Whose are you?
I (Leda) grew up in Athens in the 80s. Small compared to London but already an anonymous and faceless city. However, I clearly remember visiting my grandmother’s village as a small child, relishing in the freedom of being allowed out onto the streets without an adult, trying this sense of safety on like a new coat and finding I liked it. And then a grown-up I had never seen before stopped me and asked me the most baffling question, “Whose are you?”.
When I told my nan later that day she chuckled. Of course, she said. This is a community, he wanted to know where you belong.
Not if. You are here, you are welcome. They don’t doubt you fit, you belong, you have a place. They just want to know where that is. And the rest will come.
Is it because this is a small village, I asked, ready to deploy all my story book knowledge to tackle this new riddle.
No, said my nan. Location and size has nothing to do with this. You don’t live here and you are part of the community.
AM NOT, I thought, proud of being able to say I am from the capital.
You are, she said.
Because I was her grand-daughter, and my favourite great uncle Ilias’ lookalike and because now the village knows whose I am, I belong. I belong here.
And “here” is wherever I go.
Community is not about geography, said my grandma.
And off I went to grow up, travel far and wide, study sociology with people who used terms such as “glocal”, and nationalism with people who described nationhood as a state of “imagined community”.
And then came social media
Connectivity became easy, cheap and ubiquitous.
After the early excitement of finding long-lost friends and remembering you lost them for a reason; after the early heady joy of hyper-connectedness and visibility, you found yourself immersed in noise. Building community in a virtual world became harder than doing it in real life and, for most, much less fulfilling. And yet here it was. Communities of online writers, thinkers, activists.
Isolated youths found they are not alone. They are not freaks. There is another hand stretching out to them and geography be damned.
Social movements from Belarus to Egypt emerged, glued together and morphed with deliberate determination through and despite a web of noise and randomness.
Community as a word took a brand new meaning.
It got bandished about a bit too much.
At a time when I get approximately three Linkedin messages per day calling me Paul (why always Paul, seriously?), an average of five in a language I don’t speak, at least one opening with “as the CEO of [insert name of company I don’t work at] or as the CFO of the company I do work at but thankfully has a highly competent CFO”, the concept of digital community-building seems a bit moot.
What do you say to the complete strangers who get your name wrong, get your job wrong, don’t even do some fact-finding work before riding the wave of cheap communication to arrive, uninvited, at your digital doorstep?
We say: go away!
Go away already
Enough with the noise. Even though last time I wrote about it I got more tasteless jokes than you can shake a stick at: an avalanche of passive aggressive drivel about how I was also noise, how they would send me unsolicited humour even though they were trembling in their boots at being called noise. Proving nothing beyond the fact that nuance is lost on many.
They are welcome to stay lost, frankly, because in case you hadn’t noticed this is not an exercise in mass marketing. I am not selling anything. I am reaching out. To find the community through the noise.
So when Simon and I started thinking about what to write together, he said the words we knew we would get to, whichever route we took.
The power of the tribe
This is not an anthropology piece. This is a piece about our community. About the power of being helpful and present. About the power of defaulting to “yes”.
I have been calling our self-selected community a tribe for a while. They call themselves a tribe now and that gives me joy.
The name was not accidental. I am a lapsed social scientist and when I see a community with a common culture and language (despite not sharing economic, geographic, ethnic and organisational ties) I call it what it is: a modern-day digital tribe with bonds as strong as the traditional equivalent and, although dispersed, the tribe steps up to be part of a community of obligation. A community that chooses to support each other for no other reason than they want to. A community that leverages social media to find each other and stay connected never becoming noise. Never thinking “me first”. Never selling each other short. It’s a network in the truest sense.
And if you thought, “lukewarm white wine and forced conversation at a corporate mixer”, think again. If you thought, “social climbing careerist cut-throats”, also think again. This tribe is made of individuals in different parts of the world, different stages of their lives and different measures of what the world would outwardly call success. Some are soaring. Some are only just getting started. Some are stuck.
So how can you tell who is of the tribe, we hear you ask?
“If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.” (African proverb)
“Just checking in to see how you are.” From people you’ve never met.
“Hey, I heard you are between roles, what are you looking for, I will keep an eye out.” From people you’ve never met.
“Hey, I could use your help, do you have a minute?” From people you’ve never met.
“Is there anyone I can introduce you to?” From people you’ve never met.
That’s how you can tell the tribe.
If you are looking for them in the wild you will know them from three tell tale signs:
One. They put in the time.
They invest in each other.
They don’t rush to an outcome, an ask, a sale. You may interact with them for years before you even get a glimpse of what they do for a living.
Two. They are helpful. They are constructive. They are empathetic.
They offer help to complete strangers. They share their platform. They share their light. They are generous and kind and giving. Be it their time, their attention, a call, a thoughtful gesture, a timely introduction. They share. And share. And by sharing, they augment.
Three. They celebrate other people’s success. Wholeheartedly. With true joy. Like family. Like the truest of friends.
Our tribe. The people who actively think of you. The people who share with you. The people who always look for an opportunity to help you. A community of people who feel the community is its own reward. A community that welcomes people with open arms: without the need for interviews, nominations, or application forms.
A group of people who actively, riotously, embrace the power of “yes” – you would be crazy to say yes to everything, be careful out their kids – but starting from a place of openness, acceptance and wonder. Starting from a place of believing in others and expecting them to amaze you means they may well just do exactly that.
In a global village filled with noise and people trying to get a free ride, the tribe is strong, vibrant, unaffected. You will know them when you meet them, but if you have to check, just ask, “whose are you”. And they will tell you, in their own words but without a moment’s hesitation: each other’s.
By Leda Glyptis and Dr Simon Schofield, IT COO at large
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem. She is chief client officer at 10x Future Technologies.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!