My response to “Where Community is Found” by J Brown
I have to say, this post rubbed me the wrong way. As somebody who is finally embracing and enjoying social media & the different communities within it, and as an introvert who finally feels like she has a found a safe space to express herself, I don’t like hearing it said that the communities found in ‘actual spaces’ are ‘truer’ than others. I’ve actually found the internet community to be better in a lot of ways. I get all the time I need to read, listen, absorb and respond which is a luxury I’m not typically allowed in ‘actual space.’ It allows me to express myself better, to hear the thoughts of people I would never get to otherwise and to broaden my community. I don’t think one is better or truer – I just think they are different.
And I think the communities formed in both places can be equally shallow or coercive and equally inclusive or substantial. As stupid as I think hashtags are sometimes, there have been a few that have made me feel part of a group or helped me to better express my experience. Sometimes a hashtag is empowering and meaningful and sometimes it’s a gimmick. Sometimes a neighborhood meeting is full of connection and listening and sometimes there is an agenda.
Communities can have depth anywhere and be coercive anywhere. I think since there is just so much information on the internet – it can seem more prevalent and superficial in that space. It’s all out there on the internet – where as in the real world we have to actually leave our comfort and community to experience those shallow or differing views.
It seems like in this article, too, community is used interchangeably with connection. In order for a community to exist there need be no commonality other than place, really, but there doesn't actually need to be connection between the people within that place. In this since, a true community can happen anywhere – the place just might be Twitter or Facebook. Connection, though, I don’t know. I think it can exist, truly, in either space. Again, the types of connection are just different.
So, I don’t know. Maybe it is the millennial in me, or the naïve optimist, or the socially awkward introvert who has trouble connecting in real life, or all of those, or none of those, but I think you CAN ‘build community through an e-mail blast.’ Plenty of organizations and people rely on this to be the case, too, because it is the way of the world these days. And I am pleased with my internet community. I feel connected to it. I don’t feel like it would be made better by existing in actual space, because it might only be able to exist where it is. Community is community. Some are temporary, some involve no physical connection, some are bigoted and racist, some aren't our choice to be a part of, some are our family, and some are our support networks.
Community, though, seems to have taken on a completely different meaning in the last few years or more. I don't think I can yet elaborate on what that means, yet, but it is interesting. It no longer has an objective meaning, but a personal one. Not what does community mean, but what does community mean to YOU. Well?