Did you ever have that day in high school or college when you could learn about the different school clubs and sign up for them? In college, we had a few days at the beginning of each term devoted to showcasing on-campus activities. The auditorium would be packed with tables like a career fair, but instead of submitting resumes, you would put your email into the group listserv. As an adult post-college, there are no more “club days” like this that I can readily attend… or so I thought.
Social media and other virtual spaces can play an important role in community building. How many of you out there use Facebook to meet new people? In a way, this sounds counterintuitive. We use Facebook to keep tabs on and keep in touch with old friends. Facebook, however, also has a “groups” feature, which allows hundreds of like-minded strangers to engage in online fora on group topics. Groups can be regionally based and centered on activities such as running, language practice, etc., on affiliations–political, religious, cultural—or on any other unifying factors. While many of these groups stick to online banter, many others use Facebook as a planning space for their offline adventures. In pursuit of my 2020 resolution to “do more,” I began to look on Facebook for groups to join. I stumbled upon an outdoors group and eagerly signed up for a hike not far from Boston (more on that here). I enjoyed the time that I spent on the trails, meeting new people and testing the limits of my physical fitness on the rugged terrain. Hiking was something that I had never seriously pursued, but seeing the enthusiastic group online gave me enough encouragement to try something new.
As a post-college adult, sometimes I feel as if I have lost my sense of community. In college, my friends and I lived together, studied together, ate together, and in freshman/sophomore year even slept in the same room together. Camaraderie was strong and the friendship unquestioned. Today, these friends have virtually disappeared. Or, more appropriately, I disappeared as I was the one to move away. I mourn the loss of my friend group. I’m confident in my ability to make new friends this year, but can I make a whole friend group? Earlier, I would have thought it to be too farfetched. However, the online community has given me hope that forging friendships and connecting over shared interests is possible in the “real world.”
I will continue to expand my barriers this year. I will challenge myself to try new things, especially if it means meeting new communities of people. It is hard to grow when you refuse to leave your comfort zone. However, it is when you leave your comfort zone that you inadvertently expand it. I hope you have a community(-ies) that you can call your own, Dear Reader. Real human connection is necessary, even for us introverts. I hope you can find the thing that you love and people to share it with you. The more the merrier 😊