Blogging. Facebook. Twitter. Those three things are practically my middle name. I've been called a "social media butterfly" over the last four years.
The question of "Can community happen online?" which has been the topic of conversation on this blog recently, has also been asked wherever I go. At conferences, at churches, and yes, even at the local cafe where by chance, a Facebook friend recognizes me. Sorry. I have to admit. I usually don't know who you are.
During my four years as the leader of a very thriving blog (FlowerDust.net), I've seen many incredible things happen. I've seen believers and unbelievers unite in generously donating close to $200,000 to social justice and poverty. I've seen people openly discuss taboo subjects: pornography, depression, anxiety, gay lifestyles, and theologically grey topics.
In some instances, these online conversations have translated into personal communication (by email, chats, or phone) and some have even turned into face-to-face meetings. The platforms of social media certainly give these personal interactions a "jump start" so to speak, because you do, in some regard, know bits and pieces of the other person's life.
But this is where it gets muddy for me. Is it community?
Given my experience living in both worlds, it may be surprising to hear, but I am beginning to lean on the side of no - what happens online is not community. Before you send me an army of frowning emoticons, please hear me out:
I believe what happens online is connection - not community.
People can be vulnerable and honest online. And at times these online connections can be more life-giving than ...