I joined Facebook last weekend. There are folks I’d like to spend time with who are using it to arrange meetups, and I want to be a part of that. But I’m still ambivalent.
I’ve spent most of my life resisting community. I was miserable in Girl Scouts (really, who packs nail polish and cute outfits to go to camp?). School was one arcane set of rules and expectations after another, very few of which actually involved learning. Freedom finally came with a transfer to the U of M, which was big enough to pull communities apart into individuals. Every job I’ve had I’ve shredded the fixed job description, so I’m the only person doing exactly what I’m doing, and I’m working with people across the company.
Some of my disinclination toward community is natural introversion. I can spend days on end alone without noticing. I can go months or years without talking to people I really like. I read and appreciate blogs while rarely needing to contribute my opinion. None of this is community-building behavior, and communities reward active membership.
Some is contrariness. I don’t know how much is natural and how much is survival strategy, but I have an unholy love of argument, counterexamples and logical loopholes. The more time I spend as part of a group, the more I emphasize me/them differences, the more I pick at the underlying basis for cohesion. (Strangely, I often don’t hit this point with individuals.) This does not always make me popular with the group.
Some is a really strong identity. I’ve spent years figuring out what I like, what I want and what I’m capable of. Yes, my identity evolves, but the parts that aren’t in flux are quite solidly fixed. Even the most diverse community, over time, tends to develop its own identity. “We think…” “We believe…” Swinging off the ends of bell curves as I often do, it can come down to a choice between the group identity and my own. Which do you think I’m going to go with?
So I tend to drift into and out of communities. When I enter, I do so gingerly. When I leave, I generally keep in contact with one or two individuals. Facebook could be a great way to hang onto these people. But its purpose is to build community, so I’m a little twitchy at the moment.