Where did Community go?
I live in a neighborhood where everyone looks friendly, but no one actually talks to anyone. My neighbors on one side are ministers, but that's the extent of what I know about them. I can tell you that they just cut down a tree, and they have a new fire pit. Now that all evidence of a tree is gone, my memory of the tree is also fading. And I only know about their new fire pit because the glow outside my window initially scared me into thinking I needed to call for emergency help. But I was happy to see my neighbors safely seated around the fire pit, because I typically only see them when it snows.
The neighbors to the other side of the yard are quite the opposite. There's always a faint smell of burned tobacco accompanied by unintelligible yelling, and medium-sized dogs barking. But I've not once seen the dogs. I can tell you that his long time companion Judy passed away about a year ago. I know this because my husband occasionally speaks to him through the fence, but never face to face. This neighborhood of people who keep to themselves is the reason that I have not seen some of my neighbors since I moved in. I know they're alive and I presume well because I often hear them shuffling outside, the cars move, and the trash and recycling bins are placed on the curb. But that's the extent of it. Now that election season has arrived, I can gain a tad bit more of insight into whom the neighbors are based on the political yard signs. Unlike the neighborhood I grew up in, people keep to themselves. Besides exchanging morning pleasantries with my neighbors waiting at the bus stop, no one speaks and it's odd. Are people forgetting how to live as a community?
Over the years I've watched the hanging and dismantling of 'For Sale' signs. The cars in the neighboring driveways have changed, but rarely have I seen the people who live inside. The neighborhood kids are only seen at the bus stop before school, which is mind-blowing as a kid who lived by the code of the streetlight. If the streetlights came on, and your foot was not securely on your guardians doorstep, you were guaranteed to play indoors for the rest of the week. Now, to see children on bikes and playing in the yard, it's refreshing and surprising. It shouldn't be this way.
Community is needed for survival.
History has shown that when people work together they survive together. In the 1920s in Harlem, black people supported secret rent parties to help their peers pay living expenses. Due to prohibition and racism these parties were secret to avoid legal consequences. These crowd funding parties kept tenants in their homes and brought together musical icons. The parties weren't as glamorous in the 1990s. During this era, hosting a cabaret was an easy way to have fun and make extra money. If you had a large enough space, music, libations (bring your own, of course), an air-brushed backdrop, and a cousin with a camera, you were in business.
I enjoy reading stories about people helping other people. In St. Louis a black mother of six, recognized that the neighborhood children were hungry. Her solution was to start making free lunches for over 100 children, every day. This one person made a decision to help people in her community. It's no coincidence that people with the least resources and protections often have the strongest community connections. Indigenous people need support as the fight to exist in peace continues. Although ever fighting for their humanity, they show that when communities of people work together, nations can survive.
Have people become so reliant on technology that they've forgotten the value of human connections?
Technology is undeniably responsible for some decline in human interactions. But modern technology has also expanded virtual communities around the world. As a broke college freshman that relied on calling cards, I couldn't have imagined mobile apps like WhatsApp. Before the Internet, if a classmate moved to another school, if the phone number changed you were almost guaranteed to not see them again, until an awkward run in at the pharmacy ten years later where your long-lost friend is magically brought back into your life.
As a technology professional I try to balance the time that I'm connecting online, with quality time with the people around me by scheduling, and adhering to, technology breaks. Studies have shown that less time spent on social media sites could lead to a decrease in anxiety and depression. To me, these studies are confirming that humans need one another. On a biological level, people do not thrive in solitude. If our reliance on technology is somehow a manifestation of our biological need for human connection, why aren't we engaging with the people in our surrounding communities?