My kids will always look at me in awe when I tell them I was born before the Internet. “It was a different world then,” I’ll say wistfully. Instant global connectivity has certainly changed the face of our world, and like most change, it comes with mixed blessings. It’s evolved the way we relate to each other—perhaps making human interface less intimate in some ways, and more in others. The many facets of social media have become driving forces behind our interactions.
Thanks to the gradual introduction of the #hashtag into the social media current, a whole new way of cataloging, disseminating and receiving information has been born. Most popular social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr and Pinterest) are now “hashtag compatible,” and a search on any given platform for the hashtag topic of your choice will yield global, up-to-the-minute results for that topic. Hashtagging has been especially useful for natural disasters, activist movements, business marketing, social trends, and labeling geographic locations and specialized topics of interest.
Hashtag searches allow you to quickly sort through metadata take the collective pulse on any given subject. Top results for a #benicia search on Twitter as of the writing of this article include job postings, weather reports, home sale listings, info about the new Benicia Teen Center and Valero’s crude by rail plan. An Instagram search for #benicia yields over 31,000 results; and on Facebook, over 89,000.
Benicia’s unique geographic location on the water between two bridges, vibrant arts community, family orientation, historic Main Street, many parks and relatively small population are all connectivity-enhancing factors. This cohesion may also create a sense of pride in common identity.
How does social media extend and expand community connectivity? With platforms where content is co-created minute-to-minute by its users, the possibilities are endless. Benicians can follow their favorite businesses and organizations on social media networks for up-to-date information and candid photos. Benicia also has a large handful of thriving sub-communities on Facebook, arguably the most widespread social media site. The Benicia Happenings Group has over 2400 members and says its “intended to be a one stop shop to for all of the things Benicia has to offer.” There are also several companion groups for direct buying and selling (Benicia Happenings specifically excludes selling), including Benicia Only Bargains and Benicia Baby Bargains, both limited to Benicia residents only. A search on Meetup.com will yield a plethora of Benicia groups, including a coloring and coffee meetup.
The Benicia Police Department is encouraging community involvement and posts up-to-date info about current cases on their active Facebook page, regularly lauding Benicians for providing accurate information in 911 calls and witness reports, and asking for leads on wanted persons. Online collaboration allows for a more nuanced and creative relationship between the police department and citizens at large.
In the same vein of community awareness, Nextdoor is a networking site that allows you to post about and monitor activity in your own area. It includes over 84,000 neighborhoods and is a private online space for neighbors to discuss all things neighborly. Benicia is divided up into several neighborhoods.
Regardless of your aims and desires in virtual reality, there are likely outlets, and if not, new groups can be easily created. The complexities of social dynamics within a community are both further diversified and simplified by online connectivity, and new ways of relating are invented every day by the people who make up that community.
Social Media Resources for Benicians
Benicia Makerspace Meetup
@BeniciaMagazine on Twitter