I love walking my dog in the morning. Not only because he’s an Australian Shepherd and he goes crazy insane if he doesn’t get enough exercise, but because the daily walk is the perfect reminder of the importance of community.
I work in the marketing and advertising business. As a result, I’m surrounded by more clichés and spin than I care to explore, but none drives me more nutty than the “online community.” We spend so much time on Facebook, Twitter and yes, blogging, that we sometimes make ourselves feel better by convincing ourselves that we’re part of a community. So what if it’s online and often remains anonymous?
I realize that not all online communities are created equal and some are vibrant networks that provide important support. And I realize that some of these networks schedule “meet-ups” where the online goes offline. So, forgive me my generalizations when I suggest that nothing beats a community community (no “online” or “offline” qualifier necessary).
While walking the dog this morning, I engaged in a conversation with the woman around the corner who writes some kind of entertaining quote on a small blackboard each and every morning. She is one of two houses on our morning walk with treats for the dog. At the second house, the treats are in their own little mailbox, which is covered by pictures of the neighborhood dogs – including Harley. On some mornings, there are so many dogs in front of the mailbox , it resembles a Vegas buffet line.
I can never complete my walk without three or four people stopping to say good morning, pet Harley or offer some sort of friendly comment about the weather (rain or shine). It’s personal and it’s interactive in a way that no online community can offer; it comes with eye contact. It comes with smell, touch and sound.
I’ve built a number of websites and we always tout the community elements and engagement of our projects. And, as mentioned above, there are some real benefits to these communities. You do find people in other parts of the country and/or world that you might never have met if it weren’t for some of these sites. But, as I walk the dog in the morning, it’s apparent that we need to stop from time to time and remind ourselves that there’s nothing like being part of the actual communities in which we live.
Nothing beats live, face-to-face, human interaction. And, Harley can’t get a treat from a computer screen.