Do Communities Still Exist?

Do Communities Still Exist?
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A topic that my wife and I have talked about several times a month for maybe the last year has been if communities still exist. In my own opinion, community, has taken on a different approach in the digital age. While I’m certain communities still do exist, they aren’t as common as they once were.

Our own lifestyles have changed since my wife & I started our own lives, started a family, and began working. My question is if people still go over to dinner at other people’s houses, have neighborhood block parties, and go on trips together. Or, are we all so “busy” and when we are together, we have our eyes stuffed on a smartphone screen checking the latest news and Facebook updates.

Books That Talk About Community

Part of this conversation has stemmed from a few books we have read recently that talk about the importance and benefits of community.

The Benedict Option

The Benedict Option has been on many reading lists in 2017 because it talks about Christian communities. Secular society and Christian denominations have undergone a lot of changes in the last few decades. In this book, Rod Dreher presents the argument that maybe the monks were onto something when they built their monasteries a few centuries ago.

The Plain Choice


I bought The Plain Choice as an anniversary gift for my wife in early July. It’s a quick and engaging read at 189 pages and we finished it in three evenings. Normally we read a chapter of a book a night. It was different with this book.

The original reason I bought The Plain Choice is that a normal “English” American like you & I that has grown up with electricity and everything else joining an Amish or Mennonite community is almost unheard of.

The author, Sherry Gore, went there for the community. But, that’s not all the story. This also a great book about redemption. If you want to read an aspiring autobiography from a lady who has definitely lived a wild ride, I highly recommend this book. You won’t be disappointed.

Amish Values for Your Family


This is another book we like for its short stories and it shows how the Amish community helps each other out in times of need and also how they enjoy spending time as a family.

Other Bloggers

While I’m certain I have missed more than a few blogger posts about community (feel free to drop a link in the comments section), I know two have written similar posts in the past few months.

Pretend To Be Poor

Kalie gives a few helpful suggestions on how you can create your own community in Building Community Without the Commune.

Freedom is Groovy

Mrs. Groovy writes about the Unexpected Consequence of Blogging: Friends, where she lists a few of the relationships she and Mr. Groovy have made since starting Freedom is Groovy.

Why We All Seek Community

We have all heard the old expression that “Birds of a feather flock together.” You might also be familiar with “Misery loves company.” While I’m not going to say the havign friends is miserable, the recurring theme is that we all like to be with people that we can relate to.

As a personal finance blogger, I network with other bloggers. If I see somebody wearing my alma mater’s school garb, I’m going to take a few seconds to say hi.

Even if we don’t admit it in our “busy” lives where we are constantly driving from one practice to the next and have our noses buried in our smartphone at the dinner table, I think we all long for a sense of community.

Benefits of a Community

Communities have several benefits:

  • Help from neighbors in times of need
  • Hold us accountable to our goals
  • Friends
  • Validation

Since most of us don’t know our next door neighbors (myself included), we probably all have a yearning for to have friendly neighbors, get married to the girl next door, and live the Andy Griffith or Leave it to Beaver lifestyles.

Andy Griffith is such a great show, it’s one of the few retro tv shows that is broadcast across the country on local and national tv channels. We all long for a Barney Fife to give us a good laugh and Aunt Bee to cook us meal when we need some comfort food.

The Facebook Community

I might be dating myself a little bit, but, I joined Facebook when it was still only open to college students with a .edu email address. It was an exciting day on campus, but, my school finally joined the Facebook network in the spring of my senior year.

We spent hours making our profiles look perfect and then we started sending friend requests to our high school classmates also attending colleges (we used Myspace to connect with our non-college friends). Then, we would join groups that reflected our common interest in a cause. And, we would eagerly upload photos from our trips to share with our friends.

In short, Facebook was (and still is) a great way to stay in touch with former childhood friends and classmates that have moved across the globe. With one update, we can see who’s been married and had a baby recently. It’s a convenient way to stay in touch without having to catch up over dinner or at the class reunion.

Online Communities vs Personal Communities

I still think there’s no substitute for a personal community. There’s still something about physically being able to hang out with friends or go to somebody’s house for dinner or a play date that can’t be done with Skype, Facetime, or a Facebook status update.

I’m grateful for the online relationships I have formed and I think it’s a great way the internet can be used for good. If it wasn’t for the internet, life would be completely different. Sometimes that’s good and bad the other times.

If it wasn’t for the internet, it would have been harder for me to find financial advice. Visiting other finance blogs that motivates me to live a debt-free lifestyle, invest as much as possible, and also discovering frugal hacks. Much of this information was available pre-internet, you just had to look a little harder by going to the library or bookstore.

At the end of the day, online communities are best for accountability and validation, in my opinion.

Now, you do need to create online friends and online communities can be a great way to broaden your horizons beyond your normal community. For example, we live in a small town. While my wife and I enjoy small town living, it is nice to “escape” it sometimes without having to drive an hour to the big city.

