By Matt Dawson
In our current age of technological advancement and immediate access to every person on earth – I’m asked often about the value of “social community,” especially when it comes to young adults and aging parents. Is it real community? Is it healthy to believe these virtual connections are real connections?
This blog is an opinion so you’re welcome to disagree with me and form your own conclusion.
I will say that I’m a fan of the technological advancements we have made to make the world smaller, and to help us connect easier to each other. That being said, with every great thing comes the opportunity to abuse, misuse, and produce something unhealthy. There are many blogs written about the warnings of social media, I’m going to share with you what is GOOD and USEFUL concerning Social Community.
To start, the best thing you can do is separate what you might assume is just a false sense of community through social media into two categories: Social Network and Online Community.
We all have friends, relatives, coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances. These all represent the touch points in our lives in which we share some of the deepest relationships we have to the most casual. Regardless, this spans over the course of our lives from that kid with the glasses we were in 2nd grade with, to that girl that I met last weekend at the conference that has a similar love of 80’s memorabilia.
Social Networks allow us to remain connected and get connected to every one of these relationships. When understating the purpose and usefulness of these networks, you can enjoy connecting with an old friend from school or forming a private group with family members to share photos of the kids & cousins. This allows us to ask questions to our local network “hey…who’s got a plumber that they trust?” or “does anyone know why that road was shut down this morning?”
Social Networks are the EXTENSION of a relationship (all kinds relationships) that allow us to continue to CONNECT (network) with one another.
Online Communities can overlap some with relationships that I have in my social network, but most often are groups of people that I’ve connected with ONLINE. Most online communities are interest based and offer us the opportunity to engage with people we have never met and might not ever meet in person…but to whom we can have a relationship with through the online community.
In my current stage of life, I’m a member of several online communities that vary in interest from ministry partners and pastors, online coaching, and lovers of all things kayak. These groups are filled with people from any gender, ethnicity, and from all over the world. It’s fascinating to take a conversation to a direct message with someone in Costa Rica about the kayaking they do down there…WOW!
Some use these communities as a “safe” option for relationships because they are less likely to be rejected and can find more people with similar unique interests to theirs. Make no mistake, they value these relationships and consider these online communities very important to their life.
Online Communities are the ADDITIONAL relationships we have with people around the world that we may have never met, but who bring value and meaning to interests in our lives through these virtual communities.
Are they REAL Community? Are they Healthy?
While I do not believe that we will EVER be able to live without close, face to face, connection, and interaction with each other in relationships – I do believe you can also find real community and healthy relationships online. With the advancement of video chats (Marco Polo, Facebook Live, FaceTime) and faster connections, we have more and more opportunity to connect at a deeper level with people that we are physically removed from.
Our children need to be taught (and we often need to be reminded) that relationships are INTENTIONAL. The guidelines we chose to define our relationships will determine the AUTHENTICTY and the VALUE those relationships bring to our lives. If they are Christ-centered, grace-filled, challenging yet refreshing, with shared values and reciprocal friendships, then you can experience real, healthy community.
At the end of the day, how you approach social media and online groups will largely depend the results you get from them.
Join us at Journey Church as we discuss the details of a Healthy Church and a Healthy Community.