It’s fairly obvious that you can pick your friends. Who you choose to be around is a definite choice: Though one that’s not been around for long. A mere hundred years ago, you couldn’t reasonably be expected to ever travel 100 miles away from where you were born. Your friends were limited to those within a few miles of where you lived. Now, it’s possible to go across the globe in a day, for prices that anyone can afford if they try. Further, it’s possible to know people across the globe, and communicate with them instantly, anytime, anywhere.
Who your friends are says a lot about your person. Your friends are generally the people like you. My friends, for example, are stereotypically Geeks. Uber-geeks, the social class of the geek heirarchy.
I belong to a Phyle. It’s not called that (Though, I think anyone among them would recognize that we are such). It’s more than simply a a group of friends: It’s less than a full nation, city, or even town. We are a diverse group, but we have the common ground of Gaming, of Computers, Of anime, electronics, physics, math, photography, and just about anything else geeky.
We could be considered a proto-phyle: It wasn’t specifically such that drew us together. We don’t have any particular laws or group logic (Except that the PS3 sucks, and some of us debate even that). However, given a topic, we generally come with a preconceived concensus. We think the same.
I joined this phyle a mere 5 months ago, though I had a foot in the door before then. I joined online: I came into the phyle’s domain, an IRC channel, and was rather quickly accepted. I considered many of the members friends before I met them in person. There’s a couple who I consider close friends whom I’ve met in person but once, briefly. Simply mentioning the phyle, and your association, gets you credit in my and other phyleist’s books. A couple days of conversation in a chatroom gains you more. A large amount of credit comes from simply having joined, and the process and selection are not hard.
More and more, geographical boundaries mean less and less. Your friends, and your phyle, can exist without ever needing to meet. At the same time, locale still matters, and still will for the forseeable future. Moving out to Seattle, to the center of the Phyle, certainly didn’t hurt. Late night dennys runs, parties, and random outings are still major social events, even as well connected as we are via the internet.
Things have changed. The Phyle is not any social structure that has existed before: The members are eclectic, and bound by ideals rather than geography. However, we still try and carve out geographical continuity, and the old methods of interaction are still just as valid.