It is easy to criticize social media, new technology, and artificial intelligence. To be fair, the automobile and the smartphone alone are at least partially to blame for how fragmented and isolated we’ve become as Americans. But it’s also necessary to find hope and a sense of solution. Leaving it at the negative can be depressing and leave us feeling more helpless than hopeful. Clare Coffey is a writer from Idaho who acknowledges the ways technology has transformed our society, in many ways for the worse, but then recalibrates the discussion around solution in a new article from The New Atlantis. Even though our generation has a bad set of cards, how can we respond? Coffey offers a bullet point list of things you can do to engage with community and get involved with other people, including gardening in the front yard, contacting the local church, and going to “slightly seedy” bars. Coffey’s article is well worth reading in its own right, so here are just a couple of pull quotes to pique interest:
Invite your neighbors over. This perhaps should be the prime directive, since it’s the one almost everyone can manage — in an apartment building, in a bungalow, on a city block or in a sprawling subdivision, congratulations, you have neighbors.
Invite them over for something low-effort and fairly generic — once you have made their acquaintance you can discover if they share your interest in tabletop games or hiking — like grilling, beers, and dessert. You don’t need to know their names. Put a note on the door with your name, address, phone number, and a message that you’d love to have them over for a specific something on a specific date.-Clare Coffey, How to Make Friends — The New Atlantis
Overall, Coffey urges the reader to engage with the community instead of retreating from it. While it may be uncomfortable and feel artificial at first, especially for more introverted folks, the rewards of friendship beat staying inside and keeping one’s head down year in and year out. She writes,
All of this primer mostly amounts to the kindergarten dictum, “Make a friend, be a friend.” As such it is perhaps frustrating: It describes a posture of openness and habit of engagement rather than concrete steps that guarantee a certain number of friends … How much better to suffer in exploring the depths of human nature, in pursuit of the sweet and wild world, than in the retreat from it.
The entire article is well worth the read. For further reading: