online community, oxymoron?

In the past two weeks I have been seriously taking part in several online discussions. Some have been of the email variety, but most have been through interacting with various blogs. These have been like church for me. I am learning, being challenged and finding ways to challenge others. Occasionally, I even find myself worshipping. I am being held accountable and even "meeting" new people who take the time to email me personally or respond to my comments and check out my blog. Surely this is some form of community, something worth pursuit and time.

I used to think that the concept of community could not be found online, not really. But I'm feeling differently now. True, it looks and smells different than a church fellowship hour or small group meeting (or read the ultra rev's blog on what's been going on at his house lately). But different is not bad. The conversations I've had have all been helpful and spiritually forming. The limited space and time to converse usually means that what is being said is more to the point and meaty, which of course offers yet greater opportunity to grow as we seek to converse with sometimes emotional issues in civilized, print-oriented ways. This, too, speaks of the call to community.

Am I fooling myself? Is online community an oxymoron? Or is it simply another expression of life in Christ that has something to add to all the expressions that have gone before it, as well as those that will follow?


At 7:12 PM, Blogger jay v. said...

I do see online relationships as "real," albeit limited. They don't have the depth of relationship that sitting around with a cold brew has, but then again, maybe they do. At least, in this environment, folks are taking time to talk, rather than focus on the generalities so prevalent in superficial chit chat. Blogs then become TIVO for communication, the ability to "time shift" our relationships to the times that work for us given the insanity of the globalized, 60 hour work week.

The one advantage is the shrinking of the world. How else, then, would I have met Jen and Dave Lemen and be able to develop a relationship that ultimatly led us to vacation at their house this summer? Sure, there was a depth gained in being with them, but there was a lot of the task of initiation that occured through the net.

At 10:02 PM, Blogger Kerry Doyal said...

I too enjoy the community of blogs. As a pastor as well (EFCA in northeast TN) it is a nice outlet, thought stimulator and faith stretcher.

Did we go to TEDS together (M Div 90)?

At 4:04 PM, Blogger stacey said...

Kerry, no I went to North Park in the mid-90's. I am originally a Tennessee boy , though (Memphis). Was this other potential "Stacey" you knew a male or female. I have yet to meet another man with my name. I hear they exist, but I have no proof. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Jim said...

For what it's worth, I have a friend who did a research paper on online communities. His conclusion was summed up in the analogy to a tire and wheel: In his opinion, communities are like wheels and online manifestations of communities are tires: they enable communities to go farther, be more efficient, ride smoother and such. 'Course a tire without a wheel is sort of useless, at least in terms of going places.

At 6:23 PM, Blogger Luke said...

I know I mentioned this to you before, but I had to put something here, as well. To me, it is both an issue of time and isolation. When you spend time on line, in community with those on line, you are by default NOT spending time with the physical community of which you are a part. You can spend time in the e-community, or the flesh and blood one, but not both - time is limited. The great advantage to the e-community is that you can choose people of like minds, like thoughts, like interests - and thus isolate yourself from people of different opinions, values, perspectives, and beliefs.

This is not an accusation. It is an awareness of the pitfalls that accompany a net-based community. When we spend time on e-mails and web sites, we are not spending that time interacting with the hurting or confused or seeking neighbor a few feet away...


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