It’s often claimed that technology which is designed to bring people together in fact has the opposite effect, with mobile phones and internet communication distracting us from the opportunities for interacting with each other. Millennials are lampooned for being stuck to their phones and lacking interpersonal skills, while older generations are lambasted for being technologically illiterate and stuck in the past!
Long commutes to work and the shrinking economy mean people are less invested in their communities, even outside of the hustle and bustle of the city. Increased personal mobility and mass communication means there’s less incentive to visit with neighbours or take part in community projects; it’s easier to be insular when friendships can be maintained by proxy.
Loss of mass employment in legacy manufacturing industries and the dispersion of communities based around those industries has contributed to generations being less invested in each other. Streets and neighbourhoods where traditionally most people have known each other are suffering from increased anonymity, with recent generations contributing less to community projects.
Flats and Houseshares
In the cities, the division of large houses into smaller apartments or flats would theoretically foster community spirit through proximity, but in reality the rapid and regular turnaround of tenants means there’s little time to forge meaningful relationships with neighbours beyond sharing frustration at sensitive fire alarms and occasionally borrowing the Wi-Fi password. The strongest communities in the city are often centred around immigrant populations or religious centres; churches, mosques, and synagogues foster communities as a rule, and local immigrant businesses offer a place of familiarity and refuge for first-generation refugees looking for ways to assimilate. Shopping locally and engaging with these communities is a great way to help this process, and enjoy the variety of city life.
Not all communities suffer from these issues, and the severity of the disinvestment in togetherness that you’ll see is very much dependent on where you live in the world, and again where you live in your country. Much of the UK and US is dominated by rural pastures and small townships where community still flourishes, but mass transport and communications reach even this far. Younger generations are more interested than ever in matters abroad, and the profusion of far-flung news means we’re less informed than ever. Local magazines dominated by necessity by advertisements and paid reviews offer less exciting content than 24-hour rolling news.
Connecting With The Community
Despite all this, the internet is making it easier than ever to connect with your local community. Concerts, theatre shows, restaurants, children’s playgroups, and more are just a click away. Support local businesses and events by hitting the web and engaging with what’s on. Local entertainment is cheaper than the West End or Broadway, and even the smallest cities are bursting with talent and potential. Blogging and review sites mean anyone can become a foodie or theatre critic. Entertainment staples like the Edinburgh fringe need local business as much as tourism to grow, so make sure to get out of your comfort zone and engage with local communities.