Where do we find community?

Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.

~Aldous Huxley

I grew up in a very small town. Much to my mothers dismay, the words “I’m bored” would cross my lips on a regular basis.

I grew up on a road that didn’t have cable until I was in the 8th grade. I didn’t get a computer that had Windows until around 1995 or 1996, and the one computer game I had to run on dos that was a game called Math Blaster. So, much of my “boredom” was busted by playing outside, climbing (GASP!) trees, and biking myself (LOUDER GASP!) to the local pond, where the small town lifeguards knew me and kept an eye out for me.

When we got a Super Nintendo system, my life didn’t change drastically, mostly because I only had my three little games for it: Super Mario (which I PWNED), Aladdin and The Lion King.

I spent my high school years hanging out with friends at each others houses, playing on the tennis team, and holding down two jobs on top of babysitting, band and chorus. In middle school, if we wanted to use the computer, we had to do it in a computer lab at school, where we’d try to sneak in games of Oregon Trail instead of doing our typing lessons. Do they even still teach typing in schools? Probably not because the youth of today would all be typing things like “LOLZ! practicin typin s so lamo. I dnt evnknw w@ we do it 4.” Better work on spelling and grammar first.

Now, the internet is a part of our regular lives. We as a culture spend hours on it, working, playing, learning, teaching, wasting time, whatever. We carry it around in our pocket on our cell phones and our iPads and our netbooks. 400 Days Til 40 wrote a blog post that really got me thinking about how we spend our time looking for community online. In it, the author discusses having not gone physically grocery shopping in over a year, as well as downloading books onto a Kindle or a Nook. So, now we are left wondering where the connection to people has gone.

My first job ever was at a local video store. Now, this was the days before even DVD’s were really mainstream, so the idea of instant streaming didn’t even exist and wireless internet was a fantasy except in some far off government lab, I’m sure. And if there’s one thing I miss, it’s picking up the physical case, looking over the movie a minute, getting recommendations from people in the store, and so on.

Computers and the Internet were designed to make our life more simple, and yet, we find ourselves isolating ourselves more and more in person, so we can communicate with the world online. I frequently find myself guilty of pulling out my phone with a group of people to check on the Facebook happenings or check my e-mail. It’s common to find myself referring people to meetup.com to look for a play group, book club or knitting group – heck, it’s how I learned about the knitting group I’m in.

I’m not saying that online communities are a bad thing – I’ve kept in touch with people, and rekindled friendships that had fallen by the wayside before the advent of Facebook. Said knitting group was located online, but now I go almost weekly to knit with these people. We go to the park on a regular basis so my daughter can find some friends to play with, and expend some energy.

So, I guess the question I’m posing is this: Where do we find community? Is community something we can only find “in real life?” Is it a group of people on a forum on the Weight Watchers website? Is it people who find each other online, and then carry that relationship over to hanging out at the local coffee house?

Dictionary.com (there’s that pesky internet again) defines community as:

noun, plural com·mu·ni·ties.

1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
2. a locality inhabited by such a group.
3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the largersociety within which it exists (usually preceded by the ): the business community; the community of scholars.
4. a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage: the community of Western Europe.
5. Ecclesiastical . a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule.

Community is where you look for it. Community, in my opinion, is a group of people coming together, in any way, shape or form that brings them together. The gaming  community. The Indie film community. The photography community. Where do you find your community?

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One thought on “Where do we find community?

  1. bearonthecouch

    I really could just reblog this entire post for how much I agree with it (As a teacher, I’m actually bummed you can’t FIND Oregon Trail anymore, and I totally remember Math Blaster!) I too didn’t get internet or cable or a console until 7th grade. And I remember walking with my brother to the swimming pool, sans parent (WHAT!). And also climbing trees. And I took typing in 9th grade too! It was dumb even then, part of an already outdated course called “Software Applications” (aka “How to use Microsoft Office”). One of the most interesting things about growing up at the same time as the internet for me is that even though the school didn’t get internet until 6th grade, by 8th we were CRUSHING the teachers knowledge-wise on what to do with it. In high school I was in this kind of experimental “vo-tech for the 21st century” program where I spent half the school day from 10th-12th doing actual job stuff re: video and graphics. And I have no idea how no one ever noticed this, but our graphics lab computers had Counterstrike installed, and we spent SO much time playing that. I can just imagine the uproar now! I’m glad the teacher never got in trouble for “inadequate supervision” and “allowing access to innapropriately violent content” or what-have-you.

    I’m totally guilty of neglecting the concept of IRL friends for the Internet. I think for people like me who find social contact scary it’s both enabler and life saver. But when I do go out, I try, very hard, to keep the phone away (there’s a wonderful game called “Don’t Be A Dick At Meals With Friends,” where whoever picks up their phone first is supposed to pay the tab. Simple and effective 🙂 )

    But can you find community on the internet? Hell yes, you can! But you already knew that 😉

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