Of York County, Pa., social clubs and virtual communities
York, Pa.’s West Philadelphia Street F.O.E. – Fraternal Order of Eagles – Lodge, seen in this sketch, will be transformed into an art gallery. The building is one of many lodges formerly occupied by fraternal or social organizations in York County that are no longer are needed because of declining memberships. Obscure F.O.E. building to become colorful beacon of York, Pa.’s renaissance and Demolished Red Lion Grange Hall still tells tale of changing York County and York County civic, service groups fighting for lives
Throughout history, York County has been what I have described as a quietly social place.
The Web and social media are changing social scene is changing in York County – as it is everywhere.
I explore that change in a yorktownsquare.com post turned into a York Sunday News column: Social clubs vs. virtual communities.
Here’s a sidebar to that column, headlined “Visiting virtual communities:”
Fifteen years ago, Robert D. Putnam explored the widespread decline in social interactions in America in his best-selling book “Bowling Alone.”
While bowling might be as popular as ever, he wrote, participation in leagues had decreased. He emphasized that such in-person links are vital to a democracy.
Putnam echoed Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville’s observation of the importance of social clubs and other means of civic engagement in a democracy.
Writing in the 1830s, Tocqueville observed that America is a country of associations. In a democracy, these associations — civic groups of all stripes — must help forge consensus in order to get things done.
Kings created a consensus by fiat in Europe. But America lacked royalty, so associations provided the catalyst to forge progress.
Private social clubs and other civic organizations continue to lose members today, a trend accelerated by the Internet.
Putnam and, of course, Tocqueville wrote before the Web and e-mail and text messaging and Facebook became popular social media platforms.
These media have further tugged the loose threads binding social club members.
Why go to an evening at the club, for example, when you can spend hours sitting on your couch getting your social fix via Facebook?
The York Daily Record/Sunday News staff members seek to pull together these widely varying online strands into bundles of people with common interests, known as virtual communities.
– Scott Fisher oversees a suite of more than 40 blogs — regular stories about community, hobbies and niches at yorkblog.com — that explore and explain York County and beyond in unprecedented detail.
Viewers of these blogs (which includes this one) soon will read a half-million pages in a month.
– Joan Concilio is overseeing the publication of the huge number of photos and stories that readers send to the Weekly Record, in the Your Town section of inyork.com and on her blog, Only in York County.
The news media calls this user-submitted content “hyperlocal,” and Joan’s efforts are designed to show community groups how to get chicken barbecues, bake sales and other activities published.
By the way, she gives this explanation about her blog: “Community editor and lifelong Yorker Joan Concilio talks about all the things that make York County unique — and sometimes just plain weird.”
– Buffy Andrews is working to promote the wide-ranging Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media channels that our news organization interacts with and through.
Her efforts appear to be working.
One reader offered this comment on a recent post on her blog, Buffy’s World: “Excellent spotlight shined on local bloggers, Buffy. This is a great service to your readers, and an excellent way for you to further establish yourself as the digital keystone of the community.”
Robert Putnam is right. In-person contact is best for democracy.
But to borrow from Winston Churchill’s famous quote about government, virtual communities represent the worst form of Web use, except all the others that have been tried.
From their blogs
“Throughout high school and college, I swore I was getting out of here as soon as possible. Now, a few years later, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be. I love my town. And, as a local editor, I hear every day how much you love your towns, too. So read along and chime in as I talk about all the things I’ve come to be fascinated about in York County, both old and new — like the proper way to make hogmaw and why we do things ‘awhile’ and eat dippy eggs. Hey, only in York County.”
— Joan Concilio, www.yorkblog.com/onlyyork
“Hi! I’m Buffy. I’m not a vampire slayer but I do love sinking my teeth into social media — from Facebook to Foursquare. I hope you join me as I explore the digital landscape and have some fun along the way.”
— Buffy Andrews, www.yorkblog.com/buffy
– All York Town Square posts from the start. (Key word search by using “find” on browser.)
– Of course, you can always search for York Town Square post on Google. For example, google: yorktownsquare and Joan Concilio and you get this.