Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a remarkable man overflowing with wisdom and hope for our country’s future. And yet, while he knew and influenced much about our country in his time, it would have been impossible for him to know the power that the internet would one day hold. This is especially true when it comes to using the internet as a tool for connecting with, gathering, and organizing like-minded peoples.
The Internet Can Bring Us Together — From Near or Far
As Dr. King himself once stated, “Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” And one way we can create such a community is by getting to know one another better – in person.
Even though the internet may, more often than not, seem to allow us to connect across the web from the comfort of our own homes — or perhaps even divide us further — it’s also great for finding folks nearby who share interests similar to ours. As such, we have the power right now to build new communities with any of our neighbors already within arm’s reach.
“We have the power right now to build new communities with any of our neighbors already within arm’s reach.”
In fact, there are already quite a few platforms online that exist for in-person community building. For example, if you’ve just moved, you can get to know your new neighbors with an assist from Nextdoor.com. It’s like a private social network for your neighborhood, and it’ll make it easier for you to get to know them by inviting them on over for movie nights at home, watching some favorite shows and movies via a TV streaming device, or playing a favorite board game.
And, looking a little bit further out beyond the immediate neighborhood, Meetup.com – the world’s largest network of local groups – has nearly 25 million members that are part of more than 9,000 self-organizing groups. These folks are looking to gather and have some fun, start a local sports league, learn a new language, or try a unique restaurant together. There’s an activity for everyone on there, so click around and see what’s happening nearby, across town, or across the country.
Yet, even with all this community at their fingertips, strangely enough, a whopping 15% of American adults still do not use the Internet at all. But in today’s age of information, that’s an odd choice given how quickly the world changes, how rapidly news travel on it, and how simply it can bring us closer together with other people.
Building the Beloved Community
Dr. King has been etched into our collective history for many reasons: his preaching of non-violence, his advancement of civil rights in America, his ability to lead and organize peoples from all walks of life for a common cause, and his power of giving entrancing and unforgettable speeches. And as Dr. King once spoke, “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
This lack of communication between opposing groups of people was something that Dr. King worked tirelessly to defeat. And he did so because he knew that once folks got to know each other as humans, that bond shared by all humanity could transcend any of our perceived hatreds.
And when it comes to using the internet as a tool of communication and connection, it can further amplify our humanity and community. As TIME magazine points out, when people from online communities meet up in real life, “for many members it’s about finding a kinship and support that may not exist elsewhere.” It’s about knowing that we are not alone in this world, and that there’s someone else out there who thinks like we do.
So on this day that we remember all that Dr. King sacrificed for us, be sure to thank and honor him for the extra opportunity to give back, to get out more, and to be a better neighbor. Because as he so wisely quipped, “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”