Community or Clique?

Or more appropriately – Are you building a community or a clique?

We are all a part of many communities, both on and off line.  We are inundated with constant buzz about “building communities”.   How often though do we stop and look at whether what we are building or joining is really a community or is it a clique?

There are many different definitions of community.  Some having to with interests and some having to do with geography.   What we seem to have accepted as one definition of community (especially offline ones) is a group of people with similar interests and an agreement as to goals.  The question arises when do we cross the line between being an inclusive, supportive community to a clique (a small exclusive group of friends or associates).

So what do we really mean when we talk about building communities? What really differentiates a community from a clique?  In every community that we belong to, we have those who we feel more comfortable with, those we have more in common with.   But just a like a family, there is always that old aunt or uncle who tells the bad jokes or insists on pinching our cheeks.  There are the people we have less in common with, that we are not as comfortable being around.  When we talk about building a community doesn’t that mean including those people?  If we do not, aren’t we just building a clique?

Communities are multi-facted. If we accept that a community is a group of like-minded people working towards similar goals, doesn’t that mean we have to accept the ones we have less in common with, but who still meet that definition?  In your community, how often do you reach out to those people?  How often do you take the time to find out about them?  Do you reach out and try to help them?  If you are the “leader” of the community, isn’t it your responsibility to foster that environment?  If you claim to want to build a community, shouldn’t you be doing everything possible to foster communication, acceptance and cooperation among your community members?

Are you taking the time to learn and share the negative as well as the positive?  It is easy to share and celebrate all of the good things, but are you also willing to commit to helping your community members through the bad ones?  Do you have a community member who is having a hard time personally or professionally?  Do you even know?  If so, what are you doing to draw the community together to help this person?  Are you using all of the avenues and tools available to know what going on with your community members so that you can act on the good things and the bad things?

We all have our buddies, our friends within our communities and this is not to say that we should not have those we hang out with, socialize with and support those individuals.  But when we revolve our actions around those individuals and not everyone in our community, then we are not really building a community.  If your stated objectives include anything about togetherness, support, sharing or communication and you are not actively reaching across your entire organization and beyond with these concepts, then you are not building a community.  You are building a clique.

An open letter to my Tweeple ….

This past weekend, I was talking with a friend and repeating to her the story of a funny Twitter exchange I had been a part of earlier in the week.  She found the tale amusing, but asked how I knew the person that I had been talking with.  Apparently, in my joy I had failed to mention to her that this was a "friend" from Twitter.  Now she has heard me mention Twitter before, how could she not have. I extol its virtues to anyone that I can get to half listen.  The explanation that this conversation had been held with someone I have never met in person, yet feel that I know,  prompted additional questions from her about the people I encounter on Twitter and their place in my life.

My conversation with this RL friend initiated some in depth thinking about the people I interact with on Twitter.   I realized that there are those who I enjoy following for their insight.  Others for the business information/advice they provide.  There are those who amuse me with their witty banter.  Common interests tie some of us together  And there are others who I have been drawn to call my friends because of their personalities.   My friend asked me how I could possibly consider someone that I have never met a a "friend".   I explained to her that while my on-line friends may not the be same as my real life friends.   We may not "hang out" in person, but we do "hang out" on Twitter.  My conversations with my Tweeples are as poignant, emotional, intellectual, charming and cheerful as those I have sitting next my RL friends on my couch or at a restaurant table.  

SO I examine the relationships I have built on Twitter and the things that Twitter has brought into my life.

I have received and continue to receive an education more varied than I could possibly receive anywhere else.  I encounter people who are brilliant and who astonish me on a regular basis with their knowledge, skills and ability, as well as their willingness to openly share their nuggets of wisdom with the rest of the Twitter world.

There are some of the people I follow that I can guarantee will always bring a smile to my face.  There are those days, when things are just plain wonky and I know that all I have to do is log in to Twitter and scroll down to see the silly new avatars or the tweets from my favorite Twitter comedians.

Those Twitterites who share my interests are always there with a new problem, solution or perspective on our various topics of interest.

And there is everyone else who are part of my follow/following circle.  Some of them I just find interesting.  The rest are not only smart, funny and interesting but are people with whom I have come to share a bond, consider my friends and am honored to say that I know.  We have been drawn together by an interest in each other, our lives, our families.  I feel  privileged that they have chosen me to be among the ones that they share their joys, tears, happiness and fears.  The joy of watching their children learn and grow.  The triumphs of their businesses, as well as their insecurities along the way.  Their relationships, health, exploits, struggles and their achievements.  These people have brought feeling and attitudes into my realm that add extra dimension to my life.  The wonderful thing is that these people have shown the depth of their characters by being there for moral support and amusement when I need those things brought into my life.

So to all of my Tweeples, THANK YOU.  I am appreciative of the opportunity you have given me to share with you.
And Twitter, THANK YOU for making it possible for me to find a world beyond my own that contains such wonderful people.

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Changes & challenges

It seems that 2 words can describe my life lately – changes & challenges.  In the last few months, I have changed where I live, who I live with, my vision of the future and of how I see myself.  All of those changes have come with challenges — sometimes as major as just being able to get out of bed in the morning, sometimes as minor as trying to figure out where and how to hang a picture.  Today brought about another major change.  A person that I thought would be my friend forever has decided that it is better for him to end our relationship.  And this week brings up 2 more major challenges.  Facing the first birthday I have had alone in a lot of years and to top it off, it is my 42nd birthday.   The day after that I start out on my 3-day, 60 mile adventure in the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day.

So how do I face these challenges and the many more that will come into my life?  I wish I knew.  I wish that there was a guaranteed plan to tell me what to do when each change comes along and when I have to face each challenge. So far, none has shown up.  Everyone keeps telling me that there is not a manual.   At this point I am only putting one foot in front of the other.  Or some mornings, one foot out of bed.  I can honestly say that if it were not for my sons and my friends, I would not even be doing that.   The thought of my sons having to face being without me is what makes me keep going.  My friends are the ones who give me the support, encouragement, love, shoulders to lean and cry on and just, in general, keep me upright.

Well, to face the most recent change, I guess I just move on.  I can't force someone to want to be a part of my life. (As much as I would like to be able to.)  The most recent challenges are another thing though.   My birthday – I would like to just say I will forget about it, but birthdays have always been a big deal in my family, so they are to me too.  Once again some of my friends come to the rescue.  They are making sure that I don't spend my birthday alone.  Dad and (what a nice surprise), Sis came through too – the cards are already here.

Friday morning dawns very early for the other big challenge of my week – the 3-Day.  Fortunately, one of my dearest friends will be by my side as we take off on our little hike.  It is a really challenging undertaking, but one so very worth every step.  (See my earlier post on why I walk)

Thursday night, as I celebrate my birthday, my friends and I will raise a toast and mine will be to changes and challenges and finding the strength and faith to get through them.  To my friends, my sons and the rest of my family.  Thank you for being there to make sure I get through all of these things.

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