Online communities are all very well. But the real need in society is to build and sustain our actual, physical communities.
It’s up to us ‘people’ to build community.
Community doesn’t happen by accident. Nor does it happen by government decree.
Community, by definition, is developed by groups of people.
Recently a musician friend was telling me how much he wanted to stop the smartphone revolution. Because it was stopping people communicating face-to-face.
Communication has long been known to involve much more than the words themselves. It is about body-language, tone of voice, pitch, intensity and emotion.
The words have famously been researched to only make up 7% of the communication.
So reducing communication to only online means losing touch with all the human ‘soft’ elements that come with interaction.
So learning how the Internet can help communities is fundamental.
Communities can use online services to support themselves. For instance mailing lists, SMS lists and social media pages are great tools to support the community. Keeping everyone in the loop.
Using a mix of elements is the day-to-day reality for most of us.
So we might check our email or Facebook for information and notifications. We might listen to the local radio. There may be a poster in the newsagent when we go for milk. Or a friend might tell us what’s happening, how is so-and-so and any latest gossip.
So here lies a challenge to us in the Internet industry … how to make the Internet serve our communities? How can the Internet be used to stop our society from fragmentation and isolation?
Maybe the time is right for some useful community based apps? And how about a free smartphone for all. This would certainly even the field although many elderly people simple can’t use a smartphone …