Me…and the Arts on Campus

Look at the image of the community you drew before discussion today as a case study. From the discussion we had today, what traits do you think makes it a community? Do you think social media and modern technology could impact on how your community functions?

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Upon reflection of the activity that Michelle proposed to us in class last week, one word that comes to mind when I look at my community map is “egocentric”. I mean, you can’t not look at the giant circle in the center and think that this map is about a balanced, equal community. Instead, it’s about me…and the various people I know that are members of the community of arts on Stanford’s campus.

How did it end up this way? Why isn’t this picture your stereotypical visual web of people? Why is my circle so friggin’ big?

I don’t know about you, but for me, it represents a shift in the way that I think about community. Staring at the blank page, there was no one community that I truly felt a part of. Everything that I could think of was “me vs. them”, me playing my part in different, mostly unconnected circles of people. The more a circle intersected with me, the more “involved” I felt I had been in joining them.

How this map represents community to me is relatively limited: every group shares the passion for art to varying degrees, and everyone involved all go to Stanford. In reality though, almost none of these groups overwhelmingly overlap, and for some, I’m the only link between them. Little emotional or intellectual support exists between these people, and cultural norms vary widely between them. A sense of belonging only exists when you forge it yourself.

They didn’t call Gen Y the “Me Me Me” generation for nothing. And it’s possible that social media hasn’t helped. American culture is so much about discovering your independence and celebrating what makes you unique that it’s often hard not to see everything in terms of you. People spend so much time crafting Facebook profiles to be the ideal of who they are that the discrepancy between virtual and real life is staggering. Selfies on Instagram are so numerous that if someone did that with a physical photo album 20 years ago, they’d probably be diagnosed with narcissism. Just as much as social media can provide the grounds for creating communities, it also has the power to divide us and segment us into our own, self-important pods.

Many people globally have wielded the Internet as a powerful tool for seeking out like-minded relationships and communities. It’s possible that my journey down that road hasn’t begun yet and that there is so much out there for me to truly become a part of. But for now, the inertia of life and the big fat circle in the center of the page is enough to keep me rooted in my ways.