For all of the efficiencies that technology has brought to the business world, it’s made at least one thing more difficult: creating community. Social media and AI-based matching platforms increase interaction in terms of quantity, not quality. Ask anyone with a Facebook or Tinder profile: Do a dozen posts hold a candle to a single, meaningful conversation? Here is why community matters more than ever.
Online interactions are better than nothing, to be sure, but do not mistake them as a replacement for the real thing. The average internet user now spends more than two hours per day on social media. Rather than get together after work, too many leaders sit there and scroll through their feeds.
Creating the Human Community
It’s the trend of a community that led Joshua Jordison and Wes Chapman to found The Human Gathering. Human Gathering is a private, membership-based community for successful and top leadership community. Although The Human Gathering has an online web portal, it’s those in-person moments that its members value most.
How do Jordison and Chapman create community? They’ve learned that in the digital age, a real community requires a few key ingredients:
Communities thrive only when their members are on the same page about their purpose. They don’t work when a community’s organizers are simply trying to sell something to its members. It’s impossible to truly connect if members are constantly checking email or paying attention to a schedule.
Tight-knit communities know that freedom of choice is key. When The Human Gathering gets together, it has no agenda. That may sound unorthodox, but it ensures that each and every member can take what they want from the experience. By forbidding selling or pitching, Jordison and Chapman prevent ulterior motives from staining the experiences of its members.
The deepest connections happen in environments that are intimate and respectful. Although respect means different things to different people, members of The Human Gathering prioritize privacy. No list of members is ever published, and no recording devices are permitted. Everything that happens at each gathering is exclusive to the people in attendance.
Whether it’s a book club or a happy hour, focus on facetime. Ask people to put their phones away. Give others your full attention. Treat others like you would like to be treated.
In a true community, no one member is above the rest. Equal standing ensures that everyone feels comfortable asking deep questions and giving honest feedback. Power imbalances create ego issues, which tend to get in the way of genuine human interaction.
Equality doesn’t have to mean nobody gets the spotlight; it means sharing the spotlight.
At The Human Gathering, Chapman described speakers as “storytellers.” Rather than give rehearsed speeches, storytellers sit down for a conversation that can last hours at a time.
Crucially, The Human Gathering’s storytellers aren’t paid. They’re there to connect with other community members on a personal, egalitarian level. The confidential, video-free setting ensures they feel comfortable sharing insights they simply could not in a more exposed environment.
Why do people join communities at all? Because they’re looking for a sense of family. The best communities offer opportunities to meet new people while staying in touch with old friends.
The trouble is, some communities emphasize membership figures over genuine connection. Those communities fall prey to the problems of social media: Interactions become shallow, and their members become more concerned about image than about having meaningful conversations.
When I asked Jordison about the size of The Human Gathering community, he put it in plain terms: He’ll never include more than 150 people, no matter what. After holding a few gatherings with more than 200 members, he realized that 150 is an ideal number.
To be sure, certain communities — football fan clubs, for example — might work with more members. For others, such as book clubs, it might be far too many. But for a business community, 150 people ensures that members are able to mingle freely and feel comfortable enough to forge real relationships.
Real relationships aren’t built through smartphones, no matter what social media companies might have to say about it. Connections are created through real communities, and they always have been. That truth is simply tougher to see with a screen under every nose.