In the analog days of yore, social networks were about community, which in turn meant putting roots down in one place. Now, with Facebook and other digital media, our networks are virtual. We can have a community without the roots.

But are virtual communities an equivalent substitute for real life communities?

I tend to be skeptical of the claim that they are. And it’s worth remembering that Facebook started out not in a spirit of community but anger and revenge.

Our social networks provide nourishment for our souls.

Going back to the world of dipterocarps, the deeper or wider a dipterocarp’s roots, the more nutrition and water it is able to procure from the soil.

Those dipterocarps that do not have deep roots, however, piggyback on those that do—since they’ve already done the hard work of bringing the water up to the surface level.

Some of us (ahem Facebook) don’t do the hard work of building up social capital and trust in our communities, but we are happy to enjoy the fruits of that social capital anyway, no?