Are we witnessing a social revolution and a return to “community”? As community projects spring up around the nation that attempt to make the concept of community a physical thing again, we are led to ask what has gone out of our neighborhoods and what can we put back in?
From family to tribe & village to city-states to nations to a virtual global community, the human civilization has come a long way.
Organizations are organizing, yes that’s right, organizing, with the intention of bringing a sense of community into local neighborhoods. Here is a short list of groups from among those are focusing on community through various means including farming, communes, co-ops, and more.
Warren Wilson College (www.warren-wilson.edu/) (article) is a college that has decided to puts its focus on sustainability and green practices.
Intentional Community (http://www.ic.org/) writes that their website “serves the growing communities’ movement, providing resources for finding a community home and creating more community in your life.”
Boston Natural Areas Network is just one of many examples of garden projects getting hands in the soil to literally grow community.
The popularity and prevalence of community groups across America leads directly to questions about the state of our neighborhoods and the communities that both do and to not exist there.
A host of technologies are available to us today. However, as we grow in our capacity for communication with far-flung peoples, are we maintaining our more primary bonds?
It has been said over and over again, that with the rise of cell-phones, text messaging and email, we are talking more (constantly) and saying very little (next to nothing). We engage in the act of communication with a frequency that borders on constancy, and perhaps due to this high frequency, there is nothing left for us to tell each other, and, maybe, no time to think of something “good” or important to say.
This is a paraphrasing of a popular opinion that we’ve all heard. Communication and the tools of communication are not evils. How could communicating possibly tear away at the fabric of society?
A certain fear underpins the belief that technology is threatening the values of society and that fear is one of failing to relate. Ironic, isn’t it? Ironic that a surge in human exchange and a multiplication of human relationships could result in an individual’s failure to relate to his community… Whether or not we see irony in the situation, there is a growing movement toward getting back to a physical sense of community.
For those of us who live outside of the cities, this is a serious issue because so much of our world seems to come to us from outside of our neighborhoods, outside of our community. Examples abound. When Chile‘s moves into the neighborhood, we understand that it came from somewhere. It did not organically spring from the soil. A corporate office, somewhere, decided to snatch up the property and raise a restaurant there.
The business is conjured by a faceless corporation.
Now, when a member of the community decides to open a restaurant, the word gets around. Chile‘s may still win out in popularity (because, though it comes from the outside, it is a known entity, a familiar layout with a predictable menu. People can relate to what they know. This is the idea behind branding.) But even if Chile’s wins and the local business does not, the patrons of both restaurants know that there is a difference between the two establishments.
They know because they’re on Facebook. No, just kidding. They know because people talk. Word gets around. And we can simply see the difference between the corporate businesses and the local, independent ones.
Today the response to these independent businesses is different than it was ten years ago. Ten years ago the celebration of branding was in full swing. Since then, we have seen a collapse of our financial system, a bailout of the corporations that caused it, and come to realize that we still must do for ourselves if we are to have confidence in our future.
Perhaps this seems like hyperbole. Perhaps it is.
And more questions about community in our neighborhoods and lives…
Is there an assumption that couples will divorce themselves from all friendships in favor of the sole friendship they share with one another?
How will our friendships fare in the days of social media? Will we come closer, remain as close as we are today, or develop superficiality where there once was substance?
Were our relationships ever really more substantial?
Are conversational skills in decline or are we just so good at communicating with each other that everything is already understood?
Should we argue for or against the direction that social media is taking?