Monday, January 3, 2011

online community? is it authentic?

As it seems like our world has moved more and more to interacting online, I have started to wonder about whether the online community can truly exist? Is it authentic? Or are we trying to convince ourselves that it is, even though it is not?

There are many things that have made it easier to keep in touch with people who live a great distance away from us. And that has its benefits. The family that lives across the country or is on the mission field can communicate much easier than was previously available. It is much easier to keep connected with old school friends - whether from high school or college or university. It is easier to keep up to date on the happenings of family and friends that live nearby as well.

But, can online communication really provide any form of community? Or does it make it too easy to hide what is really going on?

As I think about these questions, I cannot help but think about the interactions among readers that happen on another blog that I follow and comment on often. I would say that there is community that happens on that blog. People post genuine prayer requests and others pray for them, encourage them - do what we are called to do in community. There is a sense that it is a safe place to be honest and real. Over time an identity as a group has formed and it does feel like I am getting to know some of the other women who comment there.

But, does this replace face-to-face community? Community where people can be there physically for you when needed?

I do not think so. There is nothing that can replace having friends and family who will sit with you or give you a hug when you need it. We need that kind of community. We need for people to physically be there for us. But, I do feel that in our increasingly busy and spread-out, yet inter-connected world there is a place for online community. It can be real and honest and authentic. It can provide us the challenge and encouragement and prayer that we need. It just cannot be used instead of ever having people who we sit across the table from and talk about life with. That will always be needed. But, online community can happen and can help to keep us connected to others.

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