Has This Kind of "Community" Ever Existed Before?

Or are we part of something entirely new? I was thinking about this while in a thread with Isabelle, who believes that homosexuality is wrong and that Christians can lead them to the “light.” Isabelle and I might as well come from different planets–where else would I meet someone like her, or would she meet someone like me?

We’ve got, gee . . . everything from teenagers to retired people . . . straight, gay, bi, trans and no-thank-you . . . atheist, Christian, Jew, Wiccan, Buddhist and goodness-knows what else . . . black, white, Asian, Hispanic and all intermediate mixes . . . people in wheelchairs and deaf people . . . techies, writers, housewives, students, factory workers, and (I believe) at least one stripper . . . Mostly Americans, but people from a dozen or aso other countries v. . .

Has there ever been a place where so many different kinds of people could get together and trade views and tell each other what total and complete prats we all are?

The internet, of course, has made this possible. I don’t believe logistically that all of us would have ever been in one place at one time to voice our views on anything prior to cheap PC’s and internet access.

Aren’t we lucky to be living at the turn of the century where mass communication is possible?

. . . Unless all of us simultaneously decided to take a three-hour tour and got shipwrecked together . . .

In (presumably) fictional and non-human terms, there’s always Noah and his Ark – but that doesn’t help a lot.

I think your question stumbles quite early on; the Internet has redefined (and extended) what a “community” might be. Thus, there was no community like this before because there was no Internet. If that makes sense.

Fwiw, I sometimes ponder taking pieces of different real-world communities and putting them together to shape something like we have here; a little old-fashioned village spirit, a touch of refined ivory tower academia, a tad of world-city, metropolitan variety, a pinch of suburban, back-fence tittle-tattle, some of ye small town and hidebound, ain’t-never-goin-no-place-else . . .

All good, healthy stuff.

It is a fairly new thing Eve. Not brand spankin’ new, as the Internet’s been around for a few decades, and it changed significantly with the coming of the Web a little over a decade ago.

Nevertheless, it’s a medium of exchange that has had very limited availability until recently, and this is a unique community. Some observations:

• As has been noted many times here, there are posters who go for a long time contributing additions that give no clue as to their gender; kinda nice, actually

• Exchanges occur that wouldn’t so easily IRL; the rules of engagement here allow a poster who’s identified themselves elsewhere as a flaming liberal to drop all that and engage me, of the atheist right, in a no-holds-barred discussion of the care and keeping of automobile batteries

• While the anonymity afforded by the medium allows for trolls and other identities of questionable veracity, over time we come to recognize some things that mark an Internet identity as “real.” While you and I don’t “talk” much on this board Eve, I’ve seen enough of you to know that you are whom you present yourself as, and I presume you’ve seen enough of me to say the same.

The Internet has indeed made this possible. But look at the screaming flame wars that exist on most other forums. I think an extra helping of credit goes to SDMB for keeping a well regulated set of rules that only discriminates against trouble makers and lets everyone else share their views…no matter how whacked out.

I can’t quite see this as a “community,” simply because I don’t see a full degree of closeness between all of the members here (which is hard to do with 40,000+ people). I realize that it’s been endlessly debated whether the SDMB has a centralized “clique” or not, but I would say there are varying degrees of relationships here, some passing through, others developing friendships.

Really, this strikes me as more akin to a college. A college typically has varying degrees of involvement: people find the groups they’re comfortable with, and settle in them. (I.e., in college, I was in the Christian club; I was not in the ski club, because I had no interest in skiing. On the SDMB, I post in the comic book threads; I avoid the “Trading Spaces” threads because I don’t watch it and don’t even have cable.)

We got everyone but the illiterate.

“Get outside the BOX! Get out of your rut… join the world! WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
I like pie.

a;lfjan l;asfjkl;dfj aanf;dajfd apeuipajvfl;mvn;aj ./ / akj .

It is a new thing, I think. There are people here who I count as friends, some of them very dear ones, who I’ve never met face-to-face. That’s rather amazing. When I was job hunting last year, it occured to me that I could go anywhere in the English-speaking world and several places in the non-English speaking one and find someone who knew me and who might be willing to have dinner with me. I was aware of something similar with change-ringers, but the difference is if I walk into a Dopefest in New York, I’ll already know the people there. Speaking of which, I’ll be in New Jersey for Thanksgiving, and I’d love a chance to meet some of you people face-to-face.


The guy I was on my sailing trip with was a ham radio operator, and has been for decades. Like us, he communicates with a community of people all around the world on a range of topics. They have games and contests, and sometimes have in person meetings.

Although quite different in details of operation, I’d say that the ham radio community is a similar electronic community that existed well before the SDMB or the internet.

Remember how in Canterbury Tales Chaucer used a religious pilgramage to show different types of people from different levels of society interacting? I used to wonder what a modern Chaucer would use: waiting in line at the MVA? A hospital emergency room?

I guess this would be it. The only requirements are literacy, computer literacy, and access to a computer. And in many parts of the world, those are no longer the realm of the priveleged and the intellectually elite.


You mean everybody here is not just like me? I’m really gonna have to think about THIS turn of events…

That’s right, Doc! Everyone here is an individual! Well, except me, of course. I’m just like everyone else … :wink:

I think the proper parallel woul dbe something like the ‘Committees of Correspondence’ from pre-revolutionary America.

A bunch of people, all with different views on things (largely centered of getting free of England) sharing ideas and concepts back and forth through the mail for (literally) years on end.

The Internet has made this sort of thing easier…it hasn’t created it.

I think this is one of the biggest factors that make this community work. People who read a lot tend to be a little more interesting, informed, and open minded. Popular author Spider Robinson once wrote, “he who cannot read cannot reason” in a short bit on the illiteracy rate in this country.

(I think it also helped inspire my sig line)

Yeah…good one, Bonnie.

It’s definitely one of the things I love about the Internet and this board. It’s a different world and yet not, at the same time. I can find people with similar interests to share ideas and enjoy reading the views of people with opinions with which I disagree.

I have a friend, a good friend, whom I met through the Internet. We chat via email or ICQ, and talk on the phone sometimes, but I’ve met him in person exactly once in my life. I’m sure most of us have good friends we’ve barely or never met, but are good friends nonetheless.

[slight hijack]I also think the Internet will eventually create a total de-emphasis on celebrityhood. Think about it. If we knew someone super famous was on this board, there would be a momentary thrill for a lot of people, but it would quickly fade as people got to know that person. Eventually, he or she would be “just one of the guys.”