I’ve been pondering the concept of community lately, and I’ve come up with this hypothesis. I’m sure I’m not the first person to think about this, and I’m working on the research to back it up. But for now, here are my raw thoughts.

1. God created us with a desire to live in community. He made us in His image. And as He is in community with the Trinity, we desire to be in community.

2. Our social structure used to be more community-focused. Work was shared, you knew your neighbors, people watched out for each other.

3. Industrialization hit, cities grew and the concept of the “American dream” was born. People began to “look out for number one” and individualism began to replace the concept of community. Technological advances like cars, automated garage doors, television, cell phones, etc began to interrupt community living and further allow people to live in isolation.

4. People still craved community, so when the internet took the world by storm online communities, chatting, internet dating, etc grew rapidly.

Personally, I have friends via my blog whom I might never have met in "real" life. I feel connected to them, am challenged and encouraged by them and have a sense of community. But I wonder if virtual community has its limitations, and although fulfills the idea of community to an extent, can never really replace community found in face to face relationship. Being a part of a virtual community gives me control over how much I want to participate in the community, how much I want to reveal of myself while a physical community does not.

So my question to you is this: how do you define community and is the concept of virtual community only a facade of “real” community?

Related Link: Special Effect - LL Barkat


Craver Vii said...

Great question!

The virtual community is “real” enough to me, but it can never totally replace the physical community we are in. It is supplemental and secondary. I am tempted to compare it to TV church versus participating with people in a real, brick-and-mortar building, but that’s probably going too far.

Why do I say it is secondary? Because it is relatively easy to play nice with or avoid internet relationships, but it doesn’t really count for anything unless we deal well with the family or neighbors in the “real” world.

It is similar to how a person cannot say they love God and yet hate their neighbor, or how a prospective elder is required to manage his own household well before he is put over a local congregation.

spaghettipie said...

Craver - thanks for discussing with me. That's the conclusion I feel like I'm coming to. While many aspects of community can be found online (encouragement, accountability, fellowship, teaching), it can only go so far because I still have the option of how much I engage...and without you ever even knowing. When we live in physical proximity, sure, I can still hide things, but it becomes more difficult. When you are physically involved in my life, eventually my true colors will shine through.

But in many ways I think that a virtual community gives us just enough "community" to provide a fix, if you will.

Other thoughts?

L.L. Barkat said...

Perhaps it serves its purpose for basic connection. And sometimes what begins in cyberspace comes 'round to life. As in this week when my spouse and I had the pleasure of taking Mark Goodyear and his wife Amy around New York City. And, when the Goodyears come again (which they do every so once in awhile), we will probably do the same.

Of course the virtual life will never replace face to face, but I do find that I become more and more real with myself and others through the practice of expressing my thoughts publicly in blogging.

Btw, Craver thought this went well with my current post, so I'll add a link.

HALFMOM said...

I'll have to agree with Craver - there's just only so much you can know by what is revealed on the written page - whether in the cyber community or reading a book with characters that become friends.

Real community takes real communication - and for me, that only happens eye to eye. There's so much that can be hidden, intentionally or not, when you cannot hear my tone of voice, see my expression or body language.

A caveat though - I have to say that even though I see Craver on a weekly basis, I "know" him much better now by being able to interact with him in both mediums.

spaghettipie said...

LL and AMM - Isn't that an interesting angle? It's like we can be selectively authentic in our virtual communities? In some ways it's easier to be ourselves when we have a certain amount of anonymity. Maybe because if people don't like who we really are in the virtual community, it doesn't hurt as much? Or we don't realize it as much?

Craver Vii said...

Plus, to a certain extent, we can hand-pick our neighbors/friends/critics, whereas family, and churchmates just are who they are. You can't pick them; you just go with what you're dealt.

spaghettipie said...

Sorry Halfmom! I meant to write you're name instead of AMM. Thanks for stopping by here!

Craver - Totally true. And I think we all have a few people in our lives that we might not have picked, had it been left up to us. But I'm definitely blessed for their presence in my life.

A Life Uncommon said...

Hello, I come via Michell G , May I say my thought on your interesting question? Iron sharpens iron we hone each other. Is this blg world one that hones you or keeps you comfortable do you grow from who you know (weather you agree,lik, or disagree,dislike), do you ponder the error or truth? are you challenged to LOVE as God first loved you? Or are you simply intertained?
Perhaps that can be a measure. The Masks worn in any context can cause that rhelm to be a vertual world.

spaghettipie said...

ALC - thanks so much for stopping by. great questions to think about! I suppose ultimately, it is more important to consider how authentically I'm living regardless of the "place."