I live in a community. As a matter of fact, I live in several communities. I live in a singles community right here on Single Roots. I live in a blogging community, a dreaming and building community, and a professional community. All of these communities make up who I am.
The one caveat for them all? They are all online. I build and live in this vast community structure where I have met maybe a handful of individuals from it IRL (that’s online community speak for in real life).
I love these communities. They each offer ways for me to connect, while also allowing me to encourage and share with others in a similar situation or journey. It also allows me the safety of a screen—of the ability to share only the good pieces of my life, if I so choose.
This idea of living in community isn’t new to you or me. It is something that is inherently placed in us as a desire or craving to be a part of. When God gave Eve to Adam, He said “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18, NIV) Thus the first community outside of the Trinity was created. God Himself knew that even the man He created in His likeness, in all perfection, should not be alone.
For those of us who are single, we often find ourselves living out in a community that includes online groups and social media. While they do have their benefits, having the connections of IRL community allows the hard times to shine through. They provide the comfort of an in-person coffee and conversation about a rough week or the comfort of loneliness when it all seems to be too much.
Community, done in person, provides more than just the encouragement from a Tweet or a Like it provides humanity to life. That is what I believe God intends for us in life and in community.
Because it is not good for us to be alone.
While social media has gone to great lengths to connect us, to bring us together, it also puts a divide between us. It can do so much good, and it allows those of us striving and craving for community the opportunity to find one fit just for us and engage in it. Those communities are there, along with the encouragement we are called to give each other through good and bad, in seasons of quiet and seasons of busy. Yes there is accountability in online communities, just as there is such rich conversation.
With IRL community though, there is a deeper level of authenticity. A deeper sense of accountability is held when you come face to face with someone, a deeper understanding of the heart of an individual when you hear them discuss a painful topic that you just cannot find in online communities.
Our hearts and lives weren’t meant to solely exist in online communities, where it’s easier to only show the shiny parts of life, to only share up to this point and no more. The IRL community you are a part of—and you are a part of one if you have friends, work, or attend church—is there to build you up and encourage you in ways that far exceed what the online communities can.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” [1 Thessalonians 5:11]
What will it take for you to step out boldly and build someone up in real life today? How can you be engaging in community that is going on beyond your computer screen? Maybe that even means suggesting a meet-up with your online community, or offering to get coffee with someone you have been having a Twitter conversation with on a particular topic.
Today’s a good day to embrace the knowledge that we were made for living in community.
Photo credit: Angel James de Ocampo