Is Community-building the Ultimate Aim of Communication?

Let it not be forgotten that during the Republic Rome was, strictly speaking, two Romes: the Senate and the people. State-unification never got beyond a mere setting up of communication between groups which remained strangers one to the other. Hence it was that the Empire, when threatened, could not count on the patriotism of the others, and had to defend itself exclusively by bureaucratic measures of administration and warfare.

This famous quote from Ortega y Gasset’s book The revolt of the Masses may prove extremely interesting in a world of fragmented communication, as long as its producers and its consumers tend to keep away from each other. It comes as no surprise, then, that digital social platforms such as Facebook are beginning to prioritize interaction and community building over “content broadcasting”.

In a groundbreaking post, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained that his company has “built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us”. Albeit teeming with touchy-feely, patronizing political correctness, his words make clear the company’s new course: we can expect to see more contents from friends, family and groups, and less public contents like posts from businesses, brands, and media.

The risk, for us, is to end up trapped in filter bubbles, instead of getting a healthy exposition to information capable of challenging our worldview. It becomes therefore more and more important to cultivate a high degree of diversity within our peer (or reference) group, that is, to build as heterogeneous a community as possible.

Relying on a variegated portfolio of sources, whilst exercising our critical-thinking skills, is of course strongly recommended.