Loss of Community

In our previous Article The Value of Community, we discussed what makes a true community. Additionally, we highlighted some of the value it can bring to a person’s life. In this article, we will discuss how the loss of community impacts people.

 

Cultural Shifts

 

One hundred years ago people depended on each other for survival. Impart this was because  travel was greatly limited. Thus, people who lived near each other were not only neighbors, but their children also attended the same schools and they often attended the same church. Many people lived in a rural environment, which was a great opportunity to create community.

 

Over the last century, however, people have become more independent. Additionally, travel has increased and the population has become more metropolitan centric. Also, in the name of safety, more and more restrictions exist regarding interactions between individuals.  Thus, changing the relationship between people and groups, volunteer activities, and schools.

 

These cultural shifts have led to a general loss of community. When people don’t know their neighbors, it is hard to have true community with them. The same is true of schools and churches, which may draw people from a wide area. People no longer have the same ties with those people that they once did.

 

Add to this that church membership has dwindled during the last century. Thus, the church community is no longer present in many people’s lives.

 

2020’s Contribution to The Loss of Community

 

The year 2020 has challenged community in ways never experienced before. The lockdown shuttered office doors, churches, and schools. Additionally, regulations prohibited groups from meeting in person.

 

Restrictions

 

People were shut-off from any groups or communities that they had been participants in. Even with online school or work, people were distanced from the relationships that they had only days before the lockdown. Working or learning remotely removes the strength of the relationship from the situation. You miss the personal interactions and the side conversations. Even the shared experience of going through the current situation is very impersonal.

 

Almost every group or organization had to figure out how to do things differently or stop meeting altogether. Many activities were completely closed down (e.g. gyms, yoga). For others, such as church, they became very one-way. Video services were possible for many churches, but they can’t capture the relationship aspect that church provides – no meet and greet, no breaking bread together, and no building of personal relationships.

 

Even situations that allow in-person attendance have less community than in the past. Two children, for instance, can’t share a private side joke because they are likely required to be six feet apart at all times. This may seem like a small thing, but it is these little moments that build trust, which is a key building block of community.

 

Impacts

 

The regulations and varying opinions on them impact trust and relationships.  Even wearing a face mask can dampen trust. This is through no fault of anyone. It is simply human nature to trust less what you can’t see.

 

Similarly, it is more challenging to know when a member of the community needs help if you can’t see their facial expressions or are viewing it over video conferencing. Although there isn’t strong agreement on how much communication is nonverbal, it is safe to say that the more nonverbal communication that is lost, the more difficult it can be to communicate even simple things. For instance, in a class, a teacher can take a quick look at her classroom and know if the students understand the material. This is much more challenging with masks and even more challenging over video.

 

Impact of Loss of Community on Individuals

 

As the sense of community is lessened either through cultural shifts or through the more extreme limitations that 2020 has brought, individuals can be greatly impacted. Unfortunately, the impacts are often the greatest to the most vulnerable.

 

The elderly and people that live alone without someone close to call for help need community relationships to survive. When those are lost, they struggle. Some of the struggles are to care for themselves and their home, but often the greatest struggles are with loneliness. Since humans are social beings, the loneliness and lack of human interaction can be devastating.

 

If the person is hearing impaired, as many older adults are, distancing and mask wearing take an additional toll. In this situation, the person may not understand what is being said to them. Thus, they become very frustrated trying to communicate. This may result in withdrawal from interactions with other people.

 

Another vulnerable community are those people with PTSD. When a person leaves the military, it is critical that they keep in touch with their military family as that is a very important community. If they don’t keep strong connections, the effects of PTSD can intensify.

 

Similarly, each time a person moves, changes jobs, graduates, etc., they should take special care to maintain their connections to those communities while building new relationships. Otherwise, they become vulnerable to loneliness and depression. It is important for people to recognize that if they don’t have a strong connection to people (a strong sense of community), it is much easier to simply not participate.

 

Up Next

 

In the next article, we will discuss steps each person can take to build community for themselves and others.

 

Lessons From 2020

Most people agree that 2020 has been the strangest year of their lifetime. Even my 90+ year-old father says that it is the weirdest time he has experienced. Some people have described it as the “Perfect Storm” with COVID-19, George Floyd’s death, and Cancel Culture surfacing in an election year. But, what lessons have we learned from all of this?

 

Let the Grumbling Begin

 

Listening to all the grumbling going on in America, one might surmise that the biggest lesson that we have learned is that we, as a people, are very accustomed to doing what we want. We do not like rules. Additionally, people are definitely not patient.

 

Well, these are all truths about the American people. However, none of these “lessons” are hardly a revelation. For years, the behavior of people has demonstrated impatience and a dislike for rules. 2020 has simply brought these issues to the surface.

 

Fear and Frustration

 

For many people, the grumbling comes out of fear or frustration.  People were and still are afraid of COVID-19. The virus can result in serious issues or death. Thus, it is something to take seriously. However, the fear in many cases is so deep that people assume it is even more dangerous than the facts show.

 

Similarly, the frustration that people feel over the rules, trying to work at home and manage children in the house, being away from friends and family, etc. overwhelms many people. Each of these things is a frustration in its own right, but together they create a frustration that many people have never experienced before.

 

Therefore, perhaps the lessons of 2020 are that fear and frustration can truly take over your life.

 

Human Interaction

 

Being away from friends and family is more than a simple frustration. It makes life difficult. Humans by nature are social beings. They need interactions with others, including hugs and touch. The need for interaction is the reason why many people consider solitary confinement cruel. So, although people today aren’t completely isolated from all human interaction, it has been greatly curtailed.

 

In many cases, workers are working remotely from others in the same company or seeing clients via video or telephone. Having personally worked remote, had remote workers working for me, and having seen clients remote, I can tell you that the reports of something being lost in an electronic-connection are very real. It is much more difficult to build a personal connection and to understand the other person’s perspective when not in person.

 

Thus, perhaps the lesson of 2020 is that human connection is an essential element of life.

 

Anger and Violence

 

There are several sources of the anger and violence that is being demonstrated in the streets of American cities. Some people are truly upset about equality and justice. At the opposite end of the spectrum are people that simply want destruction. No matter the reason for the anger and violence, we have seen that standing back and allowing them to act out does not work. Anger and violence just beget more of the same.

 

Therefore, perhaps the lesson of 2020 is that you need to take action if you want to stop a behavior. It might also be that if we want love and acceptance, we need to visibly demonstrate the same. Alternately, it may be that life is short or at least too short to be consumed with negative emotions.

 

Our choices Do Make a Difference

 

People’s perspective on life in 2020 is very much based on the decisions they have made when faced with the 2020 challenges. Some have chosen to listen to the drama and hype while others have listened to the facts. Similarly, some have decided to do what is right for themselves and their families without judgment of others. Meanwhile, some have decided that what is right for them is the answer for everybody.

 

Choices during this time also include deciding to be happy and find creative solutions to a person’s business and/or personal pursuits. Others choose not to look beyond what 2019 offered, leaving them feeling stuck and frustrated.

 

Thus, the lesson of 2020 may be that each of us is in charge of our own happiness.

Other Lessons

 

2020 has presented the opportunity to learn many other lessons as well. The lessons each person can learn from this situation are as unique as the people themselves. Some may learn that they need to spend more time with their family or may come to consider time with loved ones precious.

 

Others may focus inward and see that they need to put themselves first more