I happen to live in an intentional community on Martha’s Vineyard. Maybe you’ve heard of co-housing? Basically, a group of people decided to build a neighborhood with both shared and private space…and work together to make it tick. There are 16 houses in my community, and we each own our own house and the 1/4 acre surrounding it. We share acres of land, a garden and pond and a huge community, or ‘common’, house – amongst other things, like governance.
There are fun things to do here at Island Co-housing (potlucks, pick-up frisbee games, a swimming pond) and not so much fun things to do (cleaning the common spaces, cutting down trees that the caterpillars killed, paying the assessment fees). There are people that I love and enjoying seeing, and there are people that I love not so much and would rather not see.
When you put a group of people together, you are bound to have differing opinions, lifestyles and choices, conflicting behaviors and more…and we do – but none of them have been detrimental as of yet.
As I engage on a deeper and deeper level in online communities like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Stumble Upon, Twitter Moms and Mom Bloggers Club, I’ve been asking myself just how my real life community compares with my online community.
The differences are pretty clear:
- No one online sees me clad in my pj’s chasing after my dogs and toddlers. The real-life community does, often.
- The online community is corporately created and participants are handed rules and how-to’s. The real-life community has had to create this roadmap by consensus (blood, sweat and tears).
- Online community is free. The real-life community is not, even close.
- I can separate myself easily from people I don’t wish to communicate with online by being invisible. Unless I hide in my house, that’s a bit harder to come by in real life (though not impossible).
And, how are they similar?
- In order to work, both sets of community members need to play by the rules, they need to treat fellow members with respect, they need give and take on at least an equal scale – but things will work best if everyone gives more.
- The personal is political and the political is personal in both places, these days especially.
- I have found angels and assholes in both forums.
- The possibilities for each community are endless and my urge to participate is addictive and passionate.
I could go on and on with these lists, but in the end, there is one point about both of these communities that really seals the deal for me. And it affirmatively answers the title question. My real-life community and my online community both make me feel connected.
…and isn’t that the point?