Group on a patio

Back in June, on a sunny Patio Friday afternoon, we landed at the Adelaide St Pub rooftop patio. As the conversation ebbed and flowed with the arrival and departure of various new and familiar faces throughout the afternoon it became more evident to me that the Toronto Twitter community is strong and bright. We have, as a group, leveraged the online communication utility for many great things, not the least of which is simply to form new and formidable relationships with people we wouldn’t meet otherwise. This, naturally, also leads to learning things and finding opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise.

Reflecting on the past few weeks of our new Patio Friday tradition I’m compelled to share some thoughts on what ‘community’ means. I don’t think any of it is rocket science, but reaffirms what a lot of us may believe to be true.

In 2000 Robert D. Putnam noted in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community that “in the US over the past 25 years, attendance at club meetings has fallen 58 percent, family dinners are down 33 percent, and having friends visit has fallen 45 percent.” (Source: Wikipedia/ Community)

I wonder if this divide coincides all too conveniently with the advent of personal entertainment devices such as the Walkman, hand-held electronic games, and the home computer. Along with this, the workplace became computerized and demands placed on the career-minded grew driving us out of the home, into the office and eventually into the home office. Interestingly enough the very technology that may have helped to pull our communities apart is now bringing us together in ways never thought possible.

I can’t help but believe that in the past three years alone, the Internet and specifically the proliferation of social networks has given us all an avenue to return to a sense of community that was all but lost in the 80s and 90s. We now have a way to connect with people near and far from us on a common platform with common interests that was never available to us before. We can find, connect and engage with people who think, believe and act like we do. Further, being the social animals we are, we are driven to take these new connections to higher levels and meet in person to form stronger, more meaningful bonds. This isn’t an entirely new concept, if you think about dating sites and chat rooms that have been around since the 90s, but the technology has become friendlier, personal computers are in most homes and people in general are becoming more technologically savvy. I wonder also, if we’re all feeling the unnatural disorder of not belonging to a community disrupting a very primal need, thereby driving us all to find a means to create communities that have been sorely missed for years.

There’s no shortage of books and blog posts on the topic and I’m not planning to jump on the bandwagon, but I’ve started a list of the things that make a community a community. It’s by no means complete and I look to you to add your thoughts on what I hope to be a growing definition of community as it pertains to what we are building here and now. This is an exciting time in our lives and I’m personally thrilled to be part of it, learning every step of the way with all of you. I look forward to your comments and additions to the list. Let’s see where this goes, shall we?

  1. Regardless of professional or personal standing, the community accepts, supports, and encourages its members.
  2. The reciprocal energy found in a healthy community is irreplaceable. It carries its members through the tough times and celebrates with them in good times.
  3. Community is a natural phenomenon. It can’t be forced, bought or fooled.
  4. A community grows because it is not just built, but nurtured.
  5. Communities are flexible. They expand and contract as necessary to allow for change.
  6. Communities listen, observe and challenge those within it with the common goal being success and achievement.
  7. Communities are people who choose to belong to a common purpose, belief or goal.

Photo courtesy of Lee Dale.