First off, I can’t believe the time between posts. That needs to be fixed.
We (credit unions) all have members, the law says you have to be a member to transact business with a credit union. Some credit unions have differentiated themselves by calling their members ‘customers’. The perception that seems to be driven here is that membership should have some value, it should be something that points you as being different. Membership implies ownership and with that you have some means of directing the course of the business usually by a voice at the voting booth. (there is another issue!) But membership in anything these days has a different set of values than when these organizations were originally setup. There is a book called ‘Bowling Alone’ which points to the deterioration of organized ways in which people relate to one another and are active in civil life. But that organized way of the past has changed. We can now begin the establishment of a relationship in a virtual world. Creating that type of relationship does not mean that human interaction in the future won’t include face-to-face events. It just means I don’t have to sign up for bowling by going to the bowling alley.
That may be the problem in the transition we are now facing. The membership (meaning) we required in the past is no longer a vital part of our future. Our usage of something is not dependent on us physically being there. We can be part of numerous transactions or events without leaving our home which in the past was not possible. Maybe the biggest issue is to create a new word that signifies this. The capacity to understand membership is difficult in our day and age and it comes with some baggage (we don’t have the time to belong to anything). Our interests don’t need to lie in a specific geographic area in order to see the value of a social networks. We need to view membership not as being optional but as being something different. The pillars are there for the older structures but they have also been expanded into areas we still need to determine.
Yogi Berra commented on the value of social networks by saying, “IF you don’t go to somebody’s funeral, they won’t come to yours.” If we don’t translate membership into something relevant it indeed does become optional.