Buzzwords Pt 2

Noun – a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

My second buzzword for this season of life is Community. 

There are two common definitions of community, one focusses on the physical, a group of people living or working in close contact with one another, the other focusses on the emotional.  For my purpose I am much more interested in the later.

Google co-founder, Eric Schmidt in his book “The New Digital Age”, states that:

Everything is equidistant in virtual space.

Eric Schmidt, co-founder Google

In the age of social media and online communication, that means developing close community with individuals is less dependent on physical proximity and more a function of shared interests and goals. 

Last time we talked about the decline in truth and trust that has occurred as a result of fake news.  The same forces that are creating polarization of thought through social media are also providing an unprecedented opportunity for people to find each other and form communities. 

Right now, I am spending my time working and developing relationships through three distinct communities. 

First, I am a member of a vibrant expression of online church.  My church community meets weekly for a live stream presentation, similar to a traditional in person gathering and then during the week in small groups, for learning and discussion, also currently online.  COVID has necessitated that these meetings take place online but as Eric Schmidt has reminded us, because distance is irrelevant in virtual space, we have members in both the large weekly gathering and the small groups logging on from every corner of the globe. 

Second, I am a member of a business community that until recently functioned within a limited geographic area.  Now, due to the need for physical distance, technology, and the fact that  I am governed by a provincial licensing body I have been able to expand my reach across a much larger area without having to leave my home office.  Before COVID I never would have dreamed about soliciting business in cities more than an hour’s drive from my home, today I regularly video conference with people not only in a different city, but in a different time zone.   

Third, I am a developing friendship with fellow triathletes, literally all over the world.  This is perhaps the most surprising development to come out of COVID.  Last summer, I posted a photo of myself completing a run workout to Instagram.  That photo triggered a conversation with a triathlete in Australia!  To date I have opened dialogues with fellow triathletes in Winnipeg, Utah, Australia, and South Africa that never would have happened without the ability to form community online.

These communities, as the definition describes are predicated on common interests and shared goals.  But for them to work, they must also be built on a shared understanding of my previous buzzword, trust.  It is extremely easy for communities like these to become echo chambers where only like-minded voices are heard and all other information is filtered out both innocently through passive filtering and through active exclusion of conflicting ideas. 

In order or prevent this “siloing” of ideas we must actively seek out diversity on two levels.  First within the communities themselves and second in the number and types of communities we join.  The more ethnically, socio-economically, and educational diverse we are within each community the less likely additional biases like those around political affiliation are to creep in.  And we must be careful to seek out different communities that serve to represent a diversity of interests within our own selves.  In my case I strive to remain active in spiritually, athletically, and commercially diverse communities. 

Remaining active and connected within these various communities is part of being a well rounded, wise, and emotionally intelligent individual.    

What communities are you a part of?  How has COVID impacted your ability to stay connected?

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