The Internet Killed Community, Or Did It?

Friends first online and now in real life! Christie, Kate (with the smallest pickle) and Cath- SquiggleMum.
Image: Danimezza for Nuffnang.

This post is by regular contributor Kate Fairlie of Picklebums.

I am a planner. I like to think things through, make plans and know where I’m heading well ahead of time. When we first decided to have a baby I had been working in child care and teaching preschool for almost ten years, I had a pretty clear idea of how this baby gig was going to pan out for us, or so I thought.

At our first visit hospital visit I heard those fateful words that would blow any plans I had clean out of the water…

“There is definitely two babies in there….”

I had never, not for a second, even given a passing thought to the possibility we might have twins. I didn’t know anyone who had twins, and the most common reaction when we told people was “I always wanted to have twins. You’re so lucky!” But I felt far from lucky. With my idealistic plans crumpled I was ignorant, scared and alone.

As my pregnancy progressed and we discovered there were complications and that our babies would be born prematurely my feelings of loneliness grew and grew. I needed to find someone to talk to, someone who wouldn’t laugh off my fears, someone who really understood.

Stuck at home on bed rest, I turned on my computer and clicked to where I knew I would find what I needed. I’d been part of an online parenting forum off and on when I was trying to get pregnant, so I knew I would also find an active community of ‘mothers of multiples’ there. Behind the safety of my screen I could reach out to these women, to share my fears, and my hopes and to begin to rebuild my plans.

I found exactly what I needed. I was supported with information, love, laughter and friendship.

Many people talk about the lack of ‘community’ these days. They say we don’t know who our neighbours are anymore and that ‘community is dead’. Some suggest that the internet might be the cause of this ‘break down of community’.

While I believe it is important to be active in your local community, to know your neighbours (even ours who are cows and sheep!), for me, the internet has created more community not lessened it.

Because the internet bridges the geographic divide, it allows us to connect with people we might not otherwise be in contact with.  It allows quick and easy communication between liked minded people, it allows easy sharing of ideas, information and experiences, and for those who perhaps cannot easily leave the house it can be a life line.

In the early days of mothering, the online community kept me sane and gave me hope, during one of the most difficult and stressful times in my life, support that continues to this day.

As my girls grew older and it became apparent that some of our parenting choices didn’t quite fit within the mainstream ‘norm’, once again I found community online. Connecting with like-minded people and sharing ideas online has helped me to be a better parent. This virtual ‘mothers group’ lead to a ‘real life’ play group, which has led to some of my most treasured friendships.

My blog has become another source of community for me. Through my blog and blogging I have met a wide range of fabulous people and formed strong friendships, both online and off.

Earlier this year, when my husband was rushed to hospital with serious heart problems, it was my online community who poured out support and love. I came home from two sleepless nights at hospital to find my twitter streams full of messages of love, my email over flowing with offers to help and my freezer full of meals made by friends I met online, some of them from those very early days as a scared pregnant lady.

From where I’m standing it is clear, the internet did not ‘kill community’ it just made it bigger, and allowed you to access it in your PJs.

What do you think? Is community dead? Does the internet contribute to a break down in community?


  1. Haha, I love the part about allowing you to access it in your PJs 🙂

    Good points. I don’t think that the internet killed “community,” but I do see some negative points of excessive internet use. I think the key is to make it blend in with your life and not take over it. Your example is very heart warming and the internet allowed you to expand your community. I have had similar experiences too.

    When my daughter and I were first diagnosed with Celiac, the internet was the tool that helped us the most with finding information and even finding friends. Through blogs, I met other gluten-free families and made friends that I cherish still. It allowed me to connect with people that I otherwise would never have met, because they were in other states – some across the country.

    The internet allows us to stay connected with people that we otherwise would not be able to effectively communicate with because they are far away and I think that is priceless. My only concern with the internet would be those who use it excessively, or forgo any other forms of communication.

    I have noticed that email is so “hot” that many people use it solely, never picking up the phone! Email can be so convenient, and it’s often more productive to do so. Sometimes I wonder though, is that best?

    It’s all in how you use it. For me, I love the source of creativity it provides (being able to follow craft blogs, homeschool blogs, etc) and being able to share with those that we care about that are in other parts of the country.

    1. You are spot on… everything in moderation!
      The internet can definitely help build community, but as with almost anything, too much or exclusive use probably has the opposite effect.
      What I really love about it though, is that when you find yourself in a position that is a little different from those around you, you can jump online and connect with others in a similar situation. For me that has been worth it’s weight in gold!

