When I was growing up, I lived on a street where we knew all the neighbors. I played with all the kids, and the adults would socialize with each other. It was normal. We'd have pool parties with them and we would look out for each other's houses or get their mail if they went on vacation.
But the neighborhood I live in now is nothing like that. I know some of my neighbors, but I was really only good friends with one of them. And unfortunately, they moved to North Carolina a couple of years ago. I did have another next door neighbor that I would socialize with, but he also moved.
Granted, I live by an Air Force base, so that doesn't help. We constantly have families coming and going throughout our neighborhood. And I really feel bad for my kids, especially my oldest, because so many of his friends are military kids and end up moving away. I know it's difficult for him.
But even though my neighborhood maybe be the extreme, I know there are other neighborhoods out there where the people are very friendly and all know each other, which would be the other extreme. I think most people's communities are somewhere in the middle.
For example, one of my sisters has lived in the same house for 14 years. And until about 8 years ago, she didn't really talk to any of her neighbors either. But when their next door neighbors moved in, they did become friends. My point here is that her neighborhood isn't transitory like mine - it's actually a highly desirable school system and people move in and never leave. So it's interesting that even on her street, not many people socialize with each other.
I can't speak for all neighborhoods, and I might be wrong, but it sometimes seems like we're losing our sense of community. I mean, when was the last time you went to bring cookies and introduce yourself to the new neighbor who just moved in? Or went to ask to borrow a cup of sugar instead of running out to the grocery store instead? I'm sure people still do it, but I feel like that doesn't happen much anymore.
A long time ago, people were tribal. As the saying goes, "it takes a tribe to raise a child." There was some real truth to that. It means that people needed to band together and help each other (and I believe we still do). We need to have connection, not isolation. And while most people don't live in tribes any more (at least not in this part of the world), I think our basic human need for connection and community hasn't gone away. It's just not being satisfied as well anymore.
And it goes beyond just physical neighborhoods. While I think technology has enhanced our lives in many ways, I think that in other ways, it has made it worse. Yes, Facebook connects us to our long-lost friends from grade school. But does it disconnect us from the people we actually have in our everyday life? Do you tend to text or write on your sibling's Facebook wall instead of calling or getting together in person? I know a lot of people who do that.
And if you know a teenager, you've probably witnessed a time (or many times) where they sit around with a group of friends and just look at their phones. I don't let my kids do this, because why bother getting together with a friend if you're not going to actually interact with them?
And then you have families who go out to eat at restaurants, but they are all looking into their phones (or iPads for smaller children) and not talking to each other. If you haven't noticed this, take a look around the next time you go out to eat somewhere.
These days, it seems like we're moving farther and farther away from each other in an emotional way. Instead of loving your neighbor just because they are your neighbor, I've even read some things about how some people judge their neighbors based on how well they keep up their house or even if they "go green" or not. Why do we care what our neighbors do as long as they are nice and supportive?
I'm not trying to bash technology. Because that's not the problem. The problem is how humans use technology. Just because you have your phone with you doesn't mean that you have to look at it when you are with your family, friends, or neighbors. I think when people do that, it breaks down that connection that is being lost.
So I encourage you to look at your habits. Try to go out of your way to go introduce yourself to a neighbor you don't know yet. Set limits for your family for their technology usage. Be self-aware. Understand that your actions can have negative consequences to your relationships if you're not careful.
I have faith that we can all stay connected as human beings. We just need to hold ourselves accountable and do the right thing so we don't lose our sense of community.