I have to say, that I have been largely disappointed in the direction of the online world over the past 25 years in terms of Online Community. “Social Media” , which I feel was put in motion by blogging (and I’m thinking of you Dave Winer , when I think back to those days, when I began blogging using Radio Userland in 2002).
Online community has taken a back seat to the commercial, and that is only being intensified by the scum money-changers in the halls of government, wrecking the FCC almost as much as Pruitt is wrecking and eliminating the EPA.
But prior to , and perhaps independent of, the GOP corporate onslaughts on basically everything, the direction of online community has become disturbingly shallow, lonely, and polluted by trolling, sound/text-bites (“text-bites” being the shallow equivalent of “sound-bites”) and trivialization of everything. Sherry Turkle’s “Alone Together” struck a chord with me when it hit the market in 2011.
The online world had become much like the world around it (and the Occupy Movement was in full swing that year, by which I mean that the unrest which brought it about was similar, in that people were tired of the economic corruption and income inequality. Similarly, the online world had been mobile for 4-5 years after the iPhone started the trend of putting a computer in everyone’s hands, and the Social impacts of this had begun to worry people who were sensitive to loss of social connections, as Turkle is).
Many popular writers who covered the online world were highly critical of Turkle’s concerns, but I suspect that these writers HAVE a larger audience of people who think about these things, and thus these writers do not feel the deep hole opening up that swallows up and make scarce many of the things that build community. I think I feel that sense of loneliness more acutely today, for some reason, although it’s not the first time over the past 6 years that I’ve felt like this.
I guess I am most disappointed in the church, and its Web/Internet presence. It has devoted very few resources to the exploration of the social psychology of online interaction (and thus, been negligent in discerning the pastoral care issues around this). I can see this in the fact that it looks as though NOONE in the church world seems to feel that this is even a problem. And this frustration is greatly heightened by the Ecological Crisis, since I feel that it would have been a great avenue for being present to the people in the church who are feeling left out in the cold (or the heat) , unheard and unappreciated re: their sense of urgency that the church awaken and act as a “City set on a hill” in this Ecological crisis we face. If the churches had online community strength, there would be invigorating conversations that would drive people to local expressions, and/or to developing such local expressions of this mission. But there aren’t nearly enough of these, and so we miss this intensifying urgency, because we have failed to listen.