Editor’s Note: Here’s a post from Stephen, founder of The Simple Economist.
We all have a shared goal of living in community and developing deep relationships with the people we care about.
We all have some combination of large, semi-personable networks and smaller, more intimate communities.
In an increasingly online world, we can find ourselves building larger and greater networks; however, it often comes at the expense of deep communal relationships with people we truly care about.
Both networks and communities are necessary, enjoyable, and useful. As both a content creator and content consumer, we have the ability to interact with individuals who share a collective bond and enjoy sharing ideas on subjects of common interests.
Once we get involved, the relationships we form can be an incredibly useful network, but also a starting point for deeper, personal relationships. We have the ability to develop both large networks and intimate communities.
In business school, and for any new entrants into the workforce, the notion of building your network becomes as fundamental as showing up at the office. A network can be defined as a large group of individuals who share a common interest or goal. Networks are used for soft introductions, establishing contacts, developing basic relationships, and as resources for professional development.
Networks tend to be intentionally created, relatively large, somewhat anonymous, location independent, and passive. Online networks often begin this way. Many authors in the financial space are great at building networks that connect to readers and other authors. Developing a community from our network can often be the next logical step to creating deeper and lasting relationships.
A community is contrasting in several different ways. Communities tend to be small and intimate. They require action through contribution and are often location dependent. Communities tend to be organic and bottom up, and are concerned about the entirety of a person instead of only the incremental value they bring.
The western world tends to think much more in terms of networks than communities. Living across the ocean in an Asian island country exposed me to a completely different theory on community.
The concept of networks overseas is still being loosely defined, yet communities, families, and provinces have a historical and widespread focus. Simply the exposure to tight-knit communities, even in very poor areas, was enough for me to question the type and value of relationships in my life.
It can be difficult to separate our relationships specifically into networks or communities, but often we can find that certain groups are more like one or the other. How do we know if we have a community?
- Would anyone know if I left the group? Would they care?
- Where does the structure of the group come from? Does it exhibit internal or external rules?
- Is it possible to be anonymous?
- If I really needed help, how many people in the group would help me?
- How many members of my group do I interact with in person? Have I actually met any or all of the members of the group?
- How much, if any, am I contributing to the group?
Developing Community From Your Network
So, how do we develop community? Start small. Communities are often strategically limited in size. It is impossible to actively manage 1,000s of relationships. However, small groups in large networks can be a useful starting point for introducing communal aspects. Belonging to a large network isn’t a bad thing, especially if you can find a way to create smaller, more intimate groups within it.
You even see this in the value of smaller, specialized gyms that have few members but feel much less anonymous. When becoming part of a group that has potential for great development, don’t just be an anonymous joiner. Take the time to get involved and work towards closer integration.
Meeting face to face or in small groups can add an incredible layer of dimension to even the largest of networks. In addition, be prepared to give more and take less. Networks are often about extracting maximum value from the group while communities often expect willful contributions. Finally, consider living near people that care about who you are. For me, this means not moving every year and being near to close friends and family.
In Brett and Kate McKay’s epic Art of Manliness piece, they explain that,
“online interactions can be fun and convenient — a supplement to our lives — but they can’t substitute for in-person meetings.”
We often need to extend the bounds of our comfort zone and actually move from the digital world to the real world to develop deeper bonds. The great part is that this is currently being recognized by the financial blogger community. Conferences and meet-ups seem to be gaining popularity.
Even events like FinCon have the unique ability to bring together a large network of digital connected individuals and facilitate an environment that creates a much more intimate, community type feel. When we move from behind a computer screen to real life we gain a value that extends beyond surface acquaintances and generates deeper relationships.
Networks and communities are both vital to living a meaningful and successful life that we all strive to obtain. We all currently have some semblance of both network and community and, with a little intentionality, we can develop both into a deeper, more satisfying set of relationships. We all want to live a fulfilled life and developing substantial networks and communities is a great place to begin.
Stephen (aka The Simple Economist): Stephen is a professional economist, author, consultant and speaker. After receiving his graduate degree in economics he pursues sports, travel and derives pleasure from fixing things that are broken helping people become happier. Stephen is working to complete his PhD in Financial Planning and Behavioral Economics. He and his wife and children live in Athens, GA.
Photo credit: Jeremy Vohwinkle