Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Facebook and Tribes

Yesterday I received a good comment about another Seth Godin work Tribes. Not having read the book (hopefully I can find it at the library), and surmising yesterday's comment I thought about my own tribes: the only tribes I have are related to home. One is my dear wife and girls, the other is my parents and brothers. Outside of those tribes, I have friends, but those friendships aren't necessarily part of a tribe.

I am thankful for the tribes I have, I can't make a value judgment about not having other tribes--it's not something I can control at this point in my life. To what do I attribute few tribes? A series of transitions and moving.

1. We didn't move a lot when I was a child, but the times we did move and when I changed schools significantly altered my friendship communities. I attended one school from grades K-1, then another school when I was placed in a new school district program from grade 2-6. The program involved kids from all over the district, bussed in from many neighborhoods all over the district. I saw different kids in sports, in my neighborhood, at school, at church. In middle school I continued in the school district program, but later withdrew over conflicts with teachers. I also discovered my family was moving 60 miles away, and I wanted to spend more time with another tribe outside the district program.

2. After moving, my family stayed in the new town much longer than I did. I lived there 4 years. I think my parents were there 14 years or so, and my brothers went to elementary, middle and high school in that town--they are much more tribe-oriented to that town and their friends than I am.

3. My higher education from 1988 to 2003 involved several institutions:

University of Kansas
South Puget Sound Community College
Minnesota State University-Mankato
Luther Seminary
Catholic University of America
Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg
Wesley Seminary
South Dakota State University

I stayed the longest at Luther Seminary (a little over 3 years), but I began my program in the middle of the academic year, then switched classes after I was engaged to my dear wife. She started in the class after me--so I graduated with her class. I have friends from some of these institutions, but not a tribe.

4. During my ordained ministry, I have never served in a congregation or town more than approximately 2.5 years. While serving as an interim pastor, there's always been a distinct distance from groups that I encounter in congregational life. I think it's the nature of my vocational demographic, the moving around I do, and the nature of the interim pastor role. Though I have made some friends along the way, nothing has formed for me that resembles a tribe. My dear wife has tribes from our time in South Dakota--she benefited from staying in one congregation and the established connections from her time as an undergraduate student in South Dakota. My vocational path and location hasn't lent itself to tribal formation.

5. As I reflect on the Facebook invitations I have received, some appear to be about friend accumulation, some are about a fringe tribe welcoming, some I don't understand the motivation. In tribe speak, my response is: "not my tribe." In family system speak, the question is, "is this of self or is this not of self?" The answer is "not of self."

I don't need Facebook to communicate with my dear wife, my daughters, my diasporic friendships, my parents, or my brothers. It makes sense that effective communication among tribes can be enhanced by Facebook. I will probably read Godin's book to better understand tribal behavior in the congregations and communities I serve. Thanks to yesterday's responder for providing good reflection for me today.

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