Community in Technology

Spencer Greenhalgh writes about how believing that bonds forged by shallow online interactions are sturdy — may be overly optimistic.

My co-author Dan Krutka is skeptical about any use of the term community in online settings, arguing that in the vast majority of online settings, social ties aren’t anywhere as strong as social ties in face-to-face settings, and that using community language is a kind of technological optimism that overstates what happens on online platforms and overlooks the superficiality of some of these social interactions.

Though I have had some very rewarding experiences with others that were facilitated through social media, I can understand where Greenhalgh is coming from. Technological optimism” is a useful phrase employed well in this context. I know that I have sometimes assumed a familiarity with those on the other side of the internet pipes that was perhaps unwarranted. It has been a disappointment when I reached out with some words of encouragement or self-disclosure only to get no response.

The implosion of some social media has me feeling more pessimistic about technology-mediated relationships in general these days. I still relish those moments of connection and shared feelings, but I’m wary about how far they stretch.