Community is one of the watchwords for the postmodern generation, something that everyone talks about and no one seems to have and everyone is seeking.
Community is the reason I am taking a hiatus from Facebook, that infamous online “community.” Now that may sound counterintuitive, but let me explain…
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways in which the makeup of our city or town can influence what kind of community we experience (or don’t experience). This mostly stems from my recent dabbling into a philosophy called “new urbanism,” which really isn’t that new at all. It basically describes how cities generally lend themselves more to authentic community than, say, sprawling suburbs or exurbs. I won’t bore you with more of those details, but suffice it to say it has piqued my interest, especially since our work right now is primarily a city-reaching movement of church planting.
So, I started thinking past our physical communities to the recent phenomenon of social media, especially myspace, facebook, twitter, etc. If you have seen the recent movie about how Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, you have discovered that the onset of social media was largely caused by a relative inability of some people to successfully interact with human beings face to face. Social media was basically birthed as a way to “simulate” community, if you will.
I wonder, though…does it really do the opposite? I think for most people (not all), social media has allowed them to create a secondary identity. Think about it: you create your own reality. You control what people see about you. Heck, you can even lie about it if you wanted! Not only that, but have you noticed that people typically are WAY more “free” with what they say to other people on facebook? I’m not sure these people would say the same things in real life if staring in the eyes of that person. There’s no real accountability because it’s not a real interaction. We’re not putting the real “us” out there, just a different version, like we are wearing a digital mask.
I also was struck by how often I had interactions with people on facebook who live in the very same community, same city, same neighborhood as I do. I pictured myself and the other person sitting in our houses on our computers typing out messages to each other – from one street away! I literally laughed out loud and thought, “How silly is this?”
So I made a decision. I decided that online community wasn’t really cutting it anymore. I decided, for better or worse, to step away from facebook, get up out of my chair, get out, and be more intentional about meeting with people face to face. You know, people who live in the same community I do. Crazy, I know, but I can’t begin to tell you how fun it is to talk to people. A person. Face to face. I’m a fairly outgoing person anyway, so it’s been that much more fun for me.
Understand, I’m not here to “judge” facebook or people using it. Facebook has a ton of good aspects and potential for good. Someday I’ll probably get back on and rejoin the fun.
But in the meantime, I’m having way too much fun getting together with people face to face.
So I’m not saying everyone needs to get off facebook, but I am saying that every now and then, you should put down that bag of chips, close the laptop, head out the door of your choice, and go talk to someone. Like a neighbor, friend, relative, or heck, even someone you don’t like.
That’s the beginning of community.