Online communities are lauded these days. Applications like facebook, twitter, myspace and friendster are seen as the new way to create and maintain one's personal social community. With these new tools people can expand their community to hundreds of friends, sharing information like never before. Can't be anything but good, say our online gurus.
Maybe online communities aren't so perfect after all. As our Web 2.0 communities grow and the amount of time we spend online grows with them, many people are spending less time with their close friends and family. Instead of going to a park with your close ones, doing dinner with your family, or strengthening friendships via common interest and common activities, the new online community leads us to spend endless hours viewing flickr photos, writing facebook wall posts, and yes, writing and commenting on blog articles. At first it is no big deal. But slowly, one starts to notice sometimes we're spending more time with our friends online than offline.
And instead of focusing our quality time with a small handful of close friends, we spread our net wide, communicating with hundreds of "friends", many of whom we've never even met. In effect, we're watering down our social community, trading personal flesh on flesh relationships in exchange for hundreds of pixel images, superfluous comments/posts, and short bios of people we once knew a long time in a galaxy far far away.
Is this the future of our communities?