Back in 2007 when I was in graduate school studying Technical Communication the idea of Virtual Community was still relatively new and the subject of much academic study. I too succumbed, at least briefly, to that siren call and read a good deal of, at that time, current research on the subject. My own conclusion: virtual community only works if it is rooted somehow in face to face community.
Well here we are – suddenly forced, world-wide, into “virtual community” and I’ve come to the conclusion that those two words really are a contradiction in terms.
Here we are sitting in on a recent virtual birthday party where my lovely wife is virtually celebrating with her three very real sons. This is not a “virtual community”. It is a very tangible, personal and intimate community with a face to face history of four decades. This little party was made possible under the conditions of “social distancing” and “sheltering in place” thanks to Apple’s FaceTime software, but what made this a precious and connecting “moment in time” were those four decades of shared experience beginning early one morning over forty years ago in a University Hospital delivery room.
Perhaps this is another of those hidden little blessings amongst all the pain and challenge of these days. Suddenly we have been prompted to use whatever means come to hand to go back and nurture long neglected relationships.