Tag Archives: socialnetworks

How Do You Build Community With Technology?


How Do You Build Community With Technology?

February 14, 2011 | posted by Joe Day

How do you utilize technology without taking away from relationship? We???ve found this question intriguing because of the range of responses it creates. While some see opportunity to connect, others get very nervous. Some cite the increase in email, sms, and social networks as the cause of relational disconnection, and they have some good points.

The question is important because these technologies are not going away. Not only that, they are continuing to innovate and improve. In our churches, we???re put in the position of asking ourselves how we???re going to approach technology. 

Certainly, there???s a good social use for technology, right? Regardless of the technology, what we???re mainly talking about here is human adaptation to new technology. In other words, the technology itself isn???t inherently good or bad, it???s the way we interact with and utilize it that matters. That is more a question of change than technology.

We all know the early-adopter who embraces technological change. While there???s a range of reasons for this, whether opportunistic curiosity, educational, or to simply grab the early-adopter ???cool??? badge, Pastor Mark says ???the point of technology is not (to be) cool, it is community. If you don???t have real community then technology actually doesn???t help build it.??? 

Whether you agree with him or not, how do you utilize technology to help community grow closer, deeper, more vibrant?

Full video of our conversation with Pastor Mark Driscoll and Pastor Jeff VanderStelt here.

A really important question – how can technology help build real life relationships and community, and not get in the way?

One really important point in the video excerpt is appropriate use of email and online discussion when there is a sensitive issue or a problem to discuss. Use the technology to fix a time to get together, but don’t try and have the discussion by email.

The way I see it, we’re made with lots of ways to manage difficult issues face to face. The brain power devoted to processing what’s happening with a face is immense. In person, we can also see a person’s posture, hear nuances in their voice, judge what kind of eye contact we have, look at a range of non verbal gestures, and do all sorts of things which help us establish whether a person’s words and intentions match up. This helps us build rapport and trust in tricky situations. Email can carry virtually none of this rich communication, only words which we might express or interpret badly, not to mention the difficulties involved when we can’t ask clarifying questions without long delays.

“The City” is a community-building online system for churches developed in the highly tech-friendly city of Seattle. Its focus on face to face community, never settling for online-only “friends”, is something I think has helped it become a leader in its class, and I believe it should be influential outside the church too.

What is a social network worth to you?

Here are the five stages of Facebook grief:

1. Confusion. What’s it for? How do I use it? Why would anyone want to post here? Who’s seeing this?

2. Discovery. Hey, my high school friends are here. Reading my News Feed actually makes me feel more connected to people. This is actually pretty fun. I look forward to checking Facebook every day. I love this.

3. Utility. Facebook helps me stay connected to former colleagues, which could help me find a job in the future. I learn things about my own kids that is valuable to me that I wouldn’t otherwise hear. It’s easier to communicate with everyone on Facebook than e-mail, phone calls or any other means. I need this.

4. Embarrassment. Whoa! I did NOT want my co-workers to see the picture of me someone else tagged. Too much personal information in that post! Whoops! I did not mean to offend someone — I forgot who would be listening.

5. Withdrawal. To avoid problems, I’m going to have to assume that everything I say is public, not private like I used to think. I’ll minimize my posts or stop using Facebook altogether.

Facebook has lived through many predictions of doom. Some expected it would decline a year after it started being market leader, because everything before it did (Friendster, Myspace…) But the next bigger thing hasn’t yet arrived.

Now that everyone and their mum seem to be on Facebook, it’s squarely in the mainstream, no longer an exciting novelty but an everyday utility, like banks and bins – the sort of thing the Daily Mail loves to moan and scare about.

But will Facebook become a nuisance to you, or will you just get fed up of it? If so, what’s next?

Pete Lawrence emailed me today confirming the details of his new “Pic-Nic Village” for creative types. He’s hoping it can avoid privacy concerns and advertising, and instead be based on community-sourced funding and development. This means the main functions of the site, due to launch next year, will not be free. I’m pretty sure there will be a passionate crowd of supporters. The question is, will that crowd be big enough to make it all go in a satisfying way, and not so big that people feel insignificant or even threatened by it all?

Would you pay to join a specialist social network?