Finding Community On-Line

I’m a big connection and community guy.  I love to see people connected in meaningful relationships.  I’m passionate about being in community with others.  Over the years, I have been amazed to see where community can be found.  I have found it at work in the office and on construction sites.  I have found community through sports – on the basketball court and on the run.  I have even found community around the poker table.  I appreciate the community I’ve experienced through my kids – scouts, music, and school.  I have enjoyed many years of community through camping.  And I’ve experienced community through small groups of various kinds and sizes.

I’ve been most surprised by the community I’ve discovered on-line.  For me, it all started a few years ago when Frank Chiapperino and a few other leaders from my church started blogging and then encouraged me to blog.  Initially, I discovered a lot of amazing bloggers out there who had things to share about things that interested me like small groups and leadership.  I followed at a distance and carried on with my own blogging without any ideas of potential connection or community.

A couple of years later, Frank introduced me to Facebook.  I was immediately sucked into the whole social media thing.  I’m not sure if that was a complete blessing or a partial curse.  I’m thankful for so many renewed connections and several new ones that have come as a result of Facebook.  It’s been eye-opening, enlightening, and sometimes enriching to keep up with friends on Facebook.  It’s also been a bit addicting, and I admittedly struggle at times with staying balanced.

Somewhere along the line, I picked up Twitter and a few other tools.  Twitter has definitely been an interesting tool for discovering new information about people and topics that interest me.  I’ve especially enjoyed the “listed” option on Twitter where users can assemble lists of Twitter users with similar interests.  I have discovered many small group gurus, leadership junkies, and several blogging buddies.

Next, I picked up Skype and Tokbox which allow for free live web video chatting.  I’ve enjoyed using Skype with my family – especially my parents who live in far away Dallas, TX.  A year or two ago, I decided to try an experiment with Tokbox.  Tokbox was easier to use for multiple participants than Skype was at the time, so I decided to lead an on-line small group using Mark Batterson‘s recently released book – Primal.  I was impressed by the depth of conversation that took place as this experiment launched.  And I see a lot of potential for fostering community through this type of technology.

Most recently, I have discovered incredible community through interactive blogging.  By actively participating in the dialogue that transpires in the comments that follow a post (on my own blog or on other people’s blogs), blogging becomes interactive.  My life is enriched by these comments – by this community.  I have discovered many new friends like Michael Shaw who blogs about the local town of Skippack, Jason Fountain who blogs about being intentional with life, and Beck Gambill who blogs about the ups and downs of life.

If you’re reading, you’re probably part of this community.  I would encourage you to take the next step – either start your own blog or become active in the comment conversations that take place on your favorite blogs.  (If you start you’re own blog, let me know so I can follow along.)

On a final note, while I strongly encourage finding community on-line, there’s nothing like face-to-face community.  Find a group of people you can plug into your life.  Lift each other up.  Hold each other accountable.  Meet regularly.  Grow together!

How have you experienced community on-line and face-to-face?