This article from today’s New York Times struck a chord with me for some reason. For the past eighteen or so years, I’ve always found it easier to create and/or join communities online than in the real world. I rarely make a point of knowing my neighbors, and wonder if it has something to do with the fact that I don’t own — I’ve only ever been a renter? When I had my apartment in Manhattan, I knew the man who lived on one side of me, and would greet the woman who lived on the other side when our paths crossed, but with ten floors of apartments, that was the extent of it. Sort of sad, in hindsight.
In recent years, the communities I’ve become a part of have bled into real life — I’ve met quite a few people due to message board affiliations, and consider several of them to be good friends. When we travel across the country, invariably there’s someone in the vicinity we’ll know and who will be more than happy to get together with us for a comfortable evening’s activities. That’s not something that would have been as easily doable even fifteen years ago.
But the people three doors down? Not so much. For a while, we knew a few people in our neighborhood, but that’s been cutting back over the past year or two. There is a sense of community in our neighborhood to some extent, but we don’t belong to it. And while I’m glad of that — many of my neighbors leave much to be desired, to be honest — I miss knowing everyone on the street, like when I was a kid in West Hartford. Technology, whether we admit it or not, has affected how we build communities. Some may say for the worse, but in my case, I think it’s for the best. There are people who read this blog that I’ve known for fifteen years and have only ever met maybe once in person, yet consider a dear friend (hi Jeff!). Others I’ve known twenty five years, but haven’t seen more than once or twice in passing since 1994 or thereabouts (hi Ken!).
My point? Without the interwebnets, I wouldn’t know some of these people at all, and others would have likely slipped from my life completely. I guess the point of all of this is simply this: home is where you wear your hat, and I guess I wear my hat online more than in my neighborhood. It’s a different age and I’ve simply embraced it more thoroughly than many.
It won’t help much if a natural disaster were to occur, though…