Building Your Tribe (All Around The World)

Growing up in our tiny village primary school, my year had all of about 10 kids in it. There were only about 70 of us in the whole school.

So being there six hours a day, five days a week, you got to know everyone pretty well, and pretty quickly.

Looking back though, there’s no-one from my childhood I wish I’d kept in touch with, or felt an amazing connection with.

I was just as happy playing at home on my own.

Before you start to find your own independence as a young adult with a bike or car, most kids simply have to find their friends amongst those they are geographically near.

There’s no other choice, and there certainly wasn’t when I was of this age.

Aside from perhaps being of similar culture and background to you, there may be very little in common with those you find yourself around, in terms of personalities, interests, and ambitions.

As an adult, you can travel more, and go where you want, when you want. But despite this freedom, it can still be hard to find others who enjoy the same hobbies and passions and discussions.

Even those you might consider close friends in many ways, might not be people you would feel comfortable talking about topics such as photography, or music, or philosophy, or emotions.

I remember a phase of my life when I was heavily into salsa dancing, as a student, then also training as a teacher.

The club and the team I worked with were amazing people and I loved it, and them. I have very many happy memories from this time.

But over that four to five year period, I can’t recall having any particularly deep and meaningful conversations with any of them.

It was all about the dancing, and teaching dancing.

None of them really knew that I wrote poetry, or photographed, or what my music collection was like, or how much I think about life.


Now, we have the incredible and infinite internet.

For all the pointless and time and money wasting activities available online, there’s still that almost magical opportunity each of us have, each second we’re online.

The opportunity – and the distinct possibility – that we can find people that enjoy the same strange things we do – like wandering in the woods and through ancient churchyards with 15 year old digital cameras – and sharing and talking about these experiences.

By booting up and logging on, we can find and join and build the kind of tribes that simply don’t exist locally for us.

I don’t spend a huge amount of time online, but I do greatly value the tribe I’m a part of based around photography, 35hunter, and the related blogs I follow.

There’s simply no equivalent in my offline life.

My work colleagues barely know I photograph, aside from seeing a pretty image on my desktop screen, then probably assuming someone else made it. Again they’re great people, and we make an excellent team together, but the connection only goes so deep.

Online, we can choose where we hang out, and who we hang out with.

If you don’t enjoy being a part of a group any longer, you can just stop showing up.

It’s not like a local club, where if you stop attending, you then have to try to avoid half the village that do still go and ask why you don’t anymore, and the awkward conversations that ensue.

To this end I think it’s more important to decide where we’re not going to spend our time online.

Swiping mindlessly through Instagram or Twitter.

Losing half a day watching silly YouTube videos.

Reading news sites where half of it is fake and the other half is so distorted, exaggerated and fear mongering, it may as well be.

Scanning eBay for hours and bidding on cameras you don’t need.

Yeh, that last one is certainly directed at myself.

Just decide that every time you go online it’s going to be to spend quality time and make a positive and useful contribution to the tribe(s) you’re a part of.

There are exceptions when you use the internet for simple research and convenience, like checking tomorrow’s weather ahead of planning a picnic, booking cinema tickets, or finding the opening times of a shop.

Aside from these though – which are valuable – try to go with the approach above.

Choose to make your internet time as high quality, positive and rewarding as you can.

Where are your most valued tribes online? How much of your internet time would you say is time well spent?

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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16 thoughts on “Building Your Tribe (All Around The World)”

  1. Accurately stated. I’ve done that metaphorical dance myself, and find that even when there are shared interests often there’s no appreciation beyond them. And over time interests can wain or change and then people who were once close move apart.
    I grew up saturated in photography of course, but for some time life limited my ability to enjoy it, and now I’m back with enjoying it again. I used to enjoy music quite a bit more, but life events took away my ability to play the guitar so now … well I hardly even listen to it.
    That brings up the fact that age can take away not only our ability to enjoy some particular hobby, but to be able to indulge in so many as we could in our youth. So we shed some out of hard choices, and try not to regret it.

    1. Interesting about playing guitar. I have dabbled with instruments in the past and composed music with sampled layers and so on. But it didn’t really relate to how much music I was listening to at the time – I’ve always listened to loads.

      Also music related, when I was heavily into salsa dancing, I remember getting lifts with the other teachers and all they played was salsa music. I asked my main teacher why she did and wasn’t she fed up with it having all through classes too? She said it was all she played, at home, in the car, and was baffled as to why I wasn’t the same.

      I enjoyed the music in a club or class, where it provided the framework and rhythm to dance to. But that was its sole purpose – music to dance to. Why would you want to listen to it sitting down in a car?

      So throughout my salsa years I was just as heavily into my own music when I wasn’t in a salsa dancing situation.

