By George Samuels
Have you heard the term “global citizen” before? It’s the idea that “all people have rights and civic responsibilities that come with being a member of the world, with whole-world philosophy and sensibilities, rather than as a citizen of a particular nation or place.” As the world becomes more interconnected, both physically and digitally, the more cultures clash, identities get reviewed, and traditional systems disrupted.
If we look at what’s been happening over the past few decades, we can see an accelerated pace of innovation (technologically), travel (internationally), and social change. From the rise of global behemoths such as Facebook, which has helped connect the Earth like never before, to the increase in remote work and digital nomadism, changes are occurring that challenge traditional notions of identity, trust, and belonging.
The question of “where are you from?” is becoming a lot more complicated for current and future generations
From an identity perspective, how we’ve subconsciously pegged physical characteristics to people in different continents and nations, is now being challenged by inter and cross-cultural relationships. Children are being born with ancestors from various bloodlines, then being transported to live in towns or countries far from “home.” The question of “where are you from?” is becoming a lot more complicated for current and future generations.
From a trust perspective, social media has flipped a lot of traditional authorities in trust on their heads. Once upon a time, specialists such as doctors, lawyers and accountants would be trusted by which school they graduated from; what big institution they currently work for; or by the sheer fact that they had their titles.
Nowadays, patients or customers are being empowered to seek solutions or answers out for themselves through the use of Google or similar search engines. In some cases, this type of research leads to solutions better than those coming from the so-called “experts”, which has certainly dampened the trust and credibility of such professions. It has forced more visibility and accountability to said professionals if they haven’t bothered to keep up-to-date with all the research that’s now finding its way onto the Internet on an almost daily basis.
This lack of trust in traditional “experts” has now also made its way into almost every other part of society, especially online. And as a result of knowledge being disseminated cross-culturally, it becomes harder for local experts to hide behind credentials alone. How people are choosing to trust is changing.
Global citizens no longer solely associate with their birth nationalities, nor necessarily their parents’ heritage.
As for belonging, this ties directly into the two other elements of trust and identity. Without trust or a sense of identity, that sense of belonging also disappears. This may be why there’s increased usage of the word “community” amongst businesses and online circles. Because a sense of community has been eroded in its traditional form (think local suburbs or villages), as people start travelling or venturing further away from each other geographically, they seek the familiar and look to where they spend most of their time — online or at work — to fulfil that.
When a sense of belonging is present, an individual finds themselves feeling part of something greater. It’s potentially why there’s increasing backlash against capitalism and individualism in the West, in the form of democratic socialist ideals (e.g. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). The danger in unmet needs for “belonging” means that some groups may fall susceptible to the most charismatic leaders, without realizing how much power they may give up in the process (just look to the rise of dictators historically during times of chaos or uncertainty). It is for these reasons that the desire for belonging is such a powerful intrinsic and extrinsic motivator.
Disruption in the above three areas is contributing to the formation of a new type of citizen: the global citizen. These citizens no longer solely associate with their birth nationalities, nor necessarily their parents’ heritage. They tend to gravitate more to people themselves, as opposed to physical locations. The physical locations become temporary resting grounds, defined mostly by the experiences shared by the people there. But if you took away the people, the location or land itself may remove all meaning for them (both good and bad).
Hints of this formed back in the 1950s when the term “third culture kid” (TCK) was first coined by researchers John and Ruth Useem. It was used to describe the children of American citizens working and living abroad. Ruth Useem first used the term after her second year-long visit to India with her fellow sociologist/anthropologist husband and three children. Nowadays, you can spot a TCK when you ask them the question, “where are you from?” and they struggle to answer it simply.
At Tribe Theory, which is a rapidly growing chain of hostels focused on startups, you tend to find a concentration of both global citizen and TCK types. The reason for this is most likely due to the fact that entrepreneurs who are travelling, tend to be globally-minded, or have enough of a history travelling, that the “nomad” lifestyle suits them perfectly. They are young-at-heart, nomadic, and ambitious, but still desire physical “bases” with people of like-mind (familiarity, belonging). Having a business that can cross borders and boundaries, without losing its own integrity and culture, is where the Theory behind Tribe becomes reality.