Key word here is community. “A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”
I was thrown back into reminiscing about “the good ole days” of the internet by my friend Chris Brogan‘s recent post about how blogging has changed in the past 17 years. I started blogging shortly after Chris did, however I remember starting my first website back in 1996. The internet was definitely a much quieter place back then, which I feel is a big reason why finding community was much easier.See, back before RSS feeds and blogging becoming “mainstream”, we actually visited our friends websites to read their journals. There is much less “noise” when you are viewing just one person’s writing. Heck, browsers didn’t even have the ability to have tabs of multiple websites open at the same time. We had a sidebar with links to our friends sites. (Mine was pretty long. As you can see from that image over there to the right.) I remember using my own link list to visit all these blogs every day. We read their words, on top of their own, hand-designed website. We discovered new websites through webrings and cliques. Webcams were our version of selfies. We sometimes got slack from our non-internetting friends and family because, “why would you put your journal on the internet?” (At least I got that comment quite a bit.) Message boards and guestbooks were the only ways to interact with each other on our sites until sometime in 2001 (or so) when comments came around.
And the crazy thing is that 14+ years later, I’m still friends with some of those people I met through their online journals.
Yeah, I have definitely seen some exceptions, but for the most part, having more ways to connect doesn’t actually help us to connect. Technology for connecting has grown leaps and bounds. So why hasn’t the potential for developing deeper and authentic community online done so as well?
For one, I feel we need a space with less distraction. Somehow we need to make the internet feel more like getting coffee with a good friend, instead of being at a 2 billion person keg party. And secondly our constant state of “busy” is both unnecessary and detrimental to authenticity. Our culture here in the United States seems to be pushing us more and more to value efficiency instead of quality. Push back. Hard. Because that is no way to live. That’s just the way to live busy.
I have seen authentic community form online, and have met several of my closest friends from around the world through the internet. So it can be done. I’ve also seen deep connections made online through many different networks. So blame cannot be placed completely on the networking tools we have access to today. (Although I will still blame facebook for many things… both good and bad 🙂 ) A big piece of the puzzle is a change in mindset. “Busy” has just become a default answer for most of us–myself included. Lets work at changing that to “lets meet up for coffee/tea/drinks/lunch/dinner/whatever” instead.