It seems the word of the week (or WOW as the area elementary schools like to call them) is “COMMUNITY.” I’ve seen numerous posts this week and last on the topics of defining community, pursuing community, what constitutes a community, how people behave in community and so on. I decided instead of high jacking someone blog in their comment section, I would use my own platform to put in my two cents.
I’ve found myself behaving defensively toward online and social media lately. Some people feel these means of communication prohibit real relationship and we’re all just fooling ourselves. Others claim that everyone is simply “posing” online and there’s no way to really connect authentically. I say it’s not that much different from face to face interaction. People hide behind masks everyday and I think opinions expressed online may actually be more authentic and honest.
I have a Facebook account, a Twitter account and a blog. My community has grown by leaps and bounds over the past year and a half. I remember asking God to expand my sphere of influence and increase my world mainly for the purpose of forcing me out of my box or bubble or whatever you want to call it. There was an unexplainable desire to know more and meet more people but in my current circumstance it seemed unlikely to happen in any conventional way. I work in the finance and operations department of the church I attend. My children are all grown and out of school, well beyond the play-date stage. I rarely see my neighbors. And I haven’t talked myself into joining a gym (not that I’ve tried very hard). I didn’t see where I was likely to cross paths with people outside my existing and small world.
Enter Web 2.0 technology.
Please understand, I don’t believe online community is meant to replace face-to-face interaction. I do have friends and family that I spend time with. We talk, laugh, cry, pray, eat, and just generally interact with each other. Sometimes this happens in person. Other times it happens with a phone call or through email. These people are a very important part of my life. They are gifts straight from God.
But I’ve come to cherish my online friendships as well. God has added such richness to my life through these relationships. He has opened my eyes to a world I would never have known existed and introduced me to people I would never have met (this side of heaven). And all of this was accomplished through blogs (and their comment section), Facebook and Twitter. Yes, social media is not strictly a tool of satan (not capitalized on purpose). God makes use of it too. Community has literally been placed in my lap (via my “laptop”).
We all bring something different as our part of the community. I know I’m smarter for “hanging out” with most of these folks (the jury is still out on if I’m wiser – there is a difference!). This past year I have really moved outside my old comfort zone as far as my thinking is concerned. Now I’m trusting that God is going to use this growing experience to move me outside my physical comfort zone as a result of my shift in thinking.
If the only voices I hear sound just like me, what will I learn? I’m already there. Where will I grow? How and when will I change? This job is big enough to require both my online and offline communities. It’s going to take both to accomplish this monumental task. And maybe even another venue that doesn’t even exist yet – (cue futuristic Star Trek-y music). So get out there and mingle. Live long and prosper and Nanu, Nanu to you too!
Okay, I just blew the “I know I’m smarter” part of this post, didn’t I?