Find Your Own Physical Community

My challenge to you is to find your own physical community.

Here are some places to start:

  • Church
  • Volunteer Organizations
  • Your neighborhood
  • Co-workers
  • Former Classmates

Even as our world has become completely digital and we grow in crisis mode if we can’t connect to the Internet, we still enjoy human relationships.

It’s why family vacation, family reunions, school reunions, block parties, and group activities are so memorable.

Your physical community can improve your outlook on life and also help you times of need, emotionally and physically, that the online community cannot.

Summary

I think physical communities still do exist, but, they are much smaller and not as active as 20 yeards. Technology has driven a wedge in addition to several other factors (e.g. safety and work lifestyles) that make it so we are almost all guilty of never saying hi to our neighbor. The person who can potentially help us the most (with reciprocal benefits).

I have two questions.
1. Do you think communities still exist?
2. If so, do you belong to one?

 

 

 

About the Author

Josh
I'm a personal freelance writer.

12 Comments on "Do Communities Still Exist?"

  1. Thank you for the sharing my post, I’m very honored!

    The communities I see where we live are based around church groups or parents who know one another through their children. We don’t belong to either club. But we’re not “joiners” when it comes to hanging out in a group setting of new acquaintances. When we’re around family and old friends it’s a different story — then we’re part of pot luck dinners, card night, and group plans.

    Thanks for the book tips! I’ll add them to my list.

    • It’s my pleasure Mrs. G.
      Family and old friends is most of our community too. Mostly because we have known some of these people for literally our entire life.

      I will say that having small children greatly affects your social life. It’s a lot harder to leave home and you also have to schedule everything around naps and bedtime.

  2. This is a tough issue for my wife and I.

    On the one hand we would love to have a group of close friends where we can hang out, share, support each other, etc.

    On the other hand we’re very busy during the day and treasure our quiet and personal time in the evenings. Also, our budget allows for us to do one date night per week – we can’t afford to “go out” (or prepare snacks and meals for people to come over) without a budget adjustment. Budget adjustments are fine of course but we’d need to pull from something with a lower priority, and I’m not sure what that would be.

    We do volunteer for causes and serve at our church, so we know a good number of people. We’re just not super-close. So I’m not sure if that’s still “community” or not. Perhaps it is and I overthink it.

    • My opinion is that a lot of people have the same opinion. We find ourselves seeking personal time in our evenings too.

      I’m just curious if it was this way 20 or 30 years ago. Like you, I try not to overthink it, but, I am curious to see what others think about this topic beyond our own family and friends.

  3. Thank you, Josh, for the shout out. And thank you for this very thought-provoking post. I’m with you. Digital communities are cool. But physical communities are better. Another great book along these lines is Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam. The subtitle is, “The Collapse and Revival of American Community.” Check it out if you get a chance. I think you’ll like it.

    • I’ve heard of Bowling Alone. Maybe you’ve mentioned it before or I’ve read a review about it before. Either way, I will need to add it to my reading list.

  4. I think everyone longs to be a part of a community. I love my FIRE community here online and the small one I’ve fostered in real life in my area. I see it play out time and time again though- someone joins something and goes all in: Sororities, alumni groups, Beachbody, MLM groups, Chive nation, sports, mommy groups and more. We all want to belong and there are groups out there for everyone.

    • We join similar groups too (online and personal). It’s fun to connect with similar people! The good thing with online communities is that you can be as active or inactive as you want to be. I like it because my alumni group is relatively small but we live all over the country and world. It’s so easy to connect online and stay in touch across timezones.

      That’s a little harder with physical communities if you have a hard time saying no.

  5. I do think communities still exist, but not as they did in my parents’ day. Then, a neighbourhood was a community, and I think that was fostered by the facts that most moms were stay-at-home moms; most kids went to the same school; most families went to the same church. Now, each household operates so independently, each one doing its own thing. For me, sometimes community happens accidentally. At work, I’m lucky to have a great community – and I wasn’t expecting that to be the case when I started my job. I’ve also found community to be temporary. For instance, when my kids played soccer, there was a soccer parent community that I’m no longer a part of. I do wish we had more of what my parents’ generation experienced in terms of community.

    • Thank you, Ruth. This is a similar opinion my wife and I share, except we don’t have as much “life experience” as others. Changing family dynamics have definitely changed our definition of community.
      And, as you mentioned, we change communities and groups as our interests change and our children grow older.

  6. I think communities still exist, though they are getting harder to find. Our street is luckily a great little community, where we talk with neighbors regularly and look out for each other. There are even two little boys on our street my son’s age for him to play with. Someday, we hope to move closer to my mom, but I will be nervous about replacing the neighborhood we have now! Luckily, we also have temple, which is an excellent community as well.

    • That’s great to hear you all know your neighbors. Not many people can say that anymore. Our best community is probably with our church family too.
      Having moved several times in my life, I can understand your angst for moving and adjusting to new surroundings. Moving isn’t always the most enjoyable activity.

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