I have a hunch…no, more of a conviction…that community and social connections are in significant decline. I do believe that, in many ways, we are giving up on each other.
My caveat is, of course, that this is not true of everyone. The reactions I’ve received since I launched this line of thinking in my blog are varied. It seems some have not skipped a beat in their regular connections with friends and loved ones. But my experience from many decades of working with human beings, along with the research of social scientists and media reporting, cause me to believe that “American social networks have been in comprehensive and steady decline for decades.” (Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone). The pandemic then became a powerful catalyst for further relational demise. Add the nasty, dangerous political climate we’re in and it’s no wonder we’re losing each other.
Why? Why are we “alone-ing” and cloistering more? Why are we giving up on each other? Here are some of my observations.
Time pressures. For a myriad of reasons, we have deleted connections from our packed lives. At the end of our frequently busy days and weeks, we opt for quiet moments in sweatpants on the couch.
Individualism. America is not a collectivist culture which values interconnectedness between people; rather, we live in a culture that values assertiveness, independence and autonomy.
The internet/technology. Putnam asked this: “Can technology really create community, or does it create only an unsatisfying illusion of closeness?” A few months ago, in a blog post, I reflected on our inability to connect due to screens and technology. It’s getting worse.
Safety and social trust. Political and cultural warfare have destroyed connections. Some former friends, family members and acquaintances are now enemies. They are unsafe. Not knowing which tribe people belong to has made even casual connections potentially dangerous.
Me first. Related to the individualism factor is a natural (but awful) self-absorption in us that constantly runs all commitments through a what’s-in-it-for-me filter.
These factors are a devastating stew that, when you stop and think about it, makes our giving up on each other plausible. Terrible, but understandable.
What do you think? Hit me back with some of your own insights. I’m all ears! Next week I’ll begin to offer some ways I think we can get back to one another. But I’ll do so hopefully humbly and open handedly, because I’m nervous whether we (myself included) have the courage and inclination to open our arms to each other again.