The PTA. Farmers Association. Neighborhood Watch.
If you grew up in a small town or rural area, these are groups you probably heard a lot about.
In a world where it is becoming more difficult to maintain a small town economy, I don’t think it’s a coincidence we’ve witnessed a shift towards the adoption of “broadband connection” in rural communities. Small towns have always thrived on big social trust, but predictably, the transfer to similar online social trust has taken longer than suburbs and cities. As of ten years ago, the Pew Research Center found that rural policymakers were still finding it difficult to justify investment in high-speed infrastructure, even for private sector businesses.
Online social networks facilitate motivating powers of trust and engagement in small communities in America. According to John Anderson, professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska, social capital as cultivated online may be a reason that small towns have continued to thrive.
As I reflect on the shift from physical to online vehicles for social trust, I think of my hometown farmers association:
Or my current residence’s Facebook group, Newberg-Dundee Citizen Info Group.
Through online groups and social media outlets, I feel connected to more of my neighbors and better equipped to step into civic action.
Some things do change, but it doesn’t feel very different from reading my small town newspaper, calling my cousin who lives 300 miles away (who happens to be a 4th generation farmer), or showing up to a PTA meeting.