I picked up this month's issue of UTNE Reader, the first time I've read this mag in about 5 years because I was drawn to the cover article called "The Golden Age of Re-engagement". A short article, and the usual UTNE list of books for further reading and exploration at the back, it made me think. And wonder if there is a balance or a solution in here somewhere?
The premise is this - we devote more technology and devices to staying connected today than any other society in history, yet somehow studies are telling us (in case we haven't noticed it in ourselves) that we feel more alone than ever. The article cites a recent study from Duke University, the General Social Survey (GSS) where Duke researchers found that between 1985 and 2004 the number of of people with whom the average American felt they could discuss "important matters" dropped in half.
Then I got to thinking about being "neighborly" and what that means. I lived on the same street in Surrey, BC for 14 years, and I didn't know the names of more than 3 of my neighbors. Sad. We all got in our cars, drove to work (ironic though it is, for 10 of those years I worked out of my home!), spent the day doing whatever we do, drove home, closed the garage door (fortress of privacy) and did whatever we did.
We are just all too busy. It's easier to send a quick text message than it is to call someone. Though I was attempting to do that last night, to make dinner plans with friends and by the fourth text exchange it all seemed really stupid - we could have just talked. There's this feeling that a phone call might interrupt something. So what? Interrupt me already! Being neighborly or being a good friend used to mean visiting people. Now being nice to your neighbors means not bothering them (this according to the article again). I'm not so sure I buy that.
So where's the balance between the technology-mediated world and human contact?
How do we conserve energy in our over busy lives so we have something left for those random neighborly encounters mid-week when Paul and Julieann next door walk over with a bottle of wine and some good conversation?