The New Christians

The New Christians

More on (Virtual) Community

If you haven’t been following along there’s a great comment string under Monday’s post, Is Virtual Community True Community?, then you’re missing out.

Particularly interesting, IMHO, are the comments from stay-at-home-moms Julie and Kristi about the great value of virtual community in their lives.

Meanwhile, Zach Lind interviews Shane and gives Shane the chance to clarify his definition of “community”:

Shane Hipps and Zach Lind Discuss Virtual Community. from Zach Lind on Vimeo.

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posted February 18, 2009 at 11:04 am

I work from home. Not quite the same as being a stay at home mom, but a similar sense of isolation sets in. And I have to say, that the more I try to find real friends, real interaction, real conversation and real community online, the more I realize that I need to turn off the computer, get out of the house, and find some real people. Virtual community is better than nothing. But I believe someone’s life circumstances would have to be pretty extreme for their to be no other option.
Where I think virtual community is much more valuable and powerful is as an -enhancement- to an -existing- face-to-face community. If your church, or emergent discussion group, or whatever, has regularly scheduled face-to-face events, and you use virtual community to keep in touch between those events, that’s going to be meaningful and help keep momentum behind those face-to-face discussions. But if you are never interfacing with real people, there is simply too much room for miscommunication online, and the temptation seems far too great to say things we know we couldn’t stomach saying face-to-face (and probably wouldn’t get away with saying face-to-face).
Virtual community is a tool. And like any tool it has more misuses than uses. But when used by a skilled hand, it can be powerful stuff.

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Zach Lind

posted February 18, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Thanks for the shout out. I read the comments and this really jumped out at me:
“Right now we are burned out from searching for a real community where we live. we’ve tried hosting variations of house churches 4 different times in the 5 years we’ve lived here, hoping each time that *this* will be it. we’ve tried “edgy” churches, but the people we encounter don’t seem to be interested in letting down the walls that really allow for “true” face-to-face community.”
This anecdote is probably more common than we think and it does a nice job of pointing out the primary concern here. The fact that “virtual community” is an option allows us to avoid F2F community when it become difficult or when we feel like we aren’t getting what we need. Why put in the effort of participating in real, face to face community when, at the end of the day, it’s really hard and it might mean we have to hang out with people who we disagree with. This isn’t to say that it’s not possible to get burned by one group or another, but if are scouring your area for a church community and you get bupkis, I think it says more about your ability to connect than the quality of communities around you.
We are re-wiring ourselves by the technologies we use and it’s lowering our threshold for enduring the challenges of authentic community. It’s not to say that virtual community can’t be helpful. It can and it has, no doubt. But there is an undercurrent of individualization and narcissism on the web and it’s re-patterning the way we view relationships.

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posted September 2, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Well said Jhimm. Lets all hope we find good face to face friends!

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Israel Shavers

posted July 26, 2014 at 2:18 am

I haven’t checked in here for a while as I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are good quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend :)

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