K. reminded me of community and connections this morning. and how the whole concept of community is changing. The global village that is the internet has created groups of people who share interests across the world. I have a core group of people who are Christian, are INTP, that write and are spread out across the globe. Two per cent of the female population is INTP. Very few INTP’s explore any kind of spirituality and are easily turned off organised religion. As a result, my core group is very small but honest, open, challenging and supportive.
I am part of other communities, mainly writing, where many faiths, ideas and personalities converge into interesting discussions and sharing. When everyone has a common goal there is harmony even in disagreement. Because we are an encouraging lot even when our critique is negative it is meant with no harm and no harm is taken. The commonality of purpose is, therefore, a good place for a community to start and grow.
There comes a time when the community grows too large and has to split because logistically two hundred people all trying to get their point heard, something vital gets missed. The ideal size for the community in the ether that is the internet seems to be 50-100. Given that half are asleep when he others are awake, a quarter of those will not want to pursue the discussion thread or share that day’s writing.
The local community could learn a lot from on-line communities. According to Cottrel (1983), a community is said to be competent when various members of the community are able to collaborate effectively on identifying the problems and needs of the community. It is that collaborative function that makes online communities work. The stuff that usually makes community hard work, the group dynamic thing with norms that INTP’s find so difficult aren’t present online to the same extent.
Why? Because there is no shouting people down, you write your piece and press submit, that is it, everyone has equal access to the enter key. The loudest, most intransigent person has the same power as the quietest most acquiescent person. Also if a person writes something that you find difficult, you don’t have to comment. Doing nothing is equally acceptable.
So there is politeness found in online communities, no cutting across a speaker, no loudness, no stalemates. It is a lively, useful tool but does not give us any skills in dealing with actual as opposed to virtual people. Only by getting out of the virtual world and surfacing, in reality, can we interact in the relational way we were intended. Yes, it is difficult, fraught with all the dangers of potential fallout, but we just have to do it.