I've just joined an on-line virtual community of parents (mostly mums, but a few dads too; a national UK set up, but with a few from wider afield). Jo's been part of it for a while. It is fantastic, especially the discussions, which range from the downright silly (every stay-at-home-mum needs a silly time in the day, in order to stay sane) to relationship issues, depression (very common), to asking for and sharing advice about children at various stages of development, balancing jobs and family...in fact, pretty much anything you can think of.
Perhaps the most striking thing is how many of the mums have very few friends or supportive family near by in "real life" (RL, in virtual-speak). For them, the virtual community is a real God-send, sometimes literally a matter of life-and-death - and these are not "cyber geeks" with no face-to-face social skills, who have chosen to opt-of of reality in favour of fantasy. These are real parents, with real kids, trying to be good parents, and raise good kids; and supporting each other in it. (Before I get animated comments: I'm not dissing cyber communities; just saying these people don't fit the stereotype many people think of when they hear the words virtual community.)
As part of a relatively small but globally dispersed missional community, my view is that we need to develop a strong virtual expression of dispersed community, as well as lots of strong face-to-face expressions of local communities (and occasional events when the dispersed community comes together face-to-face). That it is not a matter of either/or - or of one being better than the other - but of both/and. That is the reality of the mobile world we live in. And I'm hoping that we'll get an on-line "space" for that to happen up-and-running fairly soon now. I'm looking forward to it.
If you ever want to look further into virtual communities I have a vast and exthaustive dissertation yu can read with the biggest bibliography in the world (maybe)ReplyDelete