Community: A group of people who are called together, who love each other. That definition comes from a documentary called “Almost Real: Connecting In A Wired World”.
When I consider the world we live in, I think about the changes that technology has brought about, and the things it will continue to bring about, and how it shapes the lives of people who embrace it, and how it shapes the lives of those reject it as well.
I see the world around me becoming much more virtual than it’s ever been. People are telecommuting to their jobs, Cyber Monday is becoming a bigger deal than Black Friday, Amazon Prime offers so much on line shopping, and digital content that you almost never need to go to a store if you don’t want to, social media is growing and expanding in ways that just five years ago we wouldn’t have imagined, there are schools and churches you can attend on line… People are interacting more on line. We are becoming increasingly more connected.
Consider the changes that came about from interstate freeways and how much more “connected” people became to communities that they had not previously been a part of, and how Gutenberg transformed the dissemination of information with printing press, and how telephones changed the way people could stay in touch. The information age we live in has the kind of impact as those three combined. There’s more information available and more people to connect with. Before these things came about, it wasn’t possible to have the kinds of connections and information that we can have now. Or at least, it wasn’t as practical.
One of the things I hear often is that people are becoming less social than they’ve been, and I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think instead, what it means to be social is changing. Today I can have friends who are gold medal athletes on other continents, and lawyers in Europe that I wouldn’t have been able to meet if we hadn’t met on line, and we can be connected at the same time. And sometimes connections are made because of friends of friends that would otherwise never have been made. I can see and hear artists perform music that I’d otherwise never have heard of. And artists who don’t have the funding of a major label can reach me! It’s easier for me to keep in touch with extended family that don’t live nearby. In fact I know more about my extended family and their children and grandchildren than I ever have. It’s not that unusual for me to have three or four conversations going on simultaneously via Facebook or Messages, sometimes while I’m on the phone with someone, sometimes after I’ve just finished a FaceTime chat with someone else. I can help out friends who are traveling and need up to the minute weather reports or information on road construction. I’m more social right now than I’ve been at any other time in my life.
But it goes beyond simply being social. I’ve been hired by companies after Skype interviews and gone to work in locations I’ve never been to. I communicate with my doctor on line and get prescriptions refilled, I can even do my grocery shopping on line and have it brought to my house, I follow sports games that the teams from the school I work at are competing in that I couldn’t make it to, and it’s all because we live in a connected world.
I enjoy the technology that makes this possible, and appreciate how my definition of community has changed because of it. We aren’t moving backwards anytime soon, but we can shape our future, and use these technologies and information to live in ways that have never been imagined, and enjoy relationships we couldn’t have had before.