It’s that time of the year, isn’t it? I like to think that I belong to quite a few communities. But if I’m honest, I’m not sure whether I do. So I need to analyse this. Bear with me. (Or don’t, click off now – but see my last paragraph.)
Years ago, I formed a concept that a community might consist of a number of people who might be thinking of each other at any one time. The closeness of the community could be measured by the probability of that happening, and actual face-to-face meetings were an outcome of that probability. Originally, and for many centuries, people had to be within walking or riding distance, so you’d be constantly aware of all that, and of the subtle shifts within it. If you wanted to move in or out, you had to physically duck and weave. I’m not just talking Jane Austen: even in my teens, in the fifties, you had to keep a bright eye open for who might walk up the high street or through the youth club door, and who they were with in relation to who you were with. So communities shifted and mutated.
The theory held, with extension, after the telephone became cheap enough for parents to permit its use. Although the interaction was long-distance, it still depended on the precept that you would be thinking of the person you phoned. The nature of the community didn’t really change, it just stretched. The relationships within it remained the same. And of course you could always pretend not to be there, or ring off.
And then along came the internet, 2.0. I started blogging, and that was fine. Although I didn’t actually know any of the people, I could feel that there was a community out there, to which I could belong, within a rather reconstructed set of rules. It was a bit like being at a conference in Dusseldorf or somewhere, where you don’t know anyone but can easily relate, because you have at least a bit of common ground – and of course you can always walk away.
This is where we came in. I’ve joined a few social sites, and I get invites to befriend hundreds of people whom I don’t know, will never know, and who only know of me as a friend of a friend of a friend. That’s exactly like my Christmas card list. I’ve got it down from eighty-something to thirty-six, just by eliminating all those with whom I feel absolutely no sense of community.
Am I being churlish? Probably. So I promise to do nothing but frivolous posts from now until 2012, starting tomorrow.