A sense of community

I’m posting late this week, partly due to writing a Sermon, and partly because I didn’t have anything that I really wanted to write about until this morning (I know I’ve got a backlog of post ideas, but none of them were really exciting me this week). But I have something to write now, so enjoy.

I was hit again this morning by exactly how interacting online can bring about a sense of community. When I logged onto The West this morning, I caught the beginning of a conversation where one of the younger members (about my age, maybe a bit older) of the alliance I’m part of was talking to some of the older members (a grandmother, and a 40-something with teenage boys) about some issues he was having (which I won’t talk about here, cause it’s not really my place to talk about that). I didn’t catch the whole conversation (having to go out for a bit shortly after logging on), but the fact that this group are comfortable enough with each other that they are willing to share personal struggles with each other (remembering that the only way a lot of us communicate is via in game messages and chat – I haven’t seen any of them face to face, or heard their voices) is evident of how community can form in an online environment.

Sharing struggles in a game (such as fighting together to take over a fort, or chasing off other players who are attacking our people), and helping others wherever we can in game (such as sharing equipment we no longer need, or getting items for people who cannot) has easily translated to sharing our struggles in ‘real life’ (in the form of telling each other about our lives and the struggles we face), to helping each other in whatever way we can in ‘real life’ (mostly sharing advice from our own experiences when people share their struggles – I pray for people as well, still need to tell them that……).

The Resistance (the alliance I am a part of) is a community in it’s own right. We have our own in-jokes, our own ways of doing things, and we all rally around each other in their times of need – despite the fact that none of us have seen each other face to face. As I write this, I’m laughing and joking with a few other members – people I know and trust, and people I have given my (virtual) life for time and time again. If this isn’t a true community, I don’t know what is.


Have any of you experienced community in an online setting? How have you found it? What can the fact that there is community within online settings mean for society? What does it mean for the Church?


One response to “A sense of community

  1. I don’t think online / cyberspace can replace the need for face to face community, but it certainly enhances it. I wrote something about this yesterday, about my experience of online community in the context of a particularly bad day. http://unsettledchristianity.com/2012/02/cyberspace-pastoral-care/

    Years ago when I was a heavy drinker, I made the observation that the drink made it possible for deep and meaningful conversations to take place at the end of the night. Couple this with talking with a stranger whom you are unlikely to ever see again, it was a liberating experience.

    Hence I have no problems now talking about spiritual matters with drunk people. 🙂

    In the same way, the anonymity of cyberspace makes for a safe space to share. This is worthy of further parallel reflection within the framework of the ‘confessional’ Catholic / Orthodox practice, where you sit in a small room, confessing your sins to the priest who is sitting in a small room divided away from you.

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