Social Networking Ushers Back the Tribe.

8:00:00 PM

The word "tribe" is rarely, if ever, used when one thinks of one's heritage or one's Web presence for that matter. Even while in a thorough family tree there's probably a pronounced matrilinial or patrilinial succession that leads invariably to you, and after the aunts and uncles or great aunts and uncles peter off into vague and unrecognizable third cousins, it's clear that, even in that, there's a linearity that seldom accounts for tribal relationships.

And for good reason. A family tree is not an attempt describe that sort of relationship - the tribal - anyways. It describes how lineage is arrived at and how it diversifies into sub-lineages and, the elemental structure of relationships, the family.

It bears to reckon that while an average family tree with substantial gaps in tracing even the progeny of first cousins makes for a headache-producing poster that is rarely gazed at from beyond the den's billiard table, it would be near impossible to render tribal relationships on paper.

See, a tribe, at its essence is a higher order beyond blood relations. It describes a collection of lineages united by a certain ethos that somehow satisfies the issue of the common good or similar interests such as the preservation of language, culture, values and identity; and, in theory, a collection of tribes would constitute a nation so that one could say, in short, that a person is like a letter; a family is like a word; a sub-lineage is like a subject, predicate or clause; a lineage is like a sentence; a tribe is like a paragraph and a nation - the essay, or a short story or a novel depending on how long or large the empire might become.

Now, it's arguably irrelevant to try to conceive of one's heritage in terms of tribal relations. On the one hand, it was, perhaps, never an outlook that Europe, and consequently the Americas, ever had in understanding heritage or culture or anything regarding society for that matter. On the other hand, where the concept had real weight in traditional Africa, indigenous Americans or even with certain Semitic peoples, the tides of history and its conquests and its Diasporas and its modernity have long since washed away what relevance was left out of understanding a people situated in the context of their tribal affiliation.

Yet, the term and its presumable uses provokes a certain sense of loss if it would seem that it applies to no one these days - a context no one has for each other. "The tribe" has been sidestepped in favor of a nation being built on many, many lineages and families. And so, for the sake of simplicity, it would, in the first reduction, apply to no one, and if it does, it's only a totem assignation. In the second reductions, it only connotes a simpler, more naive time when the world-knew-not-what-it-did - the term only used to describe aboriginal structures of society.

But, the term remains somehow sexy to the mind, evocative of a rustic magic and of a biblical order to the affairs of humans. And while science has proven that dogs are a purely social creature, instinctively organized as packs, political science still argues on the best sort of governments and social order. Marxist would say modernity makes for alienation, and sociologists and psychologist are still waiting for the jury to identify what the human creature needs to feel a sense of belonging. That is to say, while there is precedence to suggest that the human creature is wont to organize his social context, and to organize it based on some instinctual needs, if the idea of the tribe had had any root in the innate human psyche and its sense of order, its presence to the modern person has been forsaken.

However, nowadays when things that are considered sexy gain the luxury of traction and rapid adoption in the marketplace, the notion of a collection of individuals united for a common good or imperative - if only to preserve or evangelize their ideals - WITH all the blessings of familial relationships, is, strikingly, not only sexy to entertain, but naturally appropriate in advent of the World Wide Web, and particularly, with the rampant adoption of social networks.

Truly, even the casual user notices the equally sexy term, collaborative or collective, sandwiched somewhere in the announcements and invitations streaming into their inboxes on the social networks like Facebook. And why shouldn't they? These networks not only link individuals with common ideas, common cultural attenuation and a common ethos, but these websites make banding together around these things as simple as a few wrist and finger gestures.

That is, while the Web sites only provide the medium for individuals, the individuals using them invariably unite into specific structures - tribe if you will - seeking to preserve and promulgate their ideals, their culture, and their beliefs, all the while groping for a consensus that aligns with theirs that could be rightfully called a "group."

But, especially nowadays when these individuals are searching for benefactors to their lifestyles in the form of an affluent parent, an ambitious friend or relative in an auspicious position, or a mighty uncle or a referral from someone you know - particularly in an exceptionally competitive environment where opportunity is scarce; these conditions are ripe for The Tribe to be re-instituted, and particularly a digital community populated by individuals, organized by tribe, and buttressed by familial ties to the external world.

The who-you-know gambit broadens, to some respect, into tribal relations. While your favored social network bears the auspices of several lineages bound by a common ethos, the bloodline adds to the diverse fabric of relationships.

Consider a social network like Facebook that also includes tools for assembling the living elements of the family tree: tribe.com, if you will.

While a poster that graphically presents tribal relationships is impossible and rather strained even in the project of rendering a family tree, a computer Web site manages to represent very complex networks of relationships rather easily.

If the hardships of these times might give rise to new structures of social organization, perhaps, in the last reduction, it might, with all the technology that comes to bear in our times, unearth a structure as instinctual as the Alpha dog and its role in the pack. Perhaps we may know it as Groups these days, but in parlance of yore, we knew each other as belonging to the same tribe.

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