The web opens up whole new opportunities for expressions of community, but how much of it, if any, is real community?

Recently, Online Journalism Blog put out a series of posts about online communities entitled ‘Lessons in community from community editors.’

The lessons were for the most part about running online communities, rather than about building communities in general, and there was often (unsurprisingly) a financial/market-place tilt to the advice offered.

However, a few things jumped out at me as more broadly insightful and relevant. In particular, Andrew Rogers’ first of his three top tips was:

A community is only really a community if it builds (or builds on) genuine relationships between the members. Otherwise it is merely interactivity…

And I thought, how many of the ‘communities’ that we suppose ourselves to be a part of are actually only just places of interactivity? This goes especially for the web, where it seems easier to avoid genuine relationships, but also for more fleshy activities. What about the book club, church, synagogue, gym, office or football match (or mosque or parents association or halls of residence or…whatever)?
Now, there’s a danger of getting preachy, which is not what I intend. But rather I wanted to just flag up that thought. I think real community is something that we (nearly) all want and need. Better then not to be deceiving ourselves into thinking it’s there when it’s not.