I’ve been thinking a lot about community and sharing – online and f2f — what makes it work well for me and what the challenges can be.
This was brought to the forefront yesterday when I wrote something as a part of a f2f group. When asked to share (optionally), I declined, as I often do, but later, I posted this same piece online in an open space, perhaps for the whole world to see. Why the difference?
There are many reasons. First, in online spaces, no one has to read or view my work. It someone wants to look at it, they may, but no one is compelled, and in fact, it takes a special effort to do so. In f2f settings, there is a captive audience, one that I am uncomfortable with (increasingly more so lately).
In f2f environments, I rarely choose to be at the center or to read aloud. I wouldn’t say that I’m shy exactly (those who saw me once get up to speak impromptu for 45 minutes to a large crowd at ISTE can debunk that), but I don’t choose to put myself out there often. When I do, it is because I have been assigned that role.
In online spaces, I am just one of many, many voices and rarely at the center. While in online spaces, there seems to be less often a “center,” there are frequently one or two dominant voices in f2f spaces. The teacher, the presenter, the leader.
Of course, on my own blogs, I am the primary speaker, but this seems very different. For me, my blogs are a place for me to write, to think, to work through things. They are not primarily written for any audience (the possible exception being my personal blog, which is also the one about which I cringe most when I think about people I don’t know reading it, as some do, perhaps because it is also the most interesting blog I write). Because my blogs are for me, not for an audience, I don’t really care who reads them.
Reading or sharing something , though, screams out “I want you to hear this,” and really, I don’t. Not that I actively don’t want an audience to hear it, it’s just not my intent.
Thinking about this makes me reflect on the benefits of sharing. I mostly write for myself, and don’t think that I greatly benefit from sharing. However, it depends on the medium and the community. In f2f settings, the benefits of sharing seem close to zero to me. In social media, sharing is everything – that’s why I’m on social media – and I live for the responses and feedback.
Frankly, my eagerness to share also has to do with the particulars of the community. The more comfortable and bonded I am with the community, the more likely I will be to share. In nearly all the online communities I am a part of (e.g. my mini-constellation of Twitter, P2PU, NWP), I feel close and invested as a member of the group. That is much less often the case for me in a f2f group. There are probably many reasons, which include the length of time we are together, the degree to which I feel connected, and the communication medium itself.
#clmooc has exemplified the kind of community that I love to be a part of and to share with. On more than one occasion in the past few weeks, I’ve thought, “Oh, I can’t wait to share that with #clmooc.” I feel close to many people in #clmooc, some of whom I’ve known for years, others who I’ve just met. A community is more, though, that just the sum of its member people. A community is its values, its culture, its ethos. To me, #clmooc is about sharing, connecting, supporting, and being supported – more so than perhaps any community I’ve been a part of.
One thing #clmooc has made me more comfortable with is sharing my “rough edges.” I have shared thoughts that are half-baked; I have gone on hangouts when I feel unattractive and ill-prepared to say anything; I have tried things that I have been pretty sure wouldn’t work. It is unlike me to show these rough edges, but I have benefited as a result. Thank you #clmooc for that.