A few days ago, I was watching a movie on my couch with a friend. It
was a movie that we both had wanted to watch for the longest time, and the movie actually lived up to my expectations. It was one of those movies that ended depressingly with the protagonist and practically everyone else dying in various ways. I remember sniffling for a good half an hour and my friend trying unsuccessfully to console me. ("At least they all died -- It's more consistent that way!") I knew that in this kind of situation, most friends would have given me a hug, and I do think that my friend would have done this for me... If my friend was in the same country as me.
Yes, you read that correctly. The friend who was watching the movie with me didn't live in the same state, country or for that matter, the same continent as me. We were screen sharing and watching a movie on Netflix. A decade ago, inventions such as screen sharing, video calling and Facebook, that define our networked world, simply did not exist. I still remember having to rewind a VHS tape to return it to my neighborhood Blockbuster.
Although we are more technologically connected we have never been more isolated as a society and it is because of this that I believe the need for community is more important than ever. I think nowadays in a world which seems to favor the individualist, the importance of being surrounded by a strong community has, in some cultures, dropped in importance and needs to be revived. Being a part of something bigger than yourself is a humbling experience, and brings you up against challenges on a daily basis. Challenges that can help you, and others, to grow in a positive way.
Having a community around us is important for many reasons - first and foremost it means that we're not in the world alone, we're not fighting our battles by ourselves. Within a community, we have others we can turn to for help and support - perhaps just to seek advice or at times for more literal support. We have others to share our lives with, to care for and help in their time of need.
It is also easier to manage large, unwieldy tasks in a group or community than it is as an individual, which is often why a community naturally forms around ideas and problems. It is important to involve the people who are affected by something - to allow them to have a say in the ongoing development and progress - without their input it is difficult for a project to proceed in a direction which supports those who are affected.
George Monbiot recently published an article in the Guardian stating that The Age of Loneliness is Killing Us. ” For the most social of creatures, the mammalian bee, there’s no such thing now as society. This will be our downfall” That is unless we make a change…starting now!