Since I’m on vacation this week, I decided to hit the BuzzUp downtown at Chacarero. Only one person, Guido Stein, showed up, but we had a fun hour chatting about our lives, our jobs, social media and this wacky digital world we inhabit.
We were talking about communities at one point, and he said something really interesting. Nowadays, everyone talks about community management and building community. But as Guido put it, what we’re really doing with social media is rebuilding community. As a people, we’ve become more numerous, more spread out — we no longer live a stone’s throw from the village square, and we no longer squat around the same fire. Social media helps make the world around us smaller. It brings the fire to everyone. To borrow a metaphor from one of Guido’s pastimes, we are knitting the community back together.
As I was thinking more about our conversation today, I realized that we are not only rebuilding and reclaiming communities; we are discovering communities we didn’t know we had. For instance, in the course of conversation (and post-BuzzUp tweets) Guido and I learned that we had two mutual friends — folks outside of the local social media sphere, at that! But for me, the even stronger case in point is the group of folks in the higher ed web marketing world in whose orbit I have been lucky enough to find myself. This community existed long before I came around, our field and interests overlapping unbeknownst to myself. But thanks to Twitter, we can find each other and knit ourselves together more closely. Some things feel so natural, it is hard to believe they are new.
Tim Nekritz’s post about the community-building power of Twitter really resonated with me — partly because it was the antidote to my “Social Media is Soylent Green” post from a couple weeks back, but mainly because it echoed one of the highlights of my year — connecting with this new group of people, both online and in person. I am happy to not only have expanded my network of contacts and colleagues, but also to have made some excellent new friends.
So maybe social media isn’t so much about creating something new. It’s also about discovering (or rediscovering) something that has always been there. Perhaps we are like archeologists, brushing away the dust to reveal the rich worlds around us.
Photo by Farther Along/Flickr Creative Commons