  2. Technology and the internet have opened up a whole new world, that’s for sure. The ease of access is amazing (and I love pj blogging too). I’ve found blogging (and the internet) very useful – we recently moved away from family & friends, so while I was trying to get connected with people in the community, I found that I didn’t feel quite so lonely as I’ve been able to make connections through blogging. The thing that concerns me about the internet/technology is that our children’s generation (and beyond) will have no idea about community in ‘real life’.

    1. Do you think that internet will take over community to take extent?
      For me, there is no substitute for face to face interaction, despite the fact that I am quite shy and find new social situations difficult. I still don’t feel that the internet can replace that.
      But my oldest kids are only 7 (almost 8) and have little use of the internet and only vaguely know what ‘social media’ is, so I guess I am yet to see how the internet will impact on their idea of community. But I am hopeful that I can provide them good examples of connecting both online and in the real world as a good starting point.

  3. On those days when I just can’t get out of the house and see IRL friends, my bloggy friends are my saviour. I have now made some incredible friendships with mums who are experiencing the same things at the same time. That’s a lot harder to find in real life when friend networks are a lot smaller. My only regret is not getting into blogging earlier. 🙂

  4. You’re spot on with this Kate, the internet certainly hasn’t killed community, it’s just changed it and probably given more of us access to more kinds of suitable communities. Not only that but it’s enabled a lot of women, like me, to work mostly from home and be around with our kids a lot more often and I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing! Even ten years ago the work I do didn’t exist, yet here I am juggling it relatively easily with looking after the small boy rather than having to put him in full time daycare – it’s ideal! Hmm I could rave all day on this topic but I should actually be doing some work! Great post.

    1. I hadn’t even thought about the work opportunities and communities that the internet has created/allowed!

  5. I still have days when I might feel a little lonely, but I do know those feelings would be incredibly larger if I didn’t have people to talk to online. Love it.

  6. so true the internet has definately made my world bigger! I have met so many lovely new “friends” since I started blogging and in real life it has made the arranging of catch ups and get togethers so much easier..I did not really have a social life until facebook allowed us to all connect in an every day way!

    1. so true!
      For someone like me who hates talking on the phone, email, twitter and even my nemesis, facebook makes connecting with my real life community much easier!

  7. Di @ Mummy Di-alogue says:

    I’m with you – the Internet has opened up a whole new community to me through blogging. But just like with IRL friends, it requires an investment of time and trust.
    What I like about email and texting is that I can send a message or ask a question when I think about it. Its not always convenient to talk on the phone (and somehow my daughter always chooses that time to get loud). And the opportunity to catch up in person is something to savour and enjoy.

    1. Yes! It allows us to communicate at times that suit us… which is handy in this busy world!

  8. Deb @ Bright & Precious says:

    Totally agree with you Kate. Online community was vital to me in the first year of my first baby’s life. I felt supported and connected to other mothers in a way that would have never happened in real life (yes, did have IRL mother friends too). It takes away some of the loneliness and isolation that modern parenting seems to bring. Thanks for an interesting post, Kate!

  9. This is one of the reasons why I started blogging. As I saw such a supportive community out there in the big online world.
    I love how you find support from so many people that you have never actually met.

    I too have wonderful friends from way back when starting to try for a baby on a parenting forum. Who which we have now all moved on to FB and share so much of our lives the good and the bad.

  10. Veronica @ Mixed Gems says:

    I think the internet has made community more tangible even though it’s virtual. It’s quick. It’s easy. People feel more comfortable being themselves because they do not need to deal with in-person social awkwardness. It’s allowed people who could otherwise feel alone, not be alone. I’ve appreciated that this year since being at home with my new bub since March since I don’t get out much or interact on an adult level with many people (most of my long-standing relationships are with people interstate or overseas). Yet, I agree with comments above about the balance. It can be easy to live primarily in this virtual world and not build on real-life connections. I think it is critical to be able to do both, probably real-life more so. But it can be so much harder. I do wonder about the future out children will grow up in. I don’t want my children struggling to know how to communicate in real-life because most things are done online.

  11. SquiggleMum says:

    Mwah. I love that photo of the three of us. x

  12. Megan @ Writing Out Loud says:

    Blogging has definitely saved me from a lot of loneliness – my husband is out quite a lot with volunteering and other activities and, even though I like my own company, being ‘stuck’ at home with a sleeping child would do my head in too often!

    Great post, Kate.

    1. That’s exactly right. So often I am at home alone with the kids, and without twitter to share my adult conversation with it would be so lonely!

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