  2. Very well put and a great reminder Dan. It’s so easy to fall into this neverending internet pit where you end up lost and have forgotten why you went there in the first place.
    Good quality time online can priceless at times, whether you’re discussing your hobbies, life or doing research.
    Photo blogging remains one of the most valuable online activities at the moment and I really enjoy and look forward to reading new posts and discussions that follow.
    I do spend some time on Twitter as my blog posts go on there directly too, and I follow some people that I enjoy hearing from (Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais, Trevor Noah, and some photographers), I can also participate in discussions about other things I like (music, movies, sport, comedy.)

    1. Yes, the internet doesn’t to be constantly interactive, I spend a good deal of time exploring and reading and learning, as well as the blog communities. I think it’s vital to not get caught in the trap of wasting time but doing things that are ultimately not helpful to you or anyone else.

  3. Blogging has, on and off, for years, been my ‘go to’ place for contact with other people, and the way I get to know like-minded individuals, but even with blogging I have to sometimes have a break. Currently I’m having a break from just one of my blogs (the colouring one). The other – well, I only post to that occasionally anyway, and it exists for a different purpose, mostly to cheer me up in the times when I’m feeling a bit low, or to remind me of memories that I might lose in the future, as I have lost so many up to now. I gave up using Facebook a year or more ago, and Twitter only lasted a short time for me as I can’t communicate in that shorthand type of way. Youtube – yeah, I can waste a whole lot of time watching crap videos but I recently joined the site (instead of just watching) and have since created several playlists, as I enjoy listening to music while I do other things. When I’m happy with them, I shall share some of those with friends and maybe on my other blog… so Youtube can be a way to share ones interests.

    But ‘wasting time’ can be useful, if it’s treated as a spontaneous activity – just do what you want to do as you want to do it. Well, that’s my way of looking at it anyway. 🙂

    1. Val, thanks for your thoughts.

      I think time spent doing something you enjoy is not wasted. But when you’re just going through the motions, doing something for the sake of it, or because other people are doing it, can suck a great deal of time with no end result – or enjoyment. I think many people get on a kind of social media (or internet generally) treadmill and go through the same sites and streams on autopilot, without questioning now and again why they’re doing it and what it gives them.

      I’ve found that because my blog is my own space and I’m setting the parameters and the pace, it helps to avoid this “treadmill” syndrome.

  4. I was reading this last night and probably was not ready to have a deep thought process about life and one’s place in the world… and I probably still am not ready:)
    It’s hard to find people who like exactly the same things that you do, and honestly I have not made that a priority in my life. Add to that the fact that people change, and it gets even more difficult.
    But the question to me is, why is that even desirable? I like having people with different tastes and thoughts around me. I think I am a very, very different person compared to who I was 20 years ago and one of the reasons was the influence from people that made me see things that I hadn’t thought of before, and introduced me to other things I had no appreciation for.
    I suppose that might have made me a better fit as a husband and father – my wife likes things that are very different from what I used to like, and I have started to appreciate a lot of those things. My kids also like very different things from what I liked as a kid, and they like some that I liked only mostly I introduced those to them… like old cartoons and a habit for reading. I play sports with them which I didn’t like as a kid, and now I regret not having played as a kid because I have so much fun. I go fishing with them and while I still don’t care for it I really enjoy the time together.
    Which I think sums up the point I’m trying to make… look for, or even start, things in common with the ones you love, as opposed to trying endlessly to find people who have things in common with you…

    1. Chris, I agree. We definitely need people to introduce us to new hobbies, ideas, perspectives and so on, to keep learning throughout life.

      I think I meant this is more about the kinds of people who are willing to have these kinds of conversations, not just people who have very similar interests.

      For example, there are many people who would consider they are heavily into photography, but the gear side, comparing cameras and lenses, analysing data sheets and graphs and 100% crops and so on. But that’s not anything I’m interested in.

      Others who would say they are passionate photographers shoot RAW then spend many more hours in LightRoom or other software processing their images, than they do actually out with a camera in their hand taking pictures. I’m not one of these either.

      I’m more interested in 1) capturing pictures of beautiful things and 2) talking about why we photograph, what it brings us, how it enhances our lives and our physical, mental and spiritual health. Some in the above two “categories” may also be interested in these conversations, others not.

      Our “tribe” may contain people with varying interests across photography (and of course other areas) but what we have in common is the willingness to connect and talk about them.

      Then once that kind of conversation begins, other topics can be brought in too.

      1. I see where you are coming from, and I agree with what you’re saying.
        Just wanted to provide an additional perspective…
        But I do enjoy a few “online tribes” with people that I can talk about things that I don’t really talk about with people in real life – which I think is one of the things you’re saying. Both music and photography related.

      2. Yes, and sometimes that’s easier because of the distance that we have online, it brings down barriers we may have with people if we’re sitting face to face with them. And sometimes it’s simply because we’ve broached certain topics with people around us (physically) in the past and had a negative or indifferent reaction, so we’ve not tried again, so we’ve had to look elsewhere.

  5. That’s an interesting frame of the benches. Where was that? I like the arms on them, it’s as though they’re ready to transform into stick wood creatures, perhaps wrap their arms around the next tired person who sits down? The depth of field, I like that, too. Reminds me of Lensbabies. Always thought it would be really fun to play with one of them.

    What got you interested and so committed in salsa dancing? Maybe that’s fodder for a future essay. But I love knowing that about you! There’s something about the mix of the rest of how I “know” you on here, how you feel to me……that the salsa thing is an unexpected twist, maybe because I’m projecting too much onto you. You’ve mentioned salsa dancing before but it has been a while. Btw, I’ll check about the meter on the Minolta….

    1. J, the benches are at my local church, which I don’t actual visit too often, it’s too close to home! Last time I went, probably last summer, the benches had decayed even more. I’ll visit again soon for an updated shot. I like your idea about the benches wrapping themselves around the person who sits on them! Reminds me of the whomping willow in Harry Potter and one of the Narnia films where the trees come out of the ground and wrap around hundreds of charging “baddies” in the film.

      It’s not too far from a Lensbaby, it was shot with the tiny “Mount Shield” lens on my Pentax Q. See more here –

      And here –

      Salsa is kind of a long story. I guess the short version is I always liked dancing but had never done it in any structured way. In my late teens and early 20s I’d go to clubs with friends and whilst they mostly drank and watched girls, I just danced with them. Salsa came at a time I was breaking up with my then-partner but bizarrely it kind of gave us an Indian summer.

      I enjoyed it so much, and was obviously competent enough that my teacher asked me to help out with the beginner classes, then eventually be part of her team, then teach classes myself. I loved the teaching as much as the dancing, perhaps more. I’m generally a shy and solitary person but teaching a class of up to 40 or more people sometimes was thrilling and I thrived on it.

      And rueda is a whole other level of salsa (basically a group of two or more couples dance together, with a partner but in a larger circle, and frequently switching partners) which I probably loved even more and got really into teaching too.

      Salsa was also the place I met my now-wife, three years before we actually got together, though she says she always knew we would. Maybe I’ll write about this in a post someday!

      If the meter doesn’t work on the Minolta, there are decent light meter phone apps. I used to use one with my old Spotmatic and, incidentally, a similar all mechanical Minolta, the beautiful SR-1s. Worked well!

  6. After a robbery some years ago I have got a bit isolated, not by fear but the effort to rebuild my life. But I have different interests, I can relate to the difference in your world outside here and the community that one is able to create by being honest with oneself. I mean, I am glad to read your words because they are not a way to work for stats, and is clear your readers, me among them, have a very thoughtful participation, what is hard in these times in which the flux gives attention the span of a fraction of a second.

    1. I think you’ve summed it up very well Francis, the expected attention span online is shrinking all the time. I love the slower, deeper, more thoughtful pace of blogs, and that it allows people like us with perhaps more thoughts than the average person to share them!

  7. I don’t know that I want to be in a tribe. Or, in modern parlance, a bubble.

    I can certainly see that a shared interest is a good thing to kick off some sort of relationship with, but little groups (and I have tried a few specific interest groups on various social media) never seem to have let me find out if people might be otherwise interesting to know. They just talk about their photography. Or what they have used to do it. ‘Technique’.

    And I can see that there’s different stages of learning for everyone and there will always be people starting and needing to see how something is done technically etc, but that kind of mentality seems to persist throughout their interest, in to comparing specs and graphs and all that peripheral stuff. I start to wonder ‘Photography enthusiast? Or photography production methods enthusiast?’

    I don’t know why the followers of my blog are choosing to do so exactly but they appear, on following back their profile links etc, to be a pretty wide and varied interest blogging lot, not just photographers. Possibly it’s because I’m upfront about my complete lack of interest in specific cameras and photography these days (having had rather too much salsa-type time with it) and they are just there to see some pictures.

    I kind of like that.

    Now, if some of them would spark some interesting conversation in the comments sometimes, as you have here, then that would make me a even happier!

    1. I guess it depends on the platform, ie is it a gear forum, a gear-centric photography group around a certain camera lens on Flickr, or a general personal blog, where the writer happens to enjoy photography as one of their interests.

      It’s finding the balance between niche and generalist.

      If you focus down too much you’ll only attract a small group of people highly interested in that one topic (which in many circumstances is what you want) but it may limit the interest and diversity of the site longer term.

      But then if you go too general, the danger is it’s too vague and unfocused to attract people who are passionate about anything. Many personal blogs I feel are like this, just a kind of brain dump or rant from the author without any thought to whether it might be of interest (or at least witty) to anyone else.

      (Not suggesting yours is like this at all! Yours is clearly a photography focused blog, but with scope for offshoot conversation…)

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