A theory of belonging

I used to feel like I belonged on the Internet. I didn’t feel like I belonged much anyplace else, but here, I knew who I was, and I could make any possibility happen with the support and encouragement of the other weird folks who called the Internet home.

For better or worse, the web feels different now. And it’s not just that everybody’s here. It’s that we’ve allowed a few large entities to dictate how we gather together, and we have not questioned whether the decisions they’ve made for their survival and growth are good for us as people.

There is certainly value in the big box social media we are part of (the fact that everyone is there being one of them), but these spaces are not feeding us as community is supposed to feed us. In fact, for most of us, they can be extremely toxic.

As unique as each person on our &yet team is, every one of them is one of the most passionate, caring people I’ve ever met. But that also means we’re a really sensitive bunch. The way our social networks are designed do more to make us feel isolated and anxious rather than filling us with a deep sense of belonging.

Even more concerning for us, we have so many friends who do not even feel a baseline of safety on the Internet—people from marginalized groups who are deeply impacted by the scale and de-humanization our social networks perpetuate.

We do not have to live unquestioningly in these systems. In fact, as people in tech, we have a deep responsibility to consider the impact of the tools we build. As people who use these tools, we have a responsibility to consider the way we use them and how it affects us and those around us.

I want to explore a set of building blocks for creating and engaging in more intentional community online. Some of these are building on concepts that others have explored; others are based on things we’ve learned as builders and caretakers of community.

Big-box social media v. intentional community

We’re taking these building blocks and using them to prototype a new kind of compassionate community on the web. (There are a few spots currently open right now; after that we’ll be closing it so we can focus on onboarding the first set of folks and integrating their feedback in the experience.)

These concepts are not exhaustive, by any means; I’m curious if there’s something I’ve missed? If so, shoot me an email at sarah@andyet.com. And if you’d like to join us as we actually build a community like this, this is your last week to be part of the first group of people doing that.

We’d love to have you.

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