I love community. I love online virtual communities and “literal communities.” For several years, I struggled with online communication, because I thought I was forced to choose between the two types of community. Now I participate in several online communities and local community groups. Online, I have meaningful friendships with educators, journalists, artists and health professionals across the country. I may never meet some of these friends.
I also have meaningful relationships with people from my neighborhood, even if I do not like my neighbors, I care about them.
Meeting neighbors is important for fighting crime and important for learning basic community building skills. In literal communities, children see how adults communicate with each other. Neighbors can see children wearing their first plastic fire fighter hat. Children can play in the street with adults and return to the home daycare where they learned how to walk. Friends learn about a neighbor’s illness or death. We notice the people who are affected by the foreclosure signs. We meet a new neighbor and a new neighbor is welcomed into the community.
Some people confuse the benefits of community building as an argument against online community. Literal community is the framework.
On the first Tuesday of every August, the National Association of Town Watch sponsors the National Night Out. My Oakland, California neighborhood has organized several block parties the last few years. My daughter started attending with our neighbor. This year our entire family attended National Night Out for the first time together.