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Reminders of How Social We Are

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My first piece I wrote had to do with whether or not we were spending too much time on the internet. I retain that I think in some ways we are (at least I know I can waste time on it!). However, I think what’s interesting is the role the internet has played in keeping community in a globalized world.

Community “Then” vs “Now”

I was talking to an older neighbor the other day. She had just turned 90 and was walking back to her house. We hadn’t met before and got to talking on the sidewalk. In her soft but cheerful ‘back in my day’ voice, the woman told me about the changes in the neighborhood since she was a child.

“No one comes outside during the summer anymore now that everyone has air conditioning. We used to rush outside after making dinner to talk to everyone on the street. Now the kids have grown and moved away. The block isn’t the same.”

Funnily enough, my first impressions of the block were how I liked that the neighbors of the block talked with each other. But what I see must not compare at all to the bonds that were there previously.

Globalization & Community

It’s not news to anyone about how globalized the world we live in is. All you have to do is read the labels on the back of your clothes. Or any item in your home for that matter a fact. We work longer hours. We’re more mobile. Parents move for better work to have more money for their kids. Kids move from parents for new adventures or better job opportunities. However, what I think is interesting is the effect this has on community and how we’ve adapted to this change.

Globalization has decreased human to human contact community, but online community has increased to bridge that gap. If our parents are gone or are friends have moved away, we’re likely to still stay in contact through video calling, messaging or calls. Weekly or daily in person communication replace holiday visits.

I was reading an article about a Korean teenager who is “internet famous” for eating food and live streaming it. “Well that’s interesting…” I thought. But as I read further, I saw that he started doing this as his grandparents ate dinner too early for him, and he ended up eating alone. To combat this, he started live streaming his dinners.

I have mixed emotions about this. I think it really shows how resilient and creative we are. In other ways, it makes me sad. The kid was lonely and that’s what prompted him to start the channel. I started thinking, I wonder in the absence of the internet what would he have done? Would he have continued eating dinner in silence or with the TV on? Or would he end up trying to eat dinner with neighbors? Why didn’t neighbors try and help out? Do they even know him? Of course I am not familiar with his situation or his neighbors. However, I think most people would agree that community bonds were stronger “back in the day” (not that I was alive or anything, but from what I’ve heard…).  I think in another post I’ll explore whether the change to internet for socialization vs human contact is better or worse.

The Comments Section

Another random but related aside. I was thinking about how I preferred reading news articles with comments. If the article doesn’t have comments, I’d rather go to a different news source. I knew I would do this, but didn’t give much thought as to why. Then I realized that by reading the comments, it was almost as if I were having a conversation. I felt more in tuned with the article, whether or not I decided to comment or not. Taking it a step further, participating in forums or leaving comments on articles is a community in its own right. Similar to the boy who eats while live streaming, I enjoyed whatever I was reading more if someone else was participating in it with me.

Is your neighborhood or block a cohesive community? If you’ve talked to people who’ve been there a long time, what do they say about changes in the neighborhood dynamics?

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