With the advent of social networks it can be easy to get caught up in building communities by interacting with people online. It makes it trivial to connect to someone you have lost touch with or to find someone with common interests that you may not have found before we had Facebook or Twitter. But does it really help you bond with people? The Atlantic has a really good take on this.
I’ve been thinking about that in terms of my own attempts at building community in Charlotte and have gotten a lot of good ideas recently from friends and what I read. The three things that have stuck with me are how to use social media effectively, great leaders create other leaders, and being a good leader also means being a good host.
When building a community around a particular value or interest, it’s not enough to simply make a connection. You need to reach out personally to people and create a bond. It’s just as important to cultivate new connections as it is a keep older ones going. And if you use social networks, interact with people! Don’t just click “Like” or “Share” buttons. Write something to your friends. Use all of these wonderful tools we have to meet up with people face to face instead of just sending ideas into the ether.
If you’re a leader of a community, it’s important to create other leaders in your group. Many local communities come and go with whomever is in charge. In college I was part of a wonderful philosophy club that fizzled as soon as the president left. If you have more than one person creating and managing events then it’s less likely that all of those people will leave with no one to fill the void.
A compelling way to create more leaders is to find out about the passions and interests of the other members of your group and have them talk about those. Encourage them to create an event around what they love. It’s easy for people to do that. And then give them help in the form of co-hosting an event if that makes them more comfortable. Mentor them into becoming good leaders.
And lastly, learn how to be a good host or hostess. That’s something that I work on quite a bit! I tend to get caught up in day to day stress, so much so that I don’t think I can handle doing something like making dinner for a friend with a newborn or having a dinner party. But I’ve done both of these things recently and it was quite rejuvenating. I may have been physically tired from being the hostess, but my soul was filled. I also thought of many things that I could improve on, and instead of making me feel bad I was looking forward to what I could plan next.
The most important part of being a hostess is to enjoy your guests. Surround yourself with people that you value. Make them feel as comfortable as you can. Be kind. Be generous. This goes for friends as well as members of a club. The reason it’s valuable to have community in the first place is to find like-minded people, spread good ideas, and support each other. I try to remember this when I’m feeling the stress of providing for people or managing a social event.
I hope to use all of these ideas to create wonderful communities in Charlotte. I think it’s a great city, but it could be stronger. What better way to create strength than by building bonds between the people here?