Virtual Connections That Help Build Real Community Bonds
Lost Chihuahuas, free chairs, car thefts, and, of course, block party alerts are all part and parcel of hyperlocal social media — be it listservs, email lists, or blogs — that help shape a sense of community in neighborhoods across the nation.
“It helps us get to know our neighbors, and that’s super important to me,” says Michele Sullivan, referring to the informal email list she started in her Vienna, Virginia, neighborhood 17 years ago. It’s grown from 14 households to about 150. “It helps make us feel included and connected.”
So what is the role of social media in creating a sense of community? Is it a conduit for real-life connection and interaction — which are so basic for a sense of community? Or do these platforms themselves constitute a sense of community?
“Social media is not the be-all and end-all,” says Carrie Brown, social journalism director at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, “but it can help facilitate a sense of community.”