the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: community

Community

Reverb Prompt:   Community.  Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010?  What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

I read some touching responses to this “community” prompt today.  So many of us have found such comfort, support, and friendship through community online and offline.

I’m going to turn this prompt on its head.  Frankly, I’m tired of the overuse of the word “community.”  Social media has given the word a bad taste in my mouth.  It has become an abstract.  I get lost in abstracts.  While I understand the essential human need for community, not every group of three people needs to be considered a community.  I think there are far too many people trying to create a fake community as a platform for themselves.  A group of people who develop around my words, such as my commenters or Twitter followers, should not be considered a community, unless you consider me a cult leader.   A community is a give and take.

Maybe I’m being old-fashioned.  Maybe a community can grow around anything online, from Walmart to babywearing.   I guess we all belong to 100s of tiny communities online.  So what?  Has this made us less lonely or happier?  I saw more community fighting online than ever before.   Everyone wants to make each community into their own image.

I want to escape this world of abstracts.  It makes me ill to think of you as “traffic” or “a platform” or “followers.”   Maybe I’m the only one thinking that the word “community” means something more profound, and I’m not catching the wry winks you give each other, indicating that we all are in on the charade.

I don’t want to join, create or deeply connect with ANY community in 2011.  I want to connect with individuals.  That is my goal for 2011.  Boo community.  It will be the year of the Individual.

I can go on and on about the many different individuals I met this year, but I will just mention one, mostly because she was the first one who popped into my head.   She is a good-hearted individual that I connected with this year.  She is a nurse and mother on Twitter.   She is very supportive, and gave me good advice during the long illnesses of Sophia’s stepfather, despite having her own family challenges to deal with at home.   Thanks Heather.  And thank you to the other individuals online who made my year special.  You may be part of my community, but it is your individuality that touched me most.

A Twitter Idea

Recently, I went on Twitter and mentioned that my uncle passed away.  Some of you sent me such beautiful messages.  One blogger sent a quote from the Bible.  Later that day, I went on Google Reader and noticed that I missed reading about the death of a blogger friend’s mother, a birth of a child, and a woman’s three day stay in the hospital for surgery.  After people were so nice to me, I felt like a jerk — and self-absorbed — for not sending support or congrats to others.  Sometimes I think I follow TOO many people, only giving superficial attention to everyone.

I wrote a post last week where I said that the blogosphere seemed “conservative,” meaning that this virtual world follows the rules of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman.  It is a free market system, each blogger acting out of self-interest and self-promotion, each wanting to network with the more powerful.  If you work hard, Write well, meet the right people, and give away wii-fits, you can have 2000 comments just like an A-list blogger.  It is up to each of us to work harder to “compete.”  The system works well for most of us. 

But can we make the blogosphere a little more “liberal” — meaning trying to lessen the differences between the haves and have nots, a strengthening of the human aspect of community while maintaining the free-market, democratic nature of blogging?  Wouldn’t it be nice if there was more equality in the attention we get from the community during important life events — birth, death, illness, marriage?  It is a sad fact that Dooce’s dog would get more love and attention from readers for getting a splinter in his foot than an unknown blogger electrocuted to death by a faulty laptop (sorry, just made that up, but you know it is true).  It’s just human nature, and our limited attention span.

Every once in a while, a grassroots campaign starts up after a tragedy, such as the Nie Nie Benefit Blog.  But what about the sad events that aren’t so well-publicized.   Do we care only for those when there is sufficient media coverage or the story makes it on Oprah?

I spent this morning trying to think of way to equal the playing field online, not in quality of writing or popularity, but in how we can show more concern to each other, a way to open up the community to helping as many people as possible with a friendly message of hope or congratulations. 

And I thought of Twitter.  Twitter is the ultimate PR tool (look how marketing companies use Twitter) because “social media” spreads information quickly through word of mouth.

I have noticed that news outlets like the AP now use Twitter.  Whenever there is a big news event going on, they broadcast it.  Those on Twitter frequently know about an event before CNN.  Now that is powerful!

Here’s my idea.  Tell me if you think this could work.  We set up some new Twitter account and call it something corny like BloggerCares, BloggerNews, or LifeEvents.   Whenever one of us reads about a blogger with a big event — a death, a birth, a major surgery, a wedding — even if he is someone we don’t know personally — this information could be sent to this account, and then re-tweeted to hundreds of peoples at once, sort of a personal bloggers AP service.   Then each receiver of the tweet could act however they wanted to — sending a message to this blogger acknowledging this happy or sad event, trying to be as personal as they could with someone they don’t really know, posting a comment on the person’s blog, or writing an email showing support.  If it all worked well, we would be closer to a blogosphere where every blogger who needs it — can receive a few nice messages from the community, without any thought to who he is or what religious, color, political entity — or clique — he belongs to, or whether he is A-list or C-list.  

It wouldn’t require much work from anyone.  It is pretty easy to send an “I’m sorry about your loss” or a “congrats on your marriage” in a quick tweet or comment.  I know I certainly appreciated getting those messages about my uncle.

There are still some issues that need to be worked out.  For instance, wouldn’t too many people submit the same information about the identical surgery?   Would it all be too overwhelming to handle?  I’m not sure I could do this by myself.

Is this a dumb idea?  Any suggestions?

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