Connections to Community

I very much live in the web 2.0 world. I IM, Facebook, Twitter, blog, have accounts with Flickr, Delicious, Digg, and several other 2.0 sites, browse the web via RSS, and probably several other things along the way. As I have jumped into these new waters, I have been struck by the ways that I have grown connected to people in ways that I did not expect. Via Facebook, I have reconnected with a vast array of people from as far back as junior high to as recently as seminary that I had lost contact with. I have been able in many of those relationships to pick up in our interactions in many ways that we did when we were together (especially with my seminary friends). I have been able to play games (Scrabulous and Facebook’s version of Risk) against some of my buddies that bring us back to some of the competitions back in the day. I have also been able to enter into some conversations and interactions with people that I would not have been able to in any other venue.

I began thinking about these interactions as I wrestled with the Scripture passages for this Sunday (Matthew 12:46-50 & Acts 2:42-47) and the focus on The Community and the 2nd great end of the church (The shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the Children of God). I have been wrestling with the idea of community and what it looks like in the web 2.0 world. What does community mean to those who are growing up in the net generation? What is community when we have lists of hundreds of “friends” on Facebook? (Adam Cleaveland has some interesting reflections upon this topic as well on his Pomomusings blog – Friendship in a Web 2.0 world.) For those who are deeply living in this new world, what does community look like? Are the connections, “friending”, twitter followers, and so forth similar to those relationships we form IRL (in real life)?

Some studies have begun to show that for many, it does bring about a similar feeling of reassurance, comfort, and strength with these online friends as with those they see face to face. I have a dear friend from my D.Min program with whom probably 90% of our friendship has been developed through email and instant messaging. In the five years that I have known her, she has become a very dear friend and that friendship has been grown through the data we have sent back and forth online. There are many others who can talk of the depth of the relationships they have fostered online and what it has meant to them.

What I keep coming back to as I have wrestled with these passages is the process from connecting to community. I completely believe that community can be fostered in an online environment just as it is fostered in a face-to-face environment just as we can stay at a level of just connecting face to face as simply as “friending” someone on Facebook. But how do we move (online or f2f) from the level of connection to the deeper level of community? As I work through these two passages, I keep coming back to the issue of sacrifice. Sacrificing what we feel is “ours” and giving it over to another – be it time, energies, possessions, finances, feelings, insights, thoughts, openness, prayer, and so forth. Sometimes it is finding ways to be fully present with the other in ways that are sacrificial.

We will explore this further in worship on Sunday, but think about the many levels of connections you have with people in your lives – through technologies (ranging from the simplest technologies of a pen and paper to the iphone) and through the many circles you are a part of (face to face or online). And what do you experience of these connections in the lives of others? What sacrifices do you make to move from just connecting with another to forming measures of community with them? What about your children as they are facebooking, IMing, TXTing, and so forth? How do they express the depth of these connections and communities they are forming? How do we begin to use these forms of connecting with one another to live out this second great end to provide the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God? How can the body of Christ be represented and enfleshed in these new communities being formed?

Update: Good to see that our new President will be able to keep his primary tool for staying connected…CNN reporting this AM that Pres. Obama will get to keep his blackberry

5 thoughts on “Connections to Community

  1. Connecting through technology has saved me this past year, two moves, three sates in twelve months. It also keeps me connect to God as I am a visual person and I listen and read the bible online often. I look things up in an online bible almost as often as I do a book know, expecially to see different interpitations. And as a side thought, I am connecting with you and getting to know you, our new pastor and friend at PCW through this blog.

    All that said, human connection, one on one and in person is still the most important. Emotions can only be fully felt between two people when their is contact, I feel. But if technology can get us started or keep us going, I say AMEN to technology!

  2. And therein lies the challenge with this new world of connecting with others. I have been struck by the depth of the connections I have made with people through online spaces, but as you said, there is something far beyond that takes place when people gather face to face. There’s a movement online for a lot of groups to do “meetups” whether they are ones that are just for local groups or I have heard of them for more widespread ones.

    More to come on Sunday…

  3. Wow! I’m so excited by what you’re saying here. I really feel like Alice just after falling thru the rabbit hole. I’m not really a tech person, have come to almost hate email just because I spend so much time wading thru the trash.

    I’ve long felt that relationships were a zero-sum game. If I add one, that means I must drop another or degrade all my relationships. But listening to you and Matt, it sounds like not only does your circle widen, but your existing relationships are enriched as well.

    Awesome blog site by the way!

  4. That’s the thing that I have experienced on facebook and other online tools such as twitter, etc. I am able to keep up with a wide number of people in a way that was effectively impossible 10-15 years ago. It is great to share not only about the “important” things but also the everyday or mundane things of life. For example…a few of my friends on facebook posted status messages like (names removed to protect the innocent):

    – NAME is not taking it personally that her son does not want to wear the scarf she knitted him
    – NAME just had his pass checked on the light rail: first time in months
    – NAME is reminded yet again that the frustration at being sick is really about a loss of control. Aches, fever, cough . . . Oh my!
    – NAME thinks she will miss her baby when he goes away this weekend for the first time.

    In each of these, I have the opportunity to know the everyday of what is happening with friends of mine who literally are spread all over the country. (Also, one of those status messages comes from the current PCUSA moderator…pretty cool to have the ongoing process of communication with him).

    It has enabled me to connect with people in some great ways and be involved in their lives as well as they in mine.

    But…as Catherineohio and I posted earlier, the challenge comes in how community is formed in this new world of connectivity. The church has an awesome opportunity to be the place where that step can be taken.

    Thanks for the kudos too!

  5. If you are curious about checking this out further, this youtube video is a very important viewing. It was done by a prof at Kansas State in his program on new media and education

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