We seems to feel tied up so much of the time. Tied up by obligations to our friends, to our places of work, to those we love – it is easy to start thinking about all of this as a burden, to lose perspective. In the past, it was easy to become submerged in the dark waters of obligations, and to box ourselves off from the world. It was easier to retreat into ourselves, and succumb to the feeling of isolation. This would lead to unhealthy introspection and more self-imposed isolation, which can be a slippery slope down into a dark well. Suburban boxes, car culture and odd hours at work actually worsened this situation, making it more likely that one could get through a day without really communicating with others. We have all known a lot of people who fit this bill, often our friends, and we’ve all made that effort to try and pull them out of the house and out to the café or the pub or even just out for a walk in the dog park to show them that there’s a big world out there.
It’s amazing how social media has changed this situation. Regardless of how shut out we could have felt, or isolated by our co-workers, or even bullied by those around us, we all now have a great network of town squares in which we go for a metaphorical coffee, hang around and check out the scene by reading our friends’ tweets or looking at their photo updates on Facebook, or we can engage in quick conversation with people we care for, near and far. This is truly a revolution for many of us whose effective social networks have been broadened and new worlds of friendship have been opened.
While those who have grown up digital may take this for granted, many of us wonder at how comforting and reassuring it is to be able to see how our friends are doing: achieving successes, expanding their families, or, on the flip side, experiencing setbacks and personal tragedies. What suburbia destroyed – that sense of a lively town square, that sense of a story-telling culture around the campfire – social media is bringing back.
We keep the material freedom that suburban affluence afforded us, but enjoy the connectedness of a good story around the campfire, or the quick chance greeting at the local café. A lovely thing, isn’t it?