Defining community in today’s world can be challenging at best. Opportunities to relate and socialize were once pivotal points in both social/personal realms but also in the business world. Meeting the parents was a huge step and not a casual hello, closing a big deal included having the client over for a well prepared meal by your spouse, and Sundays were reserved for church picnics in some small towns. Not to say that these things don’t occur but not in the same capacity is a fair assumption. The underlying element to all of these situations were that of people coming together with a common goal, value, and philosophy otherwise community (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012). Fast forward to decades later and we now are reaching for community without actually being together in the same room. A sense of community refers to the “degree in which community members feel as sense of belonging” (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012, pp. 276). Today people relate to each other across locations and times through the internet, social media, and chat rooms. By being able to speak to each other without ever being together is impacting the world around and us. This sense of community or belonging can only be superficial though as you are not there to hear the inflection in someone’s voice or read the physical cues mannerisms afford us. Another down side is people have a sense of anonymity that they can say whatever they want whenever they want with no accountability. This is a something we have to actively call out and help to eliminate. It has been done so by groups like, Anonymous, which are a group of hackers that electronically break into prominent people’s internet based private areas and expose things like affairs, leaks, and indiscretions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my opinion. But what about the upside? Because of technology today we are able to perform such a higher caliber of citizen participation and social action than before. “Citizen Participation is when people take active roles on issues that affect their communities” (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012, pp. 277) Social action is best “described as a collective action in the community that generates the power to create change” (Schneider, Gruman, Coutts, 2012, pp. 288). Excellent of positive examples of this are the push for Breast Cancer Awareness and Colon Cancer Awareness. Both of these two diseases still have no cure but by early detection a person can have better chances of survival and remission. This has been better made a part of everyone’s daily lives through our communities and social media spreading the word. Often you will see people sign up online for 5ks as a run-a-thon to donate funds to research. This not only benefits the victims of this disease but also encourages people to spend time together with a common goal while promoting health to all those running through exercise, mental health by the joy of doing something positive and spending time with others that want to make a positive change. This to me is present day creation of community. We can all challenge ourselves to go beyond this though. We can reach out to our neighbors, coworkers, and friends and create opportunities like BBQs and get togethers to share our time as our parents, grandparents, and the early generations once did. By reconnecting we can discover so many more benefits and rally behind programs and interventions that call for change like cures for disease, support of our emergency personnel, and fight disparities. This will help to build a better world and community both next door or with the person you are talking to through technology thousands of miles away. The real question is what are you waiting for?
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage.