We are Living in a Post-Community World
Why it’s impossible to go back to the days of neighborly civility and familial harmony
I still have a feint memory of the days when the neighborhood would get together at block parties and have casual chats and get along with each other… without having to test each other on their political views first.
Society today, at least if you live in the US, is more fragmented than ever. We have divided ourselves in many artificial ways — most political, all unnecessary — such that by default, we have no respect for each other — that is, unless we find out that we have similar political views.
The rise of social media as a means for finding community has happened in parallel with this phenomenon of over-politicization.
Social media is the escape, the salvation from it all. We can find our community on social media no matter what views we have, and no matter where we are in the world.
So yes, my title was clickbait — we are not post-community; we are post physical, real-world community. Now our communities are online. I truly believe it’s impossible to have a fulfilling social life in this country without employing online platforms for social connection. Maybe this is because I live in one of the most politically divided states in the country (a side-effect being: anger and negativity at every turn — a general consciousness sink). But I have heard this sentiment corroborated by others in different parts of the country, as well as some other, primarily European countries. (I try, as much as possible, to be aware of the bubble that I’m in, and look at that bubble from the outside, so that I don’t make sweeping generalizations which are, in reality, only applicable to me).
Members of prior generations may still be trying to cling to the last vestiges of physical community, but they will inevitably, eventually, find themselves isolated and unfulfilled. For those of us born in the 90’s and 00’s, online community is non-optional. There are more criteria to fulfill, more boxes to tick than ever before, and as such, our chances of getting along with our neighbors and extended family are lower than ever. We have no choice but to turn to social media for social-validation.
But unlike those members of prior generations, I don’t view this trend as purely a negative thing. There are both pros and cons to it.
The pros: we are able to find our “tribe” no matter where we are in the world. For me, as someone who has traveled extensively, it’s especially difficult to find someone in my immediate vicinity with a similar, travel-shaped worldview. Most people here think solely in the the American, two-party, single dimensional framework. Everything is only relatively good or bad, with a baseline of “bad” constructed by what the “other” believes. So I’ve had no choice but to turn to social media to find my crowd — the people who think like me, and who’ve opened their mind to the multidimensional nature to the universe, and the absoluteness of existence. (Happiness, for example, is not derived from life-state relative to someone who is suffering, but rather on an absolute scale, based on how much you have actualized your unique, individual nature). Without social media, I’d be pathetically depressed.
The cons: The main negative here is that online social interaction is less fulfilling that face-to-face connection. I’d approximate it takes 100 online “friends” or followers to equate to one real world friend in terms of emotional fulfillment (with some exceptions: those online friends who are able to transgress the mental boundary of “online friend” vs just “friend”). Having a discussion in the comments section of an Instagram post is only fractionally as exciting as having a heated discussion over a beer or coffee in 3-dimensional space. There will probably someday be, if there aren’t already, mathematical equations that reflect this idea; considering after all, we are all made of energy, and the intensity of energy that we can transfer to each other is intuitively proportional to physical distance — maybe one reason long-distance relationships are difficult to sustain.
But regardless of whatever downsides there are, this is the reality of the world we are living in, and I don’t see any reason to resist it. I’d rather embrace it, and go all in on actualizing my unique potential through expressing myself on social media and building a community of people I may or may not ever actually meet. To me, it’s better than the alternative: living in this cold, depressing world of politics and division. If the choice is to have a fulfilling virtual life or a mundane (i.e. hate and negativity-filled) physical life, I’d choose the former in a heartbeat.