The more that I think about it, the more that I appreciate the concept of a community. A community to me is a group of people dedicated to a common cause. But I also don’t think that communities are limited to humans because a similar bond exists among animals and between humans and animals. There are a variety of communities, and if you look hard enough, you can find them almost anywhere. Your school is a community; your family is a community; your neighborhood is a community. And in this day and age, communities can stretch way beyond the local bounds of geography. The online community is enormous and ever expanding. Technology has given us the ability to connect with people that we would never have the chance to meet in person. And the amazing thing is that everyone is also a part of one huge community, the global community, because we all share one earth and one sky and we all occupy the same tiny spot in the universe.
So we know that communities are made up of individuals, but how does one individual effect a community. The answer to this question lies in observation, both my own and others. Take the novel we’re reading in English, the Scarlet Letter, which features a New England community shaken by the adulterous actions of two of its members. The book’s protagonist is Hester Prynne, and the story opens with her public shaming as punishment for committing the hideous sin of adultery. For the entirety of the book, the townspeople are intricately intertwined in Hester’s affairs, they are interested in her actions, just as they were interested in her initial wrongdoing. We often see similar things occur in our own communities. Celebrity scandals are an equivalent to Hester’s incident on a larger scale.
Of course, all individuals affect the community. When a group of people is so closely intertwined, it is impossible not to. I’ve found experience as a member of my school’s marching band. My band director has repeatedly said that you can individually have a good show, but the band as a whole can have a bad show, or vice versa. Every person in the band depends on each other. Part of having a great show is knowing that the people on either side of you are contributing the exact same amount of effort. The goal in our community is produce a product that the audience will enjoy. That’s why we practice for hours on end and drill the same sets over and over until the steps and the rhythm is embedded in our memory. And although every person contributes something when we all step onto that field, our sections leaders are the individuals that keep us running smoothly. Section leaders are the glue that keeps the section together. They’re responsible for every individual in the section, and they keep track on our improvement. At the end of every competition, the band comes together and our director gives a speech on how he thinks the show went. In that moment, we’re all focused on one thing – how the show went. When it’s all over, whether we win or lose, we’re still a part of our community.
Communities contribute to our physical and mental well-being, according to the essay Health and Happiness, by Robert D. Putnam. There are statistics showing that the health of the population directly correlates to the social stability of the time. Part of the reason for this is that being part of a community gives individuals the emotional support they need. It often gives people a social obligation to engage in healthy behaviors, like in youth or religious groups. Research has also indicated that involvement in a community may even have biological triggers that spring the immune system into action.
Online communities are important as well, but in the essay Facebook Friendonomics, Scott Brown argues that the easier it is to acquire friends, the less valuable they are, especially when they are present in multitudes online. I disagree with this on a couple levels. I think it’s pretty well understood that Facebook friends aren’t the same thing as “friend friends”. Of course, Facebook friends will include your “friend friends”, but it will also include acquaintances, friends of friends, and people you just wanna get to know better (these categories aren’t mutually exclusive by the way). No matter what, the important thing is a community is how individuals react with each other, not whether they’re online or IRL. Because if that were true, this WordPress community would be obsolete!