Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Are we losing our sense of community in this century?

In a wonderful article/interview with Zygmunt Bauman "Social Media are a Trap," he states: "We are in a period of interregnum, between a time when we had certainties and another when the old ways of doing things no longer work. We don’t know what is going to replace this."

Mr. Bauman stresses that growing tension between our identities as a community and our personal identities. While he references social frameworks such as political and geographical, he mentions how uncertainty is hitting many people - from where they will work to the desire for freedom in a world demanding security (which curtails individual freedom for the 'greater good'). He points out that while 'community' is out of our control, networks are something we can choose deliberately. "The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you. You feel in control. You can add friends if you wish, you can delete them if you wish. You are in control of the important people to whom you relate. People feel a little better as a result, because loneliness, abandonment, is the great fear in our individualist age. But it’s so easy to add or remove friends on the internet that people fail to learn the real social skills, which you need when you go to the street, when you go to your workplace, where you find lots of people who you need to enter into sensible interaction with."

He limits the concept of network to a social media framework and goes on to say that  "But most people use social media not to unite, not to open their horizons wider, but on the contrary, to cut themselves a comfort zone where the only sounds they hear are the echoes of their own voice, where the only things they see are the reflections of their own face. Social media are very useful, they provide pleasure, but they are a trap." 

It is true. We don't often talk with folks with whom we may disagree. We don't seek out dissenting opinions often because we want to hear critical feedback in a safe environment. Networks should include those with whom we can have those difficult conversations: mentors; friends; family.

In his book, In Moral Blindness, he warns about the loss of community in our individualistic world. What I believe is harder for his studies to see or mention are the numerous 'kitchen tables' being built by those who understand the power of community and networks in their truest sense: survival.

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