I’m reading a book The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community and just hit a really interesting section. First, the author (Jesse Rice) quotes Shane Hipps' four components of community:
1. A Shared History
2. A Sense of Permanence
4. A Shared Imagination for the Future
The question many people are asking now is, Can online “community” meet all of these criteria? Are Facebook Friends and people who follow you on Twitter or IM or text you real friends?
Rice’s response caught my attention:
“Younger generations, as well as an increasing number of people throughout the lifespan, would say relating to the ‘real’ world is not an experience of either ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ quality. It is simply another way of relating. … In other words, for a growing number of people—especially those from younger generations—‘community’ is not understood as a dichotomy between ‘real’ or ‘online’ relationships, but as a composite of both.” (p. 170)
I know in my life, the distinctions are blurring. Some of my closest friends are close because our online interactions have strengthened (and sometimes created) the ‘real.’ And when I attend church online, it may not include everything the live experience contains, but is definitely ‘real.’
I’d really love to get your opinion on this one. Would you consider your online community ‘real’? Is there a line between your online friends and your ‘real’ friends, and has that line blurred over time? And should the church be encouraging online community or simply using it to push people to ‘the real thing’?
(As an follow-up, I asked my two older daughters, 16 & 15, if they had any close friends with which they were not connected online. Both said No. And as I thought about it, I have fewer and fewer close friends with whom I do not share an online connection of some sort, and more and more close friends with whom I am only connected online.)