Local Resolutions Part 16 of 29
This is the sixteenth in a series of 29 ways to help your local community online in 2010. If you missed it, you may wish to read the introductory post.
In this post, I suggest that connecting with people different from you is a great way to help strengthen your community while you’re online. This series has included recent posts about taking regular breaks from digital media, commenting intelligently on local news sites, and appearing as a guest on local blogs and podcasts.
Martin Luther King Jr. left a high challenge in the form of a dream of a better world.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
On the day that we honor his life and legacy, I find myself in the middle of this blog series of how to better our community through what we each do online. And so I must ask what we can do online that will move us closer to allowing freedom to ring from Lancaster County.
Here is the resolution I propose: this year, make friends online with someone different from you. This person should live in the same physical/geographic community as you. If you’re white, befriend someone black or Latino. If you’re Gentile, befriend a Jew. If you’re Protestant, befriend a Catholic. If you’re straight, befriend someone gay. If you’re Christian, befriend someone Muslim. If you’re young, befriend someone old.
And converse with them online, at least a little bit.
The way I see it, it’s easier to meet new people online than face-to-face. You can scope them out and listen to what they’re saying before you introduce yourself. And when you do introduce yourself, it’s just about writing a few sentences and hitting “send.”
In other words, your comfort zone is much larger online than it is offline. Take advantage of that. Take greater risks in your friend-making online than you do offline.
Find someone with whom you have something in common. On Facebook, look through the lists of people who are fans of the same local businesses you are, who support the same local causes you do, who were invited to the same events you were. On Twitter, look at people who are listed in the same lists as you. Profile pictures make it easy to identify someone who doesn’t look like you. Profile information often makes it possible to find other differences.
Then send that person a message. Use that point of commonality as a starting point, and say straight up that you’re trying to meet new people.
If, as some people say, Facebook friends are a dime a dozen, why don’t those people have more diverse sets of friends?
I haven’t tried this new year’s resolution yet. But I’m excited to see whom I’ll meet.