Before the rise of the Internet, it was easy to feel a sense of community. The core of small towns of the 1950s was the ideal that every neighbor was a friend. It only took a hello to get a cup of sugar. My grandparents have recounted stories about how they lived in suburban cities and that to build better for themselves; they had to rely on the participation of their neighbor. It may have not been as cheerful as a black and white sitcom, but since gossip was the best word of mouth, it was simpler to know what was happening that one summer night or so.
Today, we are caught up in a new world of endless information. Now that the information super highway has made everything larger, we’ve ironically have become more isolated. We’ve built a fear around us because our computers have become a safe circle where we can express our thoughts and interests. Where do you find that idea of community today? One website that has grown more popular then ever is Craigslist. Sort of like the classifieds in a newspaper, the site is set up so that you can find local listings in your area.
I’m not a big user of Craigslist. I like to browse it every now and then, but I’ve been questionable about some of the things offered. I have heard horror stories about people getting ripped off and even people like the “Craigslist Killer” The site has since tried to become better, and I’m starting to see it. One man attempts to rely on the generosity of the people for a whole month in the independent documentary, Craigslist Joe. If you ever wanted to see the faces of those that post on the site, this movie will give you a good idea. Rather then seeing creepy weirdoes’, you actually find normal people that are offering their services for your need. Will this man find everything he needs?
For the entire month of December, twenty-nine year old Joseph Garner goes on a mission where he leaves his home and attempts to find a sense of community within Craigslist. He carries no cash, no cell phone, and only posses a laptop. Each day goes where he finds a place to stay, often for free thanks to local events listed where he finds people to ask. He eventually embarks on a cross-country road trip that takes him from Los Angeles to New York City and back.
While I do believe that there is a sense of community online, this guy made the journey seem too easy. His biggest problem was that he had his cameraman out where everyone can see him. If people know that they may be on TV, they will change personality and be nice. I’m not saying that everyone is nasty, but since they knew they were on video, it seemed like that if they became generous, then they’d show up in the movie. The camera should have been hidden. That would have created a more realistic situation where people would have to question whether or not they could trust young Joseph.
Now what did pleasantly surprise me was that people can open their hearts online. Craigslist Joe actually had many events listed where people can either join each other (like a free breakdance lesson or a meditation examination as shown) or try and create events (like how Joe organizes a Christmas charity drive in New York). I can’t help but feel actually liking Joe and what he is trying to accomplish. I only wished that he could have hidden the damn camera.
I’ll give this three Craigslist peace signs out of five. If you really are looking for the sense of community, it is still there. Just look online. I’m pretty sure if you need a used car or a couch, you’ll find a friendly fellow on Craigslist (or another listing that make you feel more confortable)