I’m an honorary member of a few different families around the world. My tribal ties are strong.
My first induction as an adult to a non-kin family came with the family that took me in as a college student, and then again shortly after graduation. It’s going on 25 years now. We still help each other out. They’re my family.
Next came my college roommate’s family in Maine. He’s the cousin I didn’t know I had, right down to the shared French-Canadian heritage. I need to get up there to hang out in the Oxford Hills region again sometime, and pay my respects to the other LA: Lewiston-Auburn.
My workmates in at least one job became a family for me, as we all became a family for each other. When one former team member tragically, prematurely died a couple years ago, his funeral was standing-room-only, and many of the attendees were the colleagues from our family-team.
So these are ties that bind — associations that stuck. There are others. It amazes me that in my case, the relations I was supposed to have acquired through two separate marriages did nothing for me. My own family of origin never stuck due to lack of attachment (that I’ve detailed elswhere). But still, these totally unrelated individuals have somehow become brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins. . .
Today I’m visiting friends I made on Facebook and through other social media. I’m learing their worlds. I’m completing the introduction made through words and images online, and forming more traditional bonds in-person. That’s still a necessity. We aren’t just machines chattering binary — yet. Hands must be shaken, meals must be taken, laughter both seen and heard, and cat boxes must be cleaned.
But then this occurred to me: In a modern world of single-parent households, blended families, multiple marriages, baby-mommas and baby-daddies, one’s “family” tends to expand far beyond genetic kinship. This is legitimate. To say it isn’t is to damn vast swaths of the US population who now have little- to no real experience with the former ideal of the nuclear family. This has been true for years, but now it’s a little different. The Internet and social media have not only put wings on the trend, but given it afterburners. With a single Google search we can find people who share our values, interests, and ambitions, and start to form bonds with them seconds after getting our forum accounts validated.
Next year I plan to attend a meetup of a small group of people loosely bonded through an interest in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator). Most of the group has moved on to see it as just one element we tend to have in common, but not the only one, and certainly not the most important. It was mererly a vehicle to unite people into something resembling a tribe.
The new Internet tribal movement is here.