Once upon a time, a small town discovered a social media site. What started out as something that was used exclusively (or at least so we thought) by students in school, had turned into the digital version of community centers. A group online could be started at a moments notice and required no physical location to facilitate the flow of thought among a group of peers. This would not be anything that could be defined as a group of like minded individuals, though a more closed off group could be located without much difficulty. Private groups require membership forms, initial inquiries into one’s commitment to the groups core values. In a town trying to find it’s place in the current century everyone has the perfect plan to solve all of the woes and strife. The area is the most urban city in the county within which it resides. The average citizen has little awareness of the goings-on of the county they live in and the county is aware of this. The story is almost comical in the way that it sounds like a television drama when laid out.
I’ve described the area that I live in previously, but for those that are just following life and jumping in wherever they feel like it here is a small recap. At the confluence of two rivers, a city and a town formed. The town became an industrial and transportation center which developed a sprawling suburb that devoured the surrounding farmland as the population began to concentrate in the town. The town itself was deemed of value because of the narrowness of the river at that specific point. Crossings had been made there by rope guided ferry before the bridges were constructed; bridges for cars, that once carried trollies, and bridges for trains that still run as active freight lines. Before the trains, there were canals powered by the numerous rivers. The area has always served as a facilitator of transportation and commerce, and has always done well for itself. Despite what some would describe as a negatively perceived reputation, the school system provides an excellent education and now modern facilities. There is municipal trash pick up and the option to go with an alternative services provider in most places. The town is divided into more boroughs than necessary and maybe that’s the problem. Like I said, everyone thinks they have a solution, I’m not exempt from that.
Which brings me back to the social media network communities that had started to form. During the last election cycle I became even more politically involved that I had before. To lay out roughly what I mean by that I would start by saying I have for most of my late teenage to current adult years been interested enough in politics to read news articles, research topics in encyclopedias, read through textbooks, pay attention in social studies, and once wrote a paper criticizing the very education that I praised in the previous paragraph rather than write a paper about James Joyce or bother to develop a quality educational work ethic. Someone offered to publish that in two local papers and I turned them down because I was already worried about the repercussions just of turning that in rather than turning in my turn paper. But I had things to say. or, I guess I have things to say. That hasn’t faded much. Deciding then to not publish is why now I have made the choice to do the opposite. One of the social media groups that I found was announced as leaning to one direction. I joined this group because of my personal affiliation with them. The town had previous held a meeting where they invited the denizens to discuss what they thought should be done to improve the town itself. There were engineers and project managers and local business owners and plenty of regular townsfolk who had gathered because they wanted to try to make the area better. Apparently, leveling the waterfront to make it more appealing to people from out of town would do that. That design forum served as my introduction to community politics. Working for the town during the summer when I was in school and simply participating in public school introduced me to community involvement. Crowdsourcing feedback isn’t new. This town is in danger of falling behind the curve and being taken advantage of forever. And that’s why I joined a group on a social media network.
As a bubble does, the group itself tended to be rather focused. Everyone had their suggestions or their gripes and the various members would send praise or commiserate in scorn. One gentleman in particular was full of ideas that the town could do to improve. He had a tagline with each idea that implied his ideas only cost a couple of pennies. Idea after idea flowed in the group and a lengthy chat and chatter would commence and then people would move onto the next thought completely failing to realize that simply discussing the idea on the internet doesn’t actually bring it to life in the real world. The mayor wasn’t sitting there reading the page taking notes other than to get a little boost of dopamine for whatever praise the group decided to shower upon him. Or if they rose to his often unearned defense. One day, an idea was proposed that landed near to my interests and background and so decided enough was enough. There has to come a time where we stop suggesting and start doing and down with the idea that we have to wait for the government to get around to keeping up. You want to do this community group in real life, then let’s go do it. We don’t have to do much, but we should meet in person because in person is where the interactions that will affect our day to day lives will likely occur. And so they and several other people agreed to meet in the back of a bar to discuss what we would want from a specifically oriented community group. I brought a white board and markers and we brainstormed. We discussed the difference between actionable ideas and delusions of grandeur which we decided to refer to as step one and step two. You can’t get anywhere without figuring out if what you are trying to do is step one or step two and it’s amazing how many are the latter. Everyone wants a building, no one wants to pay a guild fee. Our meeting was visited by town council who offered us business cards and open assistance, and a phone call that offered us sand castle promises and wanted to lead us toward their vision for our group.
We continued to meet several times to discuss how to spread the word of our group and what we could do in the area to make genuine improvements and impacts. What we wanted to offer was an inclusive space for people of like-minded output based interest and to offer an open opportunity for people unfamiliar to the practices to give them a shot. The town exists next to a city with a similar thriving community, but it seems to serve as a larger draw. No one is looking at the town partially because the town doesn’t seem very open to people from outside of it. Our group flourished to the point that I had to question what I was getting myself involved in. There are already so many draws that require the time that I have available that I was starting to feel as though I needed to choose between a few of them and decide what was really important. My goal had ultimately been realized. Point proven, build it and they will come turned out to be the nonsense that happened. One meeting in bar turned into another in a restaurant where people who knew what they were doing showed up and managed to turn the group into a functioning entity. Perfect. That was my primary intent. Just to make it happen, I don’t even really care about the credit. The area now has a specific output based community group which is supposed to improve the area through the invitation of inspired minds, but making crafts that cheer people up is also dope.
Most of us feel some compulsion at some point to try to make a change even on the smallest scale. Sometimes when trying to do this we get so caught up in the end result that we forget to figure out what action we have to take to earn the dream we thought up. So much can feel so far out of our reach simply because so much of what we think we are pursuing as action amounts to no more than pure thought and fantasy. We had so many ideas for what to do with that group that eventually panned out well. A building was located for the purposed of hosting collective output creation events and participation in town events was coordinated. The idea of starting with step one isn’t exactly ground breaking, but sometimes I have to remind myself to take those first steps. We all get a little lost in our ideas and forget to actually pursue them from time to time.