Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

Don't Be Distracted By This Post


I've wrestled with the subject a bit, specifically as it relates to technology. I can find plenty of people who tell me I spend too much time on "the Facebook". "Make 'real' friends", they might say.

Is social media a waste of time?  Can we truly create connections with me people through the internet? Can I really "know you" if I don't "know you"?

I've landed on a few things. First, I define community as a group of people with common values wrapped around common experiences. Often I share the greatest connection with those I've had common experiences with, such as playing on the same sports team, going to the same school, or maybe experience something very emotional together such as a tragedy or victory.

It's not simply common experience that grows deep connection though, it's also common values. The people I connect with on the deepest level have the same values as I do, at least in certain areas. One of the greatest community builders I've met is a guy named Jeff Slobotski. He's developed products and resources around a startup community called Silicon Prairie News. This has launched other opportunities as well like the outstanding entrepreneurial conference known as Big Omaha. Jeff didn't invent the startup community, he simply gave people with common values a place to have common experiences. This strengthened community. The people at Big Omaha aren't all the same, but they are sold out to a handful of values that everyone has in common. This creates connection - and community.

Common values and experience deepen community. So the real question is, can we have these things online?

In a word: hell yes.

I'm a little tired of hearing about how technology is killing community and "real" relationships. Can Facebook be a distraction? Yup. So can Burger King, Harry Potter, and Football. It's the world we live in - a consumer culture. In my opinion, though, we should quit being so hard on online platforms that have put a ton of research into how to create online community. Do I use my phone a lot? I sure do - but I love connecting with people. Is that such a crime?

Technology shouldn't be an "escape", but neither should anything else. If people are using Social Media to hide from real community, is that really new and unique? Have people never been addicted to things before Facebook or wasted time before "The Google" was invented?

Let's just focus on connecting with people - however that works for you.

What are your thoughts? Can there be online community? Is technology a simple crutch or distraction?

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