Strategy / Inspiration

May14

Social networking as community

Sonia Simone posted an arti­cle on the com­mu­nity that sur­rounds blog­gers. A small excerpt:

“Creating a com­mu­nity around what you do is still a great way to sur­vive in a hos­tile land­scape. If your cus­tomers can form a tribe around your prod­uct or ser­vice (or church or non­profit or what­ever your par­tic­u­lar gig might be), you win.”

Her com­ment got me think­ing that part of the rise in pop­u­lar­ity of social net­work­ing is directly related to the evo­lu­tion we’ve made in how we form and par­tic­i­pate in com­mu­nity. As I see it, com­mu­nity in the 50s revolved around your neigh­bors and the place you lived. You became friends with those who had close prox­im­ity to your phys­i­cal loca­tion. This is def­i­nitely still present today, but not as promi­nent (how many of your neigh­bors do you see reg­u­larly?). During the 80s and 90s, com­mu­nity was largely defined by where you worked. I believe this shift was influ­enced by the increase of women in the work­force and the view­point that “success” came to be linked with “career”. We spent more time there than at home and our com­mu­ni­ties reflected that. In these the ‘aughts’, the web has pro­vided us a medium where com­mu­nity can be formed out­side of geog­ra­phy or occu­pa­tion; one that focuses more on shared inter­ests and common infor­ma­tion. We can con­nect with both real life and online friends (also called IIFs, thanks Kristy) in a way that tran­scends time and loca­tion with­out losing the authen­tic­ity required for gen­uine com­mu­nity. This is the magic of social net­work­ing and part of the reason it’s so pop­u­lar. It’s not a tech­nol­ogy advance­ment, it’s a com­mu­nity advance­ment. No one cares how Face­book or RSS works. They care that it con­nects them with people in a way pre­vi­ously impossible.

People care about the com­mu­ni­ties they par­tic­i­pate in because it ful­fills a basic human need to belong. To be heard. To be accepted and valued. Social net­work­ing and the related tech­nol­ogy brands (Face­book, Stum­ble­Upon, Twit­ter, etc) enable us to do this with more flex­i­bil­ity and mobil­ity than ever before. And with Google tag­ging and index­ing every­thing along the way, you just might meet your neigh­bors after all.

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