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We need community, not connectivity

Updated: May 5, 2023

If you're anything like me, you look around at our modern civilization and wonder what in the world is going on? Seriously. We live in a time when we can instantly connect with pretty much anyone, anytime, anywhere on the planet, yet if you get down to it and ask people how they are feeling about the world and their place in it, what you'll hear is that we are generally lonelier and more isolated than ever. How can this be? How is it possible that in this age of global connectivity and constant communication, where we have platforms to broadcast our innermost thoughts and the most insignificant minutia of our lives, that we no longer feel truly heard or understood? Thanks to technological ingenuity, coupled with our primal urge for human connection, the distance between all of us has indeed shrunk and our voices are louder than ever. But with all of our positive intentions, it looks like we may have missed the mark. Like, really missed it.

The yearning inside us to find our tribe, the drive to achieve belonging and a sense of place is something that our ancestors accomplished without cell phones, social media or computers. Not so long ago, individuals knew their neighbors and kept a finger on the pulse of their local community. We used to gather together regularly for church socials, dances, to celebrate births, gather in harvests, mourn deaths, to provide physical and emotional support in hard times, to rebuild barns or homes when tragedy struck. Now, many of us don't even know our neighbors' names, much less have a personal relationship with them, I'm ashamed to admit that I've lived on this farm for over 10 years and only recently (like literally within the last few months) have I gotten to know the other people who live on my road. I'm sad now for the years I've spent in my bubble, prejudiced by belief that the world is a big scary place and in order to survive, I needed to dig a hole, crawl inside and shut the hatch behind me. How many friendships did I never make? How many meaningful experiences did I miss out on because I was afraid to open myself up to receive what someone else had to give? There's a reason our earliest ancestors lived in close proximity to one another in tribes and villages. They didn't have the privilege of choosing isolation. Simply put, without family, without community, you just couldn't make it.

This is not about romanticizing the past. Life is certainly easier and more convenient now in a lot of ways. Modernity provides obvious and unquestionable benefits that we all enjoy. You would not be reading this right now without the advent of technological connectivity. But the cultural path we are on currently is not sustainable. It's a downhill trajectory and it's going faster, growing into an unstoppable force that threatens to compromise everything about what it truly means to be human. Some would argue it already has and the damage is irreparable. Our children are floating, ungrounded, lost in a sea of information, desperately searching for true love and acceptance and finding none... Our elders feel isolated, forgotten, lonely and obsolete.. We spend our entire lives in frantic absorption, stimulated by screens, bombarded with messaging, blasting our virtual megaphones and covering our ears to muffle the din. We're stressed out, angry, depressed and anxious.... all a compromise we make in the pursuit of connectivity. It's time to stop, take a step back and consider the monster we've created to serve us. We need real community, not more connectivity. We need intimate, authentic relationship, not more "friends" and viewers on our platforms. The artificial substitution we've all accepted is not nourishing the part of our souls that longs for communion, friendship, and understanding.

There is no going backward. Pandora's box is wide open and you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, as they say. And honestly we wouldn't want to, even if it were possible. To rewind time, we would inevitably end up right back here. All we can do now is evolve our personal behavior and mindset, make the small, intentional changes in our lives that will cultivate a more grounded existence. That will look different for everyone.

Call someone instead of text them. Prepare a special meal and invite your neighbors over for dinner. Plan a personal visit to someone who can't get out. Honestly tell people how you really feel about them, emphasizing the treasure you see in them, rather than the slime. Say "I love you" more than you criticize. Say "I'm so glad you're in my life" more than you find fault. Step out of your comfort zone and take a risk. Join a club or in person community group, and actually make the effort to go. Grab a few friends and plant a garden together. Read a book, with actual pages you can touch and feel. Get a few families together and go on a picnic. Stay up late and laugh around a campfire. Talk to strangers at the grocery store. Sow small seeds of joy and peace wherever you go by simply smiling at the people that cross your path. Get outdoors, feel the grass and sunshine. Play in the dirt. Learn to be okay again with silence and stillness. Relearn how to exist in the moment. Zoom out and realize that on the other side of that text, screen or social media platform, there is another human who craves love and relationship just like you do. Zoom in and notice the small things we often miss, like how green the grass looks after it rains... the weight on someone's shoulders when they need a hug... the brilliant spark of hope in a stranger's eyes when your small act of kindness reminds them that -- although the world might look completely insane and dark -- most people are still generally alright. We can stay home behind our screens and go down with the ship or start making conscious choices today that will change the trajectory of our culture and impact human history for the better.

If any of this resonates with you, if you find yourself dissatisfied and disenchanted with the current social paradigm, you aren't alone. There are other people out there just like you who long for more than what this hyper-connected, global system has to offer. Go find them. Use the system to connect, but don't stop there. Make real relationships and nourish them, even when it's inconvenient, even when it's easier not to. That's the only way we're going to make it through this with our humanity intact, If we all start making intentional choices now, however small or insignificant they might seem, our cumulative efforts will add up to a tangible difference. Don't wait. Put down your phone, turn off the screen. Go find someone who needs a friend and let them know you care. Start building a better world than the one we inherited. In the end, our children will thank us.

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1 Comment

This is awesome! Yay!

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