Thursday, March 31, 2016

With an advent of social networking, we are connected more than ever. The question is - are we really together and what does social networking do to our connections in real life?
Connecting with other parents online and in real life

Who Needs Community Anyway?

For a change, this post will not be much about my daughter but a lot more about me. For as long as I remember, I had problems with "joining" big groups. My parents still remember my escape antics from any overnight summer camps they tried to send me to. I have never been to church except as a tourist. I have a hard time with polite chit-chat at neighborhood gatherings. I am just not... much for "in person" communities.
Apparently, I am not alone. Washington Post recently published an article provocatively titled Why Smart People Are Better Off with Fewer Friends. I will not retell the whole article, but I think the point is made in this paragraph from it, "The findings in here suggest (and it is no surprise) that those with more intelligence and the capacity to use it ... are less likely to spend so much time socializing because they are focused on some other longer term objective." 
Perhaps I (and some other people I know) have less need for community, because we are simply introverts who get recharged from individual pursuits. Or maybe we did not find the right one to belong to. It absolutely do not mean, however, that I do not like people or do not have friends. It simply means that I need time alone and to .. visit online communities :)

How Are Online Communities Different?

For some people the allure of online communities is about anonymity. They would rather share their challenges with total strangers than listen to well-meaning advice from their friends and family. For me, it's more about autonomy. I can join a conversation on the topic that interests me and I can drop it whenever I want it if I don't like where conversation is going. I also like "wisdom of the crowd" that can be obtained from online communities. You will have a different conversation in the community of people who love math or in the community of parents of gifted children than you would have with your neighbors and even with parents of other kids in your child's school. In other words, online communities offer some sort of mutual "common ground" that I have not been able to find in "real life" communities.

Supporting Our Children' Need for Community

While Smarty enjoys spending time on her own, I would not want her to sit at the computer all day talking to online friends. Making "real life" friends and being a part of a school community is one of the big reasons why we are sending her to school and why I am making efforts that are not necessarily coming easily for me. It's a standing joke that my husband, who is also an introvert, is a "social butterfly" of our family, because he likes to talk to people in person and on the phone. But I am doing my best for my daughter's sake. I am volunteering in her school for Math Olympiad pull out, attending all school events, and networking with other parents. We accept all meetup offers that come our way and invite other parents with their kids to our place on weekends. I draw the line, however, at becoming a "soccer Mom", a "theater Mom", or a "Girl Scout Mom". Let's just say that I know my limits when it comes to spending my time on community projects without burning out. 
So far our Smarty did not lack in friends. Like me, she is quite selective, but there were several kids that she clicked with over 5 years. She also ran for a student council and finally got in as a class representative. We hope that she will continue to balance her needs for time on her own and time to give to others as she grows older. Perhaps she will be luckier than us to find the community where she feels at home.

Your Turn

Have you found your community yet? What is it?
Do parents need communities? What kind?

More Parenting Stories?

From my blog:

More on Parenting Communities

This post was written as part of a monthly blog hop with Hoagies Gifted. The topic of this month is parenting groups. For other contributions, check here, and follow Hoagies Gifted on Facebook.


maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I have a great online community and I am building a better local community. I do like to have a few really good friends rather than going out a lot.

Ticia said...

I have several very odd mixes of communities. I saw that article floating around the internet, and was intrigued by the premise.

I'm like you not much for small talk and learned I'm not really a scouting mom. I like my daughter participating in AHG, but I'm not her leader, and there's several reasons for that.

Gail Post, Ph.D. said...

Great point about the support we can find online. And how it's a much-needed resource for introverts. Thanks.

Christy McGuire said...

I seem to be the odd one. I am as extroverted as people come and enjoy the projects. I have to say, I have really appreciated being able to find like minded friends via the Internet.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

What a fun article to come back to :) I stepped away from the computer for the last bit in order to work on my "social skills" in the real world. It has been a real struggle to find connection - lots of perfectly lovely people...but not many I really connect with at the level I'd call friendship. I didn't see the Washington Post article - but I'm off to read it now! As usual - thanks for the assurance that world does make sense!