Monday, July 26, 2010

What is the effect of social media on community?

Like most teens today you can catch me spending most of my time socializing on Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc. I have always seen social media as a fast, efficient, and hassle-free way to connect with my friends, family, and other worldly events. But after I attended the Asset Based Community Development Lunch at the Church of the Brethren in Arlington, Virginia this afternoon, I began to question how much social media really helps us stay connected.

At this lunch Arlingtonians and other important figures in Arlington’s community came to listen and discuss guest speaker John McKnight’s ideas on how to improve our local community. McKnight, the author of The Abundant Community, emphasized that in order to improve Arlington’s community we must first realize that, our community can be improved by our citizens, and not just volunteers or heads of local organizations. He then went on to explain that in order to improve any community you have to look at what he called the six neighborhood necessities: health, safety, economy, environment, food, and children.

McKnight believes that Arlington citizens can improve all six neighborhood necessities but only if we come together as a community. He then expressed concern about today’s growing virtual community. . He is worried that people today (especially teens) are involved with socializing through the internet rather then with people in their community.McKnight’s concern with social media brought up an interesting discussion on the pros and cons of using social media to unite a community

It’s interesting to note social media eliminates the stimulation of the five senses when socializing with someone face- to- face.During McKnight’s discussion it seemed this aspect of social media was seen as a negative. But, on the other hand, I can also see this as a positive. For example, some people feel more comfortable socializing through the Internet. In my experience, socializing through the internet allows some people to be more outgoing. There are a number of questions like this that have to be considered when trying to figure out how beneficial social media can be in today’s society.

  • For instance, does the internet help people broaden their community or does it work to isolate people even more?
  • Is the internet or local community a better source of useful life experiences?
  • Since there are so many pros and cons of using social media, can we give social media a specific label as to whether it has a positive or negative effect on an ever evolving community?


  1. Tati, This is a good post, thanks. You bring up some valid points. I can see where just about anything you can do online can be used for positive or negative. I think it's like so many other things in life-use it in moderation. Many of the problems arise when people use the Internet for everything; entertainment, socializing, etc. It's not a good thing to always be surrounded by virtual reality. Thanks again!

  2. Tati- You do bring a light to a subject that most teens wouldn't want to talk about. We want to be able to say that the Internet isn't our whole life and that we DO use it in moderation. But the fact is there are lots of people who don't. Thanks for your take on the subject!! Best wishes jello :)

  3. Indeed, the internet is a mixed blessing. It's certainly convenient that people can - for instance - skip the library and do their research from home, but that can hinder community interaction. I've seen countless people out in public talking on cell phones instead of the person next to them...who is also on a cell phone. I think the most absurd was when I heard about two friends who spent the night at a loud bar texting each other while sitting a few feet away. It's as if we're potentially more connected with technology, but in practice it's certainly not achieving the classic sense of connectedness!

    I see a slight parallel to this tech talk I was watching just today ( In the first 5 minutes the speaker dicusses how phones and highways were expected to be advancements that brought us closer together, but that didn't quite come about as envisioned... Check it out.

  4. Thanks for your post! It's interesting because it's not just teens who are completely (or even somewhat) addicted to social media and, like the 2nd comment says, even adults want to say that the Internet isn't our whole life and we use it in moderation...but it's not always true.

    However, I do think that social media has a good purpose (when used in moderation and not as a substitute for in-person interaction). For example, I follow a lot of Arlington groups and businesses on Facebook. Reading their posts, especially the ones from local non-profits and with local news, actually does make me feel more connected to the community in general. It's nice to know what's going on and to hear it in a different format. It definitely doesn't make me feel more connected to any one person, but it does support my knowledge and understanding of the six neighborhood necessities.

    Ultimately, I completely agree with you -- there are many positives and negatives, and lots of questions come from it!

  5. Anon: I agree it’s not always a good thing to be on the internet 24/7. The benefits of the internet are limitless; unfortunately, just as many drawbacks exist. Is it possible, therefore, to maintain a meaningful relationship with someone that you have never come into in-person contact with? If so, how what guarantees are there? There are indeed big problems that could arise if one invests too much into sustaining a virtual existence.
    Fu Dan Chu: It’s ironic to think that new innovations in technology are geared towards improving our sense of connectedness. When we see that these same innovations give us more opportunities to become even more disconnected with our surroundings. Like you said even when we are out in public our cell phones still gives us an opportunity to become isolated. I watched the YouTube link you suggested to check out. And I found it to be an interesting parallel. Both our phones and highways give us a chance to expand our networking circle. Unlike highways, phones now a day’s provide so many entertainment and networking services that it’s easy to get distracted and forget the other positive networking opportunities cell phones can provide. For instance we can see how cell phones make it easy to stay connected with friends and family. But what people sometimes forget is that cell phone also makes it easy to get connect with new friends and worldly events. We have to find away to use the all the opportunities electronic devises provide and find a way to use them that will best benefit us and our community the most.
    Thank you everyone who commented. I really enjoyed reading everyone’s feedback.