I've noticed the "kids" at church (in quotes, since folks are quite sure where to place me, the "adults" say I'm a kid, and the "kids" say I'm adult (I think primarily since I'm married and have kids of my own)) hug more than I am used to, and I had internally wondered a couple times if it was a culture thing (e.g. confined to our church) or if it was a larger generational thing.

We did have conversations in college about what the increased "virtual relationships" would do to individuals, and how would it affect the desire for intimacy, and how is "virtual intimacy", where folks are willing to share all sorts of details with the larger world, particularly in a more anonymous nature, related to "true intimacy", relationships with folks in a real/touchable manner -- close geographically, so as to have a real community, at least in my definition of "community".

I agree with Phil that it is possible to have online communities, but I think there is a stark difference between those you relate with on a local level, versus internationally.  What does it mean to say that I (used to) email the developers of LifeType's blogging software every day, but never met them face to face (until I met Reto in Switzerland earlier this year), and only heard their voices once?  And does that have any comparison, within an order of magnitude, to the people I see more than once a week?  And I suppose that has to be contrasted with our neighbors, who I see almost every day, but rarely, if ever, have a significant conversation with them?

Posted by Jon Daley on May 29, 2009, 10:44 am | Read 3421 times
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Our church hugs a lot...so much so that the Peace in other churches feels strange to me with contact being at most a handshake.

My friend who grew up in Europe says that non-sexual physical contact (hugging, holding hands while walking) was much more common there, even amongst boys, with no sexual orientation implications made. I wonder if that is still the case. And one friend who visited Russia reported that it was not at all unusual for big, burly Russian men to greet each other with an enthusiastic bear hug and kiss on the lips. So I vote for it being cultural, whether of place or of age.

The question, "Who is my neighbor" is an old one, and perhaps an indication of its complex nature is that the answer was given in the form of a parable, rather than directly. I think perhaps there is no need to narrow the definition of community unless we find ourselves spread too thinly. Say all the negative things you want about Facebook, and I'll agree with most of them, but I bless it for keeping me in touch with the everyday lives of friends (and occasionally family) who are far away. Long-distance communities provide one form of essential relationship (sharing ideas with people who are more like us than our neighbors might be -- or more different), and physical proximity another kind (hugs, sharing a meal, lending a generator during a hurricane). I'll take both.

Posted by SursumCorda on May 29, 2009, 12:33 pm

By the way, your "Phil" link takes me to your main page.

Posted by SursumCorda on May 29, 2009, 12:33 pm

Hrm - my computer (or my fingers) has been having trouble cutting and pasting today - and I've pasted that text about "universal health care not working until we control the costs" about five times in irrelevant places. (the original place was Chip Smith's Facebook link, though probably all of the readers of this comment won't have access to that, I think).

Posted by jondaley on May 29, 2009, 12:51 pm

I did forget to mention my theory on blogs/facebook/etc. which I forget if I've mentioned online, or only in person, that they are only useful (as far as community is concerned) in so far as they extend or enhance other means of relating to the person.

I have a current debate about whether reading the Facebook RSS feed for all of my friend's status messages is useful - it is a lot of data, and I probably comment a couple of times per RSS session on people's status messages who I don't currently see in real life. And I've wondered if I should simply turn that off. If facebook had a way (and maybe it does, I couldn't find the RSS feed for the status messages on my own) to selectively show me friends' status messages, I'd probably do that, and cut down on the quantity of messages at least.

I went through yesterday and organized my friends into categories "high school", "star island", "bcf", "college", "hillsboro", etc. which I find useful when searching for people, and I un-friended a couple people who had previously requested friendship, since, in one instance, I couldn't accurately place them in a category, since I wasn't sure where I actually knew them from, and figured the relationship was so distant that it didn't really matter. I do have some people who don't have a category (hi Glen) but are still "friends" in some sense, they're just unique. And I don't yet have a "customer" category, which I think would "fix" some of the uncategorized people.

As for being stretched too thinly, I suppose maybe that is the issue; I guess I see it partly on the time of other people, where they (seem to at least) value the internet relationships higher than local relationships, and so don't have time to meet with people locally, though certainly there are other places people are spending their time as well. (or perhaps their just trying to subtly say they don't want to meet with me specifically... ;)

Posted by jondaley on May 29, 2009, 1:02 pm
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