Community via your computer

Published in the Courier Mail 20 Jan 05

When I found out recently I had to get my wisdom teeth removed, I didn’t call my friends to commiserate. I blogged it.

When my friend graduated from uni and wanted to reflect on how he felt, he didn’t write a letter or even email us. He blogged it.

When the Courier Mail wanted to host a community discussion on gambling, they didn’t just run editorial after editorial about it. They blogged it – and invited us to join them.

For those of you who are reading this and scratching your head, let me explain. A blog is short for a Web Log, alternatively known as a Web-based journal or diary. It is essentially an on-line diary or journal.. The author of the blog makes ‘posts’ which are small articles published to their blog. It may be as simple as a record of someone’s day and thoughts. It may be as informative as in-depth technological discussions.

I spoke to a woman recently who joked that she finds out what her two out-of-home adult children are up to by reading their blogs each day. Personally, I keep up to date with what’s going on in the lives of my friends by a quick scan of their blogs every few days. There are blogs about the US President, blogs about swimming training and blogs about God. There seems no end to what we’ll find on a blog.

In fact, it also seems that there’s no end to blogs themselves. Recent estimates put their worldwide number at over 50 million, which means there are at least that many people using this relatively new technology to share experiences, thoughts, research and opinion with friends and colleagues. Who needs to talk anymore!

Some have suggested that this is the ‘beginning of the end’ of personal social contact, envisioning a cold future where we all retreat into our own world and eschew live social contact. It may be – but I doubt it. Let me explain.

One of my friends recently decided to abandon her blog, commenting in her last post that she could just tell her friends any news face to face. A flurry of cyber-response was generated, asking her to continue blogging. Friends from a distance appreciated the opportunity to get a window on her world, and those she saw regularly appreciated the way her blog complemented their personal contact with her.

Far from being the enemy of personal contact, blogs may well be a champion of community. Their astonishing take-up rate and readership could be a reflection of humanity’s intrinsic desire to connect with other people. It’s ironic that technology, which so many have seen as having a depersonalizing effect on society, is acting as a tool allowing us to connect with each other.

We are made for community, and while it can be harder to find now than it was a generation ago, it is still just as important.

Busier lives, fuller diaries and larger commute times means that modern Australians may not necessarily stumble across community in their neighbourhood anymore. Few of us expect to, if truth be told. We have started to wake up to the idea that we need to be intentional and seek out meaningful relationships. The community we choose to live in often exists as a relational network rather than a geographical location.

When we find that sense of community then, it’s little surprise that we’re keen to use technology to complement that. If you’ve put in a long day at work, you can’t really call all your friends late at night to catch up. You can however, check in with ‘those who blog’ and even leave comments they can read the next day.

None of us expect social technology like blogs to replace catching up over coffee. But social technology can make the ‘face to face’ times more meaningful, allowing us to pick up where the blog news left off, rather than starting at the very beginning.

Self-disclosure is a foundational part of building relationships, and blogging allows us to do this with relative ease and convenience. This complements the deep desire we have to relate to others, to be accepted, and to build relationships. As long as people are willing to know and be known, community will continue.

So why not get out into the big wide world of blogging, even just once? You never know who you’ll bump into!

6 thoughts on “Community via your computer

  1. Now that, Ruth, is a lovely assessment of blogging and I think, in fact, a very accurate one. I’ve only been blogging since last fall and have struck up acquaintenances and friendships with kind, interesting and interested people in places as diverse as Tupelo, Mississippi and Wales in the UK. We are no longer confined by the walls we retreat behind as we step from our immediate physical environment. You and I and numberless pilgrims around the earth are able to connect in ways that help relieve the loneliness that seems an unfortunate concommitant of modern life. I shall read more of your posts and invite you to visit me at: Lookup1.blogspot.com.

  2. Ooops. That’s the greatest problem with blogging – a few missed letters and the connectionz won’t happen. My blog is: Lookingup1.blogspot.com. Since my last post I’ve read more of your commentary and am pleased to find myself in comfortable agreement with your philosophy.

  3. *bump!*Oh hi there 😉 Great article on blogging btw, you articles are always excellent social commentary.keeping tapping away at your keyboard.

  4. Thanks Ruth! Now I know that blogging is not for those slightly narcisstic individuals who need to throw their own lives out their in to the great wide yonder, but rather that it is only the next revolution of community. Good one! (not that i think we’re narcisstic, well not all of us)

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