Online Meets Reality at the Elementary School

October 10th, 2007

I had a bit of an “aha!” moment today. I read Kara Swisher’s “is this it, then?” posts about Facebook this morning, then attended a meeting of the parents’ association at my kids’ school and found a breadcrumb trail connecting the two.

One of Kara’s points was that Facebook has an amazing ability to draw together people, induce them to create “groups” around issues of mutual interest- and then do absolutely nothing of interest together. She has a good point. Facebook groups seem to exist only so that people can self-identify with various areas of interest; they certainly allow for only the most minimal forms of interaction.

With this in the back of my head, I went to the school meeting. My kids’ elementary school is fairly young and still very much growing in population and in the forms and richness of “community systems”. We have evolved several modes of intra-school communication, but the foresighted among us (I do not include myself on this list) are looking forward to how we can use communication tools to develop closer bonds as a community.

Email is the unnamed villain here. No one likes being bombarded by messages and if a certain group of people develops an informal email list around a certain activity then there are always a few people who would have loved to be included if only they had known about it. These aren’t new problems, to be sure. The school has the chance to do things differently, though.

All of which made me think: what if the school could take the good parts of Facebook groups- that anyone can create a group and all the interactions are there for the public to see- and use it to augment *offline* community-building? Now that sounds interesting- because frankly I’d rather go for a hike with fellow school parents than superpoke them.

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