This post is sponsored by Chase – a strong supporter of the Global Cities Initiative.
Earlier this month I was back on the campus of my alma mater, USC, to attend the special kickoff event of JP Morgan Chase’s Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase. Some pretty incredible people were there, like former Mayor of Chicago Richard M. Daley and Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and they were talking about how big cities like Los Angeles are in a great position today to interact with the rest of the world in new and exciting ways.
The event got me thinking about how all of us today relate to the world in new and exciting ways we never could have imagined before. Back in the early Nineties, for example, if you were asked to define “community,” you might have said it was something that was made up of the people in your town. Today though, thanks to the Internet, your community can include not just the people in your town but every person in the entire world. It blows my mind to think that – if it weren’t for the Internet – I would never have met some of my closest and dearest of friends. They would be living their life, I would be living mine, but we would never have crossed each others’ paths. It’s scary to consider.
The online communities I’ve become a part of have played an incredible role in my life. When I knew Maddie would be born premature, the online preemie community welcomed me with open arms. While in the community I lived in I was hard-pressed to find someone who had gone through what I was experiencing, the online preemie community was full of parents from all over the world who could give me much needed advice and support. The power of online community in that case was truly profound.
Online communities don’t have to be profound to be successful, however. When Mike moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco he missed being able to discuss his beloved San Francisco Giants and felt lonely surrounded by Dodgers fans. That all changed once he found a group of Giants fans online, and now he has friends he’s never met in person with whom he can discuss the beauty of Tim Lincecum’s hair (or whatever it is Giants fans discuss). Mike’s experience with this online community isn’t profound, but he is a happier person for having found it, so in a way it is kind of profound if you think about it.
As wonderful as online communities are now, they can grow greater still. The concept of online community is still new and evolving, and we can build bigger and better ones that play an important role in an even larger and more diverse group of people’s lives than they do now. Traditional geographical communities didn’t learn how to live in harmony overnight, and neither will Internet ones. But we can and will build bigger and better online communities, of that I am certain.
We live in exciting times. Back in the early Nineties, when I rocked flannel and set my VCR to record “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” I had no idea just how dramatically the way I interacted with the rest of the world would change. I may be older now and no longer rock flannel, but the possibilities that lie ahead are even more exciting than they were then.
I’ve often thought about this too. If the Internet never existed I never would have met SOOO many important people in my life! My husband, for example! Good post…. I too think we can and should build our internet community whenever we can.
Ha! Love the Fresh Prince reference! I still can rap the whole song!
I too love my online friends. Wouldn’t want to go back to the 90s Fresh Prince or not!
Alexandra :) says:
This is one of my favorite blog entries from you ever. I don’t have any friends in my town after living here for 9 years or at my school after being there for three so my best friend is someone who I’ve never met in person, and it really frustrates us to be told things from people in our “real” lives about how our friendship can’t be real and worse, “you don’t care about each other, you just thnk you do”. I really hate that if Internet didn’t exist I wouldn’t ever have crossed paths with her or most of my other good friends, it’s definitely scary sometimes.
I met one of my best friends in an online community many years ago. I had a guinea pig and was looking for a community who could give me advice on the best food and interactions with him. Then when he got sick they helped me with that. Jenny had three guinea pigs & was a huge help. We became great friends. We visited and I went to her wedding last year. I’d be lost without her. If it wasn’t for that little community I may never have met one of the best friends in my life!
First I wonder why I ever thought flannel shirts and leggings (!) were a good idea. Second online communities are great. 10 years after the births of our children, a group of October Expecting moms is still together – we’ve been through infant loss, divorce, cancer, remarriages, just about anything you can think of and I love the support we give each other. Same thing when I was doing IVF with my second, the group of women undergoing the same thing made me feel less alone and more importantly they understood the emotional intensity of infertility. I’m in the midst of a health scare and logging onto a breast cancer support group has already comforted me. The rules of community are changing. I think its wonderful.