Monday, October 02, 2006

If 'community' cannot be online, then why do I feel so gutted?

I have been told that it is not possible for community to exist online. I would agree that it may not be ideal, as one cannot see, touch, and talk directly to the othe members of the community. It may be easier for misunderstanings to occur. But I also believe that it may be easier for people to get 'real' with one another.

Here are some definitions of community from dictionary.com:

a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists

A group of people having common interests

Sharing, participation, and fellowship.

Many of you know that I belong to an online community called American Expats inthe UK. It is a forum where people with a common interest join together daily to share struggles and joys. Since I joined the group I have been supported in the whole process of moving to the UK. I was warned that I would not find DILL PICKLES here! I was told I might want to bring my US measuring cups and to be sure that I get a stamp from customs when we arrive (good thing because we had to ask for it). After arriving I learned where I could find cornmeal and black beans. I could rant about the crazy foot traffic and they could join in with me. When we were looking for a flat I could post daily on the progress (and if I didn't, I was asked!) and rant about how difficult it was. Everyone was so supportive. They assisted in our decision on a broadband provider. And now with work being an issue, I can post long rants about that and receive comments like "how about selling your crafts?" because they just know me that well. Some have guided me in how I should handle certain things. People post pictures of their kids and we watch them grow up. New moms post about the woes of midnight feedings and seek advice on other parenting issues. Anytime I have a question I first think to post it on "MY" forum because I know somebody there will know.

Now I feel like my community is falling apart. There has been a contraversy and many of our long time members, big time posters have left. I just feel so gutted. I don't want to leave because I feel like I have a history there. I don't want to get wrapped up in the contraversy because it is above my head (having to do with the moderators and such).

So, why did I tear up at the first announcement of someone leaving, and why does my stomach drop at every other good-bye I see? I am really wrapped up in these people's lives and I feel close to them. I have recieved so much support and I am fearing that it will all be gone. This IS my community at this stage in my life. I have no other community. I have a couple of friends who have been an amazing support to me, but it's not the community where you can allow yourself to be weak and vulnerable, even when your friend feels weak and vulnerable, too, because you know there will be others stronger who can support you.

I know some of you who have online relationships will agree, and those who don't will disagree. But believe me when I tell you this: there has always been someone there for me in the past two years of this journey we are taking. I am very, very sad to see some of them go.

2 comments:

Adventures In Babywearing said...

Oh yes- I have a community of online parents with children just like Noah. I have "known" them for years now and sometimes we forget that we've never met in person. a couple of them live in Australia and I hope someday to make a trip there to meet!

We even send Christmas cards every year, and talk about normal life- not just about our children's illnesses, etc. They were there for me in the lowest times and are partly responsible for us getting the help we needed for Noah.

I know just what you mean! It's a bit like penpals that write every single day... it's REAL. I hope your situation gets better soon!

ErinOrtlund said...

It IS sad I agree. But I think most who are leaving have gone now and many more remain behind. I've been on American Expats since March 2003 and have seen many people come and go. The forum never implodes though and a core group stay. I understand what you mean about it being an important community--it's the second thing I check when I get online, after my e-mail!