Community is a base essential. Even loners like to pride themselves on being part of a proud tradition of mavericks. We all want to belong. The question is: Belong to what?
There are two schools of thought:
- Belong to something popular
- Belong to something meaningful
Often, we feel like we have to choose one or the other.
Belonging to something Popular
The easiest choice to make to sign up for what your friends are doing. I read a lot of blogs that discuss techniques bloggers can use to create this sort of peer pressure among your readers to bring their friends in. The whole Web 2.0 phenomenon centered around this idea.
- All my friends are on My Space, so I should be on My Space
- Now the majority of my friends are on Facebook, I suppose I should join that.
- Wow, all these people I want to keep up with are on Twitter. I guess I need to join that
On and on it goes. Each of these sites give us metrics to make us feel popular: Friends/Followers/Subscribers.
The problem with fame is that the more you have (real or imagined) the more you want. It is a drug. Social acceptance is the souls most addictive narcotic. Like with any addiction. Our priorities start changing.
My breaking point came when I was promoting Shine Like Thunder. At one point, I was “participating” in 19 separate social networks on a weekly basis, and 7 more every other week. Add that to my blogging, podcasting, and I didn’t have any time left to write… You know, the reason I started this mess to begin with. I had contact with a lot more people, but made few friends. I was hooked on the drug. I fed the addiction while letting my passions wither.
Belonging to something Meaningful
All I really want, and I think all any of us really want is the sense that we are a part of something meaningful.
A meaningful community feeds us with enthusiasm and purpose. That is the cost of popularity.
My favorite band, Kiss, and my favorite show on TV right now, Glee, understand this. They preach and practice the celebration of difference. We need to do that too!
I realized that in my personal life I need to ask myself some basic questions:
- What am I doing that fills my life with a sense of purpose and meaning?
- How can I better connect with people to make friends and not just followers.
And on a broader field:
- How can I push the social networks I belong to work together better?
- How can I be more social and less promotional and vain?
- What can I do to fill my own life with more meaning and purpose?
I am still working on answers to these questions, and I am sure I missed quite a few that should be on the list. What did I miss? Do you have any suggestions?