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667: Communities

Community is important, both sociologically and in our collective psyche. According to Google’s nGram viewer, use of the word community in books has increased ten times over in the last 100 years, and there’s a very good reason or it.

As The Atlantic put it in a 2017 article, quote:

For much of the 20th century, if you asked someone to define “community,” they’d very likely give you an answer that involved a physical location. One’s community derived from one’s place—one’s literal place—in the world: one’s school, one’s neighborhood, one’s town. In the 21st century, though, that primary notion of “community” has changed. The word as used today tends to involve something at once farther from and more intimate than one’s home: one’s identity.

That is in large part how the word community has evolved to mean more than just a phsycial place. You may be a part of the LGBT community, the podcasting community, the expat community, or a thousand other communities,, all of which have very different defining factors. And this isn’t purely an academic question. As a study in the American Journal of Public Health explained, quote:

Increased emphasis on community collaboration indicates the need for consensus regarding the definition of community within public health. This study examined whether members of diverse US communities described community in similar ways.

Where it gets really interesting, though, is where you take a look at how you personally interact with the variety of communities that you identify with. Quoting further from that same study:

A common definition of community emerged as a group of people with diverse characteristics who are linked by social ties, share common perspectives, and engage in joint action in geographical locations or settings. The participants differed in the emphasis they placed on particular elements of the definition. Community was defined similarly but experienced differently by people with diverse backgrounds. These results parallel similar social science findings.

In other words, it’s about sharing something — not necessarily a physical location, but something, that you can build interactions and relationships around.