Facebook wants to help turn online “friends” into offline friends with its inaugural Communities Summit this summer.
“Community” is one of those warm, fuzzy, ambitious and yet ambiguous words used by the tech world to describe online relationships. However, the event—which will be held in Chicago on June 22 and 23—marks the next tangible step in CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitious plans to help better connect users in the U.S. with each other in real life. (Earlier this year, Zuckerberg wrote a 6,000-word manifesto about how he wants the company he founded to play a bigger role in helping people around the world understand each other.)
In a blog post today announcing the event, Facebook Groups Product Director Alex Deve said people already meet each other through “tens of millions” of active Groups pages on the social network.
“Whether connecting with other fisherman in your town to share tips, organizing a get together for new parents in your neighborhood or finding others dealing with the same medical condition, people use Facebook Groups to connect in personal, practical and powerful ways,” Deve wrote.
According to the event’s website, attendees will hear from Facebook executives about products the company is building to help Groups admins grow and manage their pages. And while the plan is to help a few hundred group administrators “gather, share and connect” without the filters of their phones, space will be limited.
The company is inviting admins to apply to attend. According to the website set up for the conference, the event will be free, with hotel and food paid for by Facebook. (Attendees still need to buy their own flight.)
In his manifesto—which includes the words “communities” and “community” more than 100 times—Zuckerberg outlined a vision for making Facebook’s world of more than 1 billion users a place that’s “supportive,” “safe,” “informed,” “inclusive” and “civically engaged.” (After the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Zuckerberg announced plans to visit people in every U.S. state in real life to better understand the people who live in the increasingly politically polarized nation.)
“The two most discussed concerns this past year were about diversity of viewpoints we see (filter bubbles) and accuracy of information (fake news),” he wrote. “I worry about these and we have studied them extensively, but I also worry there are even more powerful effects we must mitigate around sensationalism and polarization leading to a loss of common understanding.”