Humans are social creatures. We strive for a sense of belonging and acceptance in a society. Being in part of a community make us feel empowered, safe, and reason to live. Frances Moore Lappe articulates the essence and spirit of a community clearly:
"Community – meaning for me ‘nurturing human connection’ — is our survival. We humans wither outside of community. It isn’t a luxury, a nice thing; community is essential to our well-being."
Without a community, humans will cease to function normally. Like a wandering soul, we feel alone, empty, and hollow.
An example of how humans cannot survive alone is visible in the movie the Passengers. Below is the synopsis:
"The spaceship, Starship Avalon, in its 120-year voyage to a distant colony planet known as the “Homestead Colony” and transporting 5,258 people have a malfunction in one of its sleep chambers. As a result one hibernation pod opens prematurely and the one person that awakes, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is stranded on the spaceship, still 90 years from his destination."
Jim Preston, awakened alone, tried to live his life for 1 year derived from any human connections in an empty spaceship. His only companionship is a soulless robot without any emotions. At first, he likes the feeling of it. Living a life of a king. But soon, feeling empty and craving for human connections.
During this time, he stumbled upon a pod. When he looked inside, he saw the most beautiful woman in his life. Her name is Aurora. Jim watched every preflight interviews of Aurora, read her books, and saw a glimpse of her life. He instantly fell in love with Aurora.
Suddenly, he encountered this dilemma.
"Should I wake her up?"
After countless of self-doubt, arguing, thinking, and consulting with his only robot friend, finally, he chose to wake Aurora. Condemning Aurora to wither with him in the spaceship just to satisfy his needs to have human connection.
So, back from the movie reference, why community works?
Sense of Belonging
Humans crave to belong and acceptance in this world. This is the primary cause that helps fulfil the emotional support. This is the reason that people go to church, social events, and internet. We find comfort when we are in a group of people. We share our ideology together. Community validates our existence, and we no longer feel as though we are insignificant in this world. We want to be a member of a pack.
Fear of Rejection
Once accepted into a community, we fear removal. Scared that we could be alone again. This creates a paradox.
“Should I be different? Or should I conform my thinking to be accepted?”
When we present a certain thinking or ideology to the community that is conflicting with the community’s thinking, we will often get rejected. We internalize our ideas, hoping that one day the group will embrace our views in the open.
This model is especially true before the internet. Before the internet, people cannot seek other like-minded communities for them to be accepted. But after the Internet, it helps people to seek or create their community based on mutual understanding.
This is ultimately why social networks, like Reddit, Circle, Twitter, and other forums work. Social networks act as a place for like-minded people to share ideas and find acceptance. They do not fear their ideas being rejected as their group share similar ideas.
When you are in a community, you have a joint accountability with others. You do not want to disappoint your community because your community will pay the price. Your community acts as a backbone and will back you up when things go south. The responsibility is shared between the people in the community.
That is why Grameen Banks works, by leveraging the fear of rejection and accountability aspect. Here is how the Grameen solidarity lending model work:
"Solidarity lending levers various types of social capital like peer pressure, mutual support and a healthy culture of repayment. These characteristics make solidarity lending more useful in rural villages than in urban centres where mobility is greater and social capital is weaker."
When one person in the community does not repay back the loan, the pressure of fear and letting others down will be intimidating. This pressure intimidates the person into paying the loan.
Community is great and beneficial, but always see your community with a grain of salt. Do not take something literally just because your community says that is true. We know that we want to believe that something is legitimately true, but must always process the thinking based on your beliefs, principle, and understanding. Or else, you will become deluded by other’s beliefs.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
A community can hypnotize your consciousness and thinking process. We will have mental shortcut, or heuristic, that is tested by the community, but not by you. The ideas of the community will drive through your beliefs, thoughts, and heuristics. This behaviour is called “Monkey See, Monkey Do".
"Monkey see, monkey do refers to the learning of a process without an understanding of why it works. Another definition implies the act of mimicry, usually with limited knowledge and/or concern for the consequences."
Let me give you an example. You signed up to a gym membership. Your goal is to get better in shape and stay fit. You train consistently, eat nutritious food, and have a good night sleep.
You start seeing the benefits. You become more fit and in better shape. Then, you start getting to know the gym people. You become friends and join their gym community. You are excited to have like-minded community that motivates you to get better every day. You are accepted. You are validated. You belong to this community.
Your community starts giving you advice.
“You should take steroids! This will help you gain more muscle faster!”
You know that steroids are enhancement drugs that are artificial and can harm your body. It is against your principle to use drugs. You politely say no.
They laugh at you. They start calling you names, old school, and coward. At first, you can cope with the bullying. But, after being preached over and over again, the ideas start to crawl into your head.
“Hey, everyone is using steroids, it is normal to use it. Maybe I should also take it?”
Then, the inevitable happen. You start using steroids.
When certain ideas, ideology, and thinking has been preached to you over, over, and over again, these ideas will be forced on you.
Just Be You
There is a saying:
"When you want to know the real character of a person, see their 5 best friends."
Being in a wrong community can alter your principle. When you are accepted in a community, the fear of being left out and disappoint your community will cloud your judgment. You become so fixated by the community that it can create a negative outcome.
Back to the gym community example. Your community praises you as you finally caved in. You start consuming more and more steroids, without seeking any advice from professionals because you trust your community.
Then, something happens to your body. You start growing man-boobs, become easily agitated, and your ‘manhood’ cannot go up.
You go to the doctor, and the doctor says:
“Your testicle has shrunk and cannot produce natural hormones. You have to some therapy.”
You are devastated. Isn’t the purpose of you going to the gym to get better in shape and be more fit? How can you stumble into this position?
When you are in the community, always be mindful on your principle. You may not be aware that other beliefs, principle, and understanding start crawling to your head. Always review your principle, and be yourself. Your principle should always be your guiding stars.
Being in a community has its benefits. It creates a sense of belonging, acceptance, and pursue in life. But, like all good things in life, it can be a double-edged sword. There should be a balance between the things that happen in life. We have to take things in moderation.