Want to get a glimpse into something I've been noodling over for awhile?
Read on when you have a moment to sink in...
I talked with a lot of people about leaving Facebook before I left it. You might very well be one of the people! I thought and wrote a lot about it too.
Through all the talking, thinking and writing, I came to understand that Facebook isn't just an app. It's not just a place I go to scroll or post personal or professional updates. It's not just a social media platform (side note: "platform" has always seemed like a weird word to me). It actually is a real living, breathing community. And every single other entity that brings people together is also a real living, breathing community. Literally every single other one.
The grocery store you go to every week is a community.
The grocery store you've never been to until the moment you need to run in to grab a jar of marinara sauce is also a community.
The storage unit facility where you store your RV is a community.
The school you teach a one-time workshop at is a community.
The yoga studio you've been going to for years.
The neighborhood you walked through one time.
The dermatologist's office your daughter needs to go to.
The restaurant you only get take-out from.
Instagram is a community.
So is Twitter.
So is this tiny and delightfully designed bar I walk past when strolling through downtown with Ernest.
Maybe it'd be helpful to replace the word 'community' with 'group' since sometimes 'community' can have a lot of fuzzy attachments to it. I'm not talking about any of that fuzziness right now. All I'm saying is that the groups you either visit frequently or just one time... the ones that you feel a strong affinity towards and the ones you could care less about... they are all little universes for the people who are a part of them (and other beings, too, but I'm going to hold off on getting into this right now since that's another whole juicy layer).
It was about a year or so ago that I was contemplating the nature of Facebook as a community. Around this same time, I was – and I'd imagine you were too — also thinking about all the people I interact with because you know... early pandemic... If I go into this grocery store at this time of day, how many people will I need to be near? Could I go at another time of day or a different day and be around even less people? Okay, yeah, I'll do that.
The grocery store is the example I use because at that time of pandemic living, that was the one and only indoor and tangible community with which I was interacting. Being forced to cull down to this essential location helped bring this idea I'm sharing about to light.
I'm realizing that:
1. each and every single group has the opportunity to GIVE and TAKE energy
2. the more I give to the group, the more I receive
3. we each have a certain, unique threshold for how many groups of which we can be a member at one given time
4. there's a whole spectrum to what "being a member" could mean
5. we each need and desire variety in the assortment of groups of which we are a part. That "variety recipe" is unique to each of us and changes throughout our lives
Here's a bit of how I've recently experienced these five realizations playing with one another:
- if I move past my personal threshold, it becomes challenging for me to give what I need or desire to each of the groups, which results in me receiving less from every one of them.
- when I choose to join a new group, that new group's energy will affect me and my "variety recipe," which will mean that I'll need to evaluate my participation with the other groups of which I'm currently a member.
I've also noticed that when I'm past my personal threshold, auto-pilot tends to flip on.
I go through my day with no wiggle room in my threshold.
I walk with Ernest through the neighborhood not wanting to make eye contact with any neighbors because I do not have the capacity to connect. Kind emails from friends and family sit in my inbox because I don't have the capacity to respond. I don't want to ask the person bagging my groceries how his day is going because I think I don't have the time to listen (but really it's because, again, I don't have the capacity to take his response in).
We all move through groups we don't even realize are groups in and of themselves. These "invisible" groups might really benefit from us acknowledging them.
The neighborhoods in which we live are perfect examples.
I bet you can notice some of the neighborhoods near you that are seen and recognized as groups and which aren't.
The ones that have block parties (pre-pandemic) or the ones with chalk drawings all over the sidewalks (early pandemic). The ones that everyone drives their cars directly into their garages. The ones that neighbors bring a housewarming gift to the newcomer. The ones that have fire safety committees (looking at my parents for this one, 😉). The ones that didn't know the person was moving until a For Sale sign went up.
Neighborhoods serve as an interesting example because most often (speaking from my perspective as an American) there aren't people designated as the leaders of the neighborhoods, right? American neighborhoods often depend on individuals to make them something special, to make them feel like a group or community.
Right now I'm thinking about one neighbor who often doesn't make eye contact with me when we're walking past one another. Maybe it's purely because she's past her community / group threshold and doesn't have the capacity to connect with a neighbor.
These realizations that I've shared – specifically the threshold and the variety recipe – I don't think they're quantifiable. Rather it seems that in acknowledging and witnessing them as real, felt experiences, we might become more attuned to our connections with one another through these shared collective entities.
I'd love to receive your thoughts, questions, curiosities, or your own theories about these ideas. You're totally welcome to email me at email@example.com