Fake Community: What Community is Not

Community is Not a Place

When you hear in the news a reference to “the community of Las Vegas” you know the word has been grossly misused. Even the Oxford definition of “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common” shouldn’t be stretched to a city of over 640,000 residents, with location being the only characteristic they necessarily have in common. The second Oxford definition is: “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

Community is Not Tribal Conformity

Community shouldn’t mean a group with conformity enforced by cancel culture. Community means sticking with others even while recognizing differences, in order to serve a higher core value. It is a commitment to support the wellbeing of the others. Community is more than a memetic tribe, in that “a group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate” (Godin, 2008, p. 15).

A church, a club, or affinity group could have members with a real sense of community, but it could instead keep people in (and in line) simply by fear of being pushed to the outside, thereby losing status and useful connections. Most often groups have some combination of the positives we might call “real” community as well as some acting out of fear-based pressure.

Community is Not a Group That Hates the Same People

Brene Brown warns against trying to “hotwire” connection by criticizing others, in “common enemy intimacy.”

Community is Not the Same as a Cult

See our page with a section 9 Ways to Identify a Cult-like Situation.

Community is Not a Group That Has the Same Problems

A lot of social media “communities” are based on shared problems. While this can help people feel less alone in their struggles and hear about remedies they might not have known of, it can backfire. There’s also a “crabs in the bucket” effect, where there’s a disincentive to help yourself or others get out of the problem state, if it defines your belonging. There’s often a feeling of acceptance and reassurance in these groups, and it feels good to be accepted for your “real self.” However, this is based on sharing a lot about a very small part of your experience, with people who don’t really know much about your real self. While Brene Brown notes that there is no connection without some level of vulnerability, she also warns that oversharing isn’t the way to intimacy. Instead, it can leave us open to others’ misuse of information we should have kept to share with those who earned the trust and were interested in hearing about our whole self. To really create trust, we need to share at the level someone else indicates they are ready for, then see if the small amount of shared information is used against us. If someone else overshares with you, it may help to point them to Brown’s relatable explanation of this challenge. Thru mutual gradual sharing, strong trust grows. Unfortunately, if it’s rushed, it’s less likely to be real or lasting.

Rejecting Fake Community, Creating Real Community

Creating the more positive forms of community is a job for each of us. Don’t put up with fake community. We deserve more than fake community, and we need more. Lucky you if you happen to find ready-made community! It usually starts with improving our one-on-one relationships. Find others willing to do the level of personal growth work that you are willing to do. Work on keeping healthy boundaries of your own and respect others’ boundaries. You might find that you want more healthy and happy relationships than you’ve been in recently, which might indicate you need some personal growth work, as most of us do. As you level up, you’ll naturally gravitate toward others who have leveled up. It’s not about trying to get with the healthier people and leave the ones you feel you’ve outgrown, tho sometimes this is necessary. It’s about making sure that for everyone you relate to, you are doing it with positive intention. When this happens, you’ll help others level up when they’re a bit behind in some area and want to learn, and you’ll be helped too.