Anyone ever watched the ‘Andy Griffith Show’ or ‘I Love Lucy’ late at night? Maybe not, but we’re all aware of the premise.
A better time, and older time. A time when you’d ask your neighbour for a cup of sugar, when you could leave a door unlocked, when ‘us’ vs ‘them’ was a reference to country vs country or town vs town.
Communities were in their prime, with the narrative of society carefully put forward by news outlets within predefined boundaries of time and exposure. In a sense less information helped create the bubble of safety by which we gauged our everyday.
Most everyone shared the same values meaning subcommunities such as the Scouts, Church Groups, even Clubs consisted of the same people — ‘good’ people.
Then a curious thing happened — the world got quicker. Buses gave way to planes, distances gave way to time of travel, and cities began to swell with increased numbers of habitants as immigration and industry grew in parallel. Soon towns became cities, and the quant warm neighbourhood became the cold rigid ‘block’.
Before we knew it our idea of a community had shifted subconsciously whether we’d comprehended this shift or not, and those at the forefront of this shift rode the wave while others languished pushing desperately at a bubble that was shrinking against their will.
Today I read about Brennan Walker, a 14 year old boy who was nearly shot dead for asking for directions. When reading this multiple reactions come to mind, each along its own theme. Disgust at gun control, Shock at the nature of the reaction, even sadness that I’m unsurprised if not numb to something like this happening. But the theme that has stuck with me since reading about this, has been that of community.
There are so many levels to community as it relates to this, its almost impossible to imagine a situation where he would be 100% safe in approaching any house in any neighbourhood in any part of the United States. Regardless of gender or colour factors come to play such as time of day, recent crime, even personal prejudice. But what is it which allows our subconscious to pander to fear, reactionary tactics, even justification.
It’s a given we all need social interaction to stay healthy. Numerous studies on people who were kept in solitary environments have proven time and time again that social cues are gained through understanding how our piers act and mimicking actions accordingly.
But with the advent of the internet and social media, we now have the ability to engage in communities of our choosing, with thousands of people who share a common interest, and from whom we take our cues.
What used to be a few select voices passing information to the public and giving a general sense of the wrongs, rights, allowables, and taboos has turned into communities of comfort where extreme views are normalised and fear is reinforced locally by users globally.
When I read about Brennan my thoughts immediately went to the typical and often cliché boxes. Does the man watch Fox News, does he belong to groups fueling the ‘us vs them’ mentality? Is this why he owns a gun? Are his views reinforced by a wife who would also rush to judgement that someone of a darker pigmentation would naturally be at a front door to rob a house?
My thoughts the turned to myself. — Am I one to judge? Am I, as a Caucasian-esque male with a slight liberal skew any better because I don’t have a gun? Has my daily intake of anti-war rhetoric put me in any healthier of a state of mind than the man who fired shots at Brennan Walker?
Have I scoffed at his wall building from behind the safety of my own walls?
Communities themselves have changed, and not always for the better. Entertainment value has rendered honesty in news dissemination almost obsolete. We go to where we feel the most comfortable, where our views are not challenged, where we embrace the common mind…the hive mind, but what has this done to the ‘we’.
The ‘we’ has become a global construct threaded together by comraderie, and not by proximity. But now it’s the same means which sped society to this point which cannot keep pace. As we bound forward at almost light speed, I cannot help but feel like a school of fish forced to the surface by whales only to find ourselves moving frantically only to be attacked from all sides.
Much of this is why I’ve decided to dedicate my time to not only developing communities, but to understanding them as well. Its why I seek out friends as diverse as today’s society. It’s why I choose to go where I please when I travel knowing that in the same way you can find ‘them’ in every region, society, and grouping — you can also find the ‘good’.
I bring this mentality to how I approach building communities online. Because increased news availability has brought increased half lives of news cycles, and the shock value of saying ‘your son almost became a hashtag,’ today is lost in the noise of the next occurance tomorrow.
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