Tuesday, May 8, 2007


The following is an article written by a friend and was recently published on thebrewmag.com. He's a much better writer than I and I really enjoyed the article. Thought you might as well.

The MySpace-ination of Community
Friday, May 4th, 2007By Jon Reisinger
Earl, Roy, and the rest of the old guys meet down at the barbershop, play checkers and throw back a lemonade. It’s the American ideal at its finest: like hot apple pie, baseball and the Dream Team winning the Olympics. But times have changed, right? Now, we have cars with air conditioning, portable telephones and indoor plumbing. The pedestrian days of yesteryear with outhouses are gone. Yet, could it be that besides breeding E. coli, those outhouses somehow also bred community?
A new age of clichés has dawned. We have the internet with all its ones and zeros, and shockingly, community is thriving again…online. Although you never see someone you know walking on the street, you’ll see the same screen names in your little viral communes. As big a nerd as I am, I think I have around seventy “friends” on MySpace and only three of them are inanimate objects.
So the question becomes, will there ever be a flesh and blood community space again? Will there ever be a place that people gather together? There is that “third place” that sociologists refer to: a place that friends get together other than work and home. But now we are outsourcing to “third place” dot-com. We are pushing reality further away from ourselves onto the TV and computer. Porch swings became a thing of the past as they are replaced by laptops that can steal wireless internet signals.
I went to a supposedly cutting edge housing development called, The Village Gardens, on the outskirts of Lincoln, Nebraska. The developers are desperately trying to return the “community feel” to a neighborhood. All the garages will face into back alleys; there won’t be any back yards; and there will be a Whole Foods. Not sure how the Whole Foods plays into the mix, but it was important enough for the realtor to mention it in the same breath as “community.” Perhaps he was hoping I was an over-paying, veggie-eating communist with knack panache for back alleys. He was right.
I don’t know what it is about paying $5.95 for a carrot, but when I do do this, I love sitting in the park and playing fetch with other peoples’ dogs. Somehow, Whole Foods equals community. And we poor folk are screwed.
The current move away from “real” community makes me think that Xanga, Facebook, and MySpace really suck. I know this is the new cool idea that has replaced the initial thought of MySpace being cocaine. But after finding all my high school classmates and asking random hot chicks to be my friend, the slickness of virtual life has worn off.
It’s like an alternate reality where rules of civil goodness don’t apply. Not only can you bash someone’s ideas, but you can do it with absolutely no fear of retribution. I have literally had someone steam roll me in real life and then ask me to be her friend on MySpace. It’s the virtual version of, “Let’s not date, but will you take me to the prom?” Seriously?
Don’t get me wrong; I love a free stinky couch as much as the next person, which is probably why a site like Craigslist.com has become so massive. His list is in every state and in fifty countries. And while this virtual bulletin board has a huge following and is technologically superior to the garage sale, I wonder if we have lost something. Gone are the days of face-to-face banter and barter. Admittedly, I find this online garage sale rather handy when it comes to fixing a vintage motorcycle. Because really, I don’t want your random selection of ’87 Kawasaki parts unless I can somehow get them without seeing you.
I can’t even watch football with real people. Why? Oh yeah, because I don’t have a fantasy football team. What happened to the teams that actually exist? Can’t we just get back to the good old days of drinking beer, eating nachos and riding the Bears bandwagon together? A deeper fear yet: that football in the park could be replaced by Madden ’08 with some kid in Beijing.
I just finished a book by the pastor of a large church in Seattle. He cusses. There, now you’ve put two and two together. Anyway, he talks about trying to build a church bigger than 150 people. His congregation gets pissed that he would try to do that. Why? Their concern for community. Although the church was doing great things, the congregation was terrified of growth. They feared that if they got bigger, they wouldn’t know everyone and a sense of community would be lost. They had blindly stumbled upon community and now suddenly someone was threatening it.
They aren’t alone. There seems to be an interesting trend. Church has become one of the only places that community exists. Fortunately, some very wealthy old dudes, named Hybels and MacArthur, realized that Christians need to clump together in little clusters. We have small groups. We have Bible studies. We meet in coffee shops. We can even get together to lose weight for Jesus. And they do this because Christians love people; real people, not screen names with the occasional avatar.
Perhaps, we are moving away from real community. The fact remains that people want to be loved for more than their pimped out MySpace page. And the church can do that. It’s interesting that after two thousand years, they can know us by our love again.
So how ’bout it guys? Wanna stop playing Xbox Live and meet me in the park for football? We could take up an offering and get some carrots too.

No comments: