I've always been extremely proud of the way my online community works. I've seen the community pull together to pay off medical bills, to pay down a house, and to send individuals to conferences halfway across the country.
I've both found jobs through connections made on Twitter and helped Twitter friends find work.
The online communities of which I'm a part are amazing. But is "community" the right word?
This past Sunday, our pastor had a lot to say about the idea of community and how a real community is a physical thing. It's a group of people in a place and using the word to define the relationships formed online through the Twitters and Facebooks and Instagrams of the world cheapens the term and reduces the (perceived) value of real community.
Considering he's coming off a 3-month sabbatical from both teaching and social networking, I can see where he's coming from. Hearing his explanation still had me bristling a bit. After all, I place a very high value on my "communites," so his critique of people who place too much value in these non-relationships hit a little close to home.
Tuesday morning, my first visit to Facebook was met with this video:
Independently, neither really say too much to me. But coming just days apart, while I'm also feeling particularly burnt out on the whole concept of maintaining virtual relationships with individuals across timezones, state boundaries, and continents these two critiques of "social" networking were incredibly revealing.
Taking a Break
Starting today, I'm taking a break from both Twitter and Facebook for at least a month.
I'll still keep my accounts open. I'll still tell WordPress to automatically-broadcast whenever I publish. But I won't open either site or interact with them until November at the least. This is as much a "digital detox" as it is a personal experiment: I want to see if disconnecting from the always-on worlds of digital networks has a real impact on my in-real-life relationships.
I fully expect to update you next month with the results. If nothing else, it will be a personally-fulfilling endeavor.