We’re over halfway through 2020 The Year of the Pandemic, and I’m more than halfway through my goal of reading 80 books by the end of the year. Many of these books, no matter the genre, mention the importance of community, of belonging, when it comes to being a healthy human.
I’ve written about communal necessity before, but the last book I completed, “Have a Little Faith” by Mitch Albom, brought up how membership in churches, synagogues, and all manner of community service groups dropped sharply since the late 20th century. Mr. Albom is given his rabbi’s documents to better understand the man to prepare his eulogy. These documents contain the rabbi’s old sermons and in some of those selected for the book, community is once again the subject. I started to wonder, in the age of the Internet, do blogs count as “community”? If they do, are those who follow still missing out on the primal need for physical closeness as well all the facial and verbal cues one would get in a local group?
Growing up, I was in 4-H, seasonal sports through school, summer soccer and softball, the local horse club, and horticulture. My family also went to church on Sundays and I’d help Mom bake pies (the lemon meringue ALWAYS went first) for the bake sale at the church picnic in addition to putting in a day of work with other church members chopping vegetables for the booyah made in huge kettles by the church’s men’s group. There was also the baking of pies for the annual Fireman’s picnic and my parents would work in the food stand as well. In other words, there was a lot of community involvement.
Being raised in an environment where volunteering was just a fact of life you learn to communicate with a vast range of people. You learned that you didn’t have to agree with everyone you spoke to, but you still showed them courtesy and respect. Two behaviors which seem to be growing scarcer by the day. Is this because without that in-person contact, we devolve into the worst version of ourselves?
As much as I love the Internet, where I can interact with people from a variety of backgrounds from the comfort of my couch, there is still a dimension of immersive community that is missing. Bloggers and those who follow their posts aren’t shoulder-to-shoulder on hot, sticky Saturday mornings chopping vegetables, telling jokes, and “being sassy” as my Mom would say. We aren’t together stripping bark off of fence posts to make a new riding arena at the fairgrounds. We aren’t walking together on the side of the road together in neon colors picking up litter for our Adopt-A-Highway weekend.
Science has proven time-and-again that teamwork among groups builds strong social bonds. Striving towards a common goal in an in-person setting typically causes people to lay aside differences that online lead to outrage and trolling. Without the accountability of personal actions in a live-and-in-person group, people feel free to thumb their noses at anyone who isn’t in lockstep with them. I’ve seen this play out in my own group of close friends, my “framily”.
The group doesn’t have a consensus on a large variety of topics. Half of these friends grew up in Sweden. One is a former military with another is current military. There are “blue collar” and “white collar” workers. We have gathered together for “work weekends” at one another’s homes to help get projects completed. But, there has been calling into account for offense given in conversations and discussions.
Now, in the Year of the Pandemic, the shelter-at-home orders seems to be shining a light upon this lack of community within Western culture. Rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide are climbing. People are posting across the gamut of social media that they are missing the physical contact, the in-person meetings, of their loved ones. Loneliness is rampant. So, what can we do about it?
Many bloggers call their subscribers a “community”. So, if a group of people following a blog is a community, and groups working together towards a goal form lasting bonds, what can bloggers do to create and keep bonds strong in that community?
I think that would be working towards a common goal.
One goal I had set for myself was to find something for which I felt positive about and something for which I was grateful every day. I was reminded by Facebook the other day that I’ve been doing this #OnePositiveOneGratitude on-and-off (mostly on) for at least four years. Some folks have joined in, some have said that they love to read what I’m positive about and grateful for, occasionally someone joins in. The bigger picture is, however, that anyone can join in. Also, expressing what we are grateful for also helps lower anxiety, depression, etc.
So, as a community of people who read this blog who want to participate in a group project to build stronger societal bonds and still remain safe as the world is gripped by a virus that will have ramifications for decades to come, I encourage you all to post your own #OnePositiveOneGratitude every day.
We’re surrounded by negativity in the media, and while that can be overwhelming, we can all play a small part in being the change we want to see in the world. As for me, I will be continuing the daily (or near daily) positives and gratitudes. I’ll continue to pick up litter when I see it (#GiveAHootDontPollute). I’ll continue with my armchair philosophizing about how I can make positive changes to my immediate surroundings. I’ll continue to be kind.
And now I will put to you this question:
What can you do today, and every day, to build community and be the change you wish to see in your world?