#2: Love Thy Neighbor

In the eight or so years that I’ve lived in Connecticut, I may have seen my neighbor (I’ll call him Mr. X) about five times through my window, and talked to his wife once. Mr. X sent his wife over when my dogs were barking endlessly for a day. It is always fun to listen to their complaints about the dogs, mainly because it’s them that the dogs are barking at. Mr. X feels the same way about the dogs.

When I lived in Vermont, however, I hung out with one of my neighbor’s kids every day, the others down the street, and their friends that lived two streets away. Keep in mind that I’m talking about upstate Vermont, where streets go on for quite a distance. I didn’t have the same dogs then, but I had horses, pigs, and some other noisy animals.

Between these two lifestyles, the main difference between them is how technology had been lacking in my area of Vermont (and after a recent visit to my old house last month, after being away for almost a decade, the only change I found were the seven-foot tall weeds). People walked to each others’ houses, spent time together, and helped one another by just being nearby. Here in Connecticut, people spend time together, but not in the same ways. Just because someone lives next to you doesn’t mean you have to be social with them or even like them. The idea of building a community has now been “defined socially and not spatially.” (Wellman, 53)

Technology has aided people in communication with one another socially, making it easier to hang out and help others without leaving home. Can it be too much? From what I’ve seen in the past eight years of online evolution, it is never enough. Universities are moving classes online completely, making it easier for those who can’t schedule time to be on campus to make it to class. Instead of meeting friends at a diner for food, they can meet online in a private chat room just for them. Even convenience isn’t convenient enough, with people using cell phones to text each other instead of calling and talking. In 2002, it had been mentioned that “mobile telephony, texting, and mobile Internet services [were] already affecting social relationships.” (Rheingold, 24) I would have seen very little of this in Vermont. The owners of my old home told me that they still are too far from their nearest DSL hub, and cable internet is not available in that area yet.

Even though we see life as connected through our interactive communications, I know personally that it cannot solve every problem or help in every aspect. My old neighbor in Vermont had several daughters, one of which was my best friend. I had a huge crush on her and I found out years later that she had a huge crush on me too. A few months ago, we heard a rumor that her father had died of brain cancer. While in Vermont, we confirmed the rumor and found out that he and the daughters had moved to Texas right before he died. I have searched forever online trying to find her, and I have yet to succeed. She doesn’t exist on MySpace, and Facebook doesn’t have any matches of her either. I can’t call or text her cell phone, instant message her online, or e-mail her to catch up. All I want to do is ask how her life is, but the communicative world we live in can’t even give me a clue on where to start. Because I was connected to her and her family through a spatial community in Vermont, and we didn’t continue that connection online, it may be another decade before I talk to her again.

With that depressing thought in my mind, I need to get away from this computer screen. I think a late night walk with my dogs will cheer me up.

References:

Rheingold, H. (2002). Shibuya epiphany (pp. 1-28). Smart mobs. New York: Perseus.

Wellman, B. (2005). Community: From neighborhood to network. Communications of the ACM, 48(10), 53-55.

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~ by Cliff Huizenga on September 12, 2006.

One Response to “#2: Love Thy Neighbor”

  1. Cliff … remember, Saturday, Oct. 21 at BAR in New Haven is the Local Band Series. (More details to follow) And, if you want, contact Eric Bruce at ultraradio.com and get him a copy of your disc to see if you can get booked at the Wednesday show at Alchemy.

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