I’ve been thinking a lot lately about community--that gathering of friends and acquaintances that makes us feel like we belong somewhere.
Maslow put this third on the hierarchy of needs after survival (breathing, food and water), and security (physical safety).
So, it’s a basic need, not a luxury, to have a sense of belonging, social interaction.
This brings us to the arguments for and against social media as an authentic community, real enough, though virtual, to substitute for face-to-face community.
Now, you won’t find me arguing that face-to-face isn’t important. But, I must tell you that this may be more a matter of individual usage than a general fact for all that social media bridges a gap.
I have lived in five different states, attended more than a dozen churches, graduated from several schools, and lived in at least ten different neighborhoods, and joined numerous professional and other organizations. I tell you it is impossible to keep in touch with people in those places the old-fashioned way.
Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, and other social media sites have been an interesting and fulfilling way to connect with people I have known. Quite a few benefits come to mind:
- I can connect with all five states and some foreign countries where my friends have moved to.
- My friends can all comment at once on, say, my posting of a video of the tornado that just hit our area
- I can introduce my friends to other friends
- I can remind my friends to read my blog and see comments so I know they have resonated with something I care about
- I can share pictures with no cost at all except for my wireless connection
- I can see family, grandchildren, baseball games, birthday parties, baptisms in far away places from Connecticut, like California
Well the list goes on--you know these things. But, really, if I had to contact more than one or two of these people, it just wouldn’t ever happen, not because I don’t care about them, but it would be just too time-consuming and cumbersome--not to mention I don’t even have addresses for most of them. And, please tell me how often you think I would be writing to my friend Aaron in Spain, or my high school classmates, or my college roommates, or my church friends in California and Illinois. I can tell you the answer--not very often. But, in this age, I can relate to them, albeit briefly, every single day.
And, how many photographs would I be getting from my kids showing my grandsons’ playing baseball? Or my granddaughter’s birthday party, or their first day of school? Again, probably wouldn’t happen.
Today, I Googled my own blog, and amazingly, the list included a couple of these blog stories related to food on All-Recipes. I was floored to see EIGHT comments from people I have never met or known, about my story on soft drinks. Think of it! Eight people care about what I had to say about the Ugly truth about soft drinks.
That makes me wish to write back to them. In the old world, I would never be able to connect with like-minded people who care about kids and nutrition. But, in the new world, we gather to share these things, and we all feel a little more connected, a little more educated, and a little less alone.
Isn’t that what community is all about? OK, I need the hugs from those in close proximity. But, I have to tell you, for me social media is real, good and appreciated. In fact, it's a basic need fulfilled.