I agree Maha that Howard’s distinction resonates, yet you amplify it more (at least the way that I read it) in that in a community, or being communal, you have made an emotional stake, to some degree have been mutually vulnerable (in the sense of communicating or sharing at a level beyond “chat”) (why am I using so many parentheses?).
There is some hair splitting at what you mean by social networking; the way I am thinking of it now is that it is connecting with others but in the pursuit of gaining something out of the exchange, even small. That is not necessarily negative, it can be gaining knowledge, contacts, awareness, but also bleeds over to people who connect to improve scores and follower counts. Can it be called even “selfish”?
I tried to think of the non online equivalent, and maybe it is one of those school socials or a business cocktail party, or that thing that happens at conferences when people are glancing at your name tag and calculating the impact of talking to you versus other key players in the room. Maybe I stereotype not do not spend time at cocktail parties. It is like connecting for the same of connecting.
The things is that social networking and communities exist in the same overlapping space, and the point at which a group of people begin to feel like a community seems like a blurry line.
I’ve read and parsed and enjoyed reading your comment, Keith and the idea of “covenant” relationships– I can think of many online relationships that have that flavor; the thing I wonder is that elsewhere, like the parent-child is that the relationship is established from the start, whereas online perhaps that co-evolve?
It may not be connected, but it reminds me of a time a few years ago at a conference (where I did not go to the cocktail hour) that Biz Stone described twitter as being different from email because either party cannot have an expectation of a reply. If I email Maha with something I’d like her to respond to, if she does not it has an emotional impact on me, I wonder what I did wrong that she did not reply. If I tweet something beyond a direct question, I really cannot have the expectation of a reply, though the magic happens when others reply that I do know know or did not expect.
I would say that a community is a place where you have placed some emotional chips on the playing table and are rewarded when others do the same…. because they care.