the writing and photography of Neil Kramer


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.


  1. Genevieve

    Neil, I agree with you on the community thing. For instance, I am a mom who blogs. I am proud to be a mom. And I’m proud to blog. But I abhor the term mommy blogger, because it has this sort of group think mentality to it that somehow automatically defines me before anyone even reads me. I don’t like doing that to other people, and I hope other people won’t do it to me, just because I’m part of a “community.” It’s not that I don’t like reading other people or mind being associated with some of the other amazing women out there writing and sharing amazing things from their lives. But I don’t want to make assumptions about them just because of the people who follow them/who they follow on twitter, you know.

    I keep thinking about your tweet the other day about how your personal brand should be other people seeing you the way you see yourself. And I think that’s pretty damn hard to do if you bind yourself into a community too tightly. I just started reading you, found you through Cecily Kellogg, I think. And what drew me to your blog was a vulnerability. It’s unique and intriguing, and I don’t know that I’d even know what community to put you in. I’m all over the map here. ANYWAY. Enjoying your posts.

  2. Loukia

    The feeling of community with blogging/social media is strange to me. Some days, I feel like such a big part of it, and I feel blessed to have many awesome online friends and other days I feel alienated and just… not a part of any community at all. I don’t know. It’s a strange thing, and it can be very awesome, and other times… very lonely. Overall, I love the connections, though. It was great meeting you this year, even briefly.

  3. schmutzie

    I like your twist on the prompt, because, yes, it’s the individuals that are where it’s at.

  4. Titanium

    *the sound of both hands clapping loudly*

    Yes, yes and yes.

  5. melissa

    You can’t have a community without a bunch of individuals. (Note that I didn’t say “like-minded individuals”. The more alike everyone is in a group, the more cultlike it gets. And that’s not healthy for anyone.)

    Your take on this prompt is interesting. People say they have “community” online, but that community is fleeting. People come and go and pay attention or don’t pay attention to you based on whatever is going on in their lives, or if they spotted something shiny in another corner of the internet.

    Sometimes when I write online I feel like I am yelling “PAY ATTENTION TO ME!” into the ether. Sometimes someone yells back, and often they don’t.

  6. Heather

    So, I’m not your “buddy”, huh? 😉

    Thanks Neil. Whether or not you believe it, you’re “part” of my community. A very special part.

    • Neil

      Uh, yeah, maybe I’ll change that line. I think it probably reads wrong.

  7. Joanna Ciolek

    I hear you Neil. What used to intimate is now overused and totally out of hand. Community, engagement, connecting – these all lost their meaning along the way somehow.

  8. Jennifer

    I’m not much of a joiner, in human, real-life form. More of a serious-about-it loner, who resides in and occasionally partakes of the community she inhabits, but rarely feels part of it. Maybe that’s why I’m so enamored of the online venues that have come to represent a form of community to me. But I do like your look-ahead: to connect more with individuals? Something I sorely need to work on.

  9. ingrid

    I said something similar but different.

  10. kenju

    I got tired of the word community many years ago, when a certain segment of the population always referred to it as:

    Co – MOO – nuh-tie.

    It is definitely overused and often mispronounced. I vote for the year of the individual!!

  11. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    My world is smaller than yours, so my “community” feels more real too, and by community, I’m talking about blog readers/commenters and my Facebook friends. I don’t feel like I’m part of any larger online community though.

    I think community involves interaction and give-and-take and a feeling of belonging. This fall I was being hired to help create an online community for a client. Project was cancelled due to some new corporate rules…Maybe the company president declared it the Year of the Individual. ; )

  12. Bev

    I had to respond to your post on “community.” In the late 1990s, I joined CompuServe and eventually ended up in the “Women’s Issues” discussion forum. A group of us became good on-line friends and we remain friends, even though the forum is long since gone (we are now a community through Yahoo). We have seen each other through divorce, illness, coming-out stories, births, deaths, and child woes. We live in California, Oregon,Washington, Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin, Vermont, England and Scotland, and a few other places. We range in age from our 40s to 70s. Over a period of about 10 years we made it a point to get together at least once a year. We met in Colorado, Washington, DC, Portland, and we were all together on 9/11 in London, following which we went to the Orkney Islands in Scotland. I consider every one of these women a good friend. And it all started on CompuServe.

  13. Liz Tee

    Like Bev, I became part of a community back in 1998 when I was pregnant and joined an email list for women due to deliver in Aug 1999. The group thinned out over time but I am still in touch via FB with several of them. Some of us even managed to meet in person. I call it a community because a group came together around a single point in cyberspace, but we ended up with a web of relationships between individuals.

    So the people who meet through your blog can be called a community because they met here, but it’s the individual relationships that endure.

  14. Holmes

    Chitter chatter about online community always leaves me cold. I guess I’m just doing it wrong.

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