Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Sociologists argue that we are living in a post-modern society, in which people value individualism to an extreme. For example, Robert Putnam observed this is his book "Bowling Alone" in which he noticed trends among the general population to go bowling alone, instead of in groups, or as part of leagues. The argument is that in the post-modern age, communities are no longer as wide-spread and far-reaching as they once were, and the degree of their importance has diminished.

One way this phenomenon manifests is in Synagogue (and Church) attendance and participation. Since people no longer feel compelled to belong to a larger community, they are less likely to become members at Synagogues, or get involved with programming at these synagogues.

However, I think that Putnam, and like minded sociologists failed to recognize the role that technology plays in society. After all, our facebook friends (at leas the core of them that we share links and comments with) are a great example of how community exists in this "post-modern" age. The numerous events from which we get invites, testifies to the fact that community is alive and well and that friends do stay in touch and do activities together.

This is not only evidenced through facebook, but through online video game communities, or any website that contains a forum. Wherever there is an element of personal opinion that is linked to real individuals (this excludes anonymous posts on youtube which are meaningless), there exists a community. By real individuals, I mean individuals with an identity that can be identified and understood by others in that community, be it a pseudonym or actual name.

Therefore, I would argue that if synagogues or churches are struggling with membership and participation, then they are simply not tapping into the mediums that instill community in our "post-modern" society. Subsequently, I would argue that Synagogues should create forums and list serves, as well as revamp rituals, in order to close the distance between individuals in society.'

However, are these two types of community really the same?


Andrew Belinfante said...

Well said! I agree that today's in-person communities need to tap into what social media is out there in order to thrive.

I do not think these two types of communities are the same though...

Jonah Rank said...

I think one can definitely help complement the other...

Interesting argument, and I'd love to talk more about this stuff with you in person.