking on my neighbors, and I still bring my boys to school or community activities, no matter what the weather. Everyone has to shut down the computer some of the time, or it starts to become real life. And it isn't real life. And someday you wake up and realize that it is a crappy substitution for what only real life can provide. However, the Internet might also just be the thing that leads you to the real life you were looking for............and then, then it has done what it is supposed to. Become a pathway to a new community, a new friend, a new culture, a new career, and in the best of cases it can open up a dialogue, which when combined with real life experiences, can teach us how to love.


Anonymous Dr. Health said...

There was a time when I couldn't. I had to choose between alone, or being more tolerant of the differences between myself and others.

12:33 PM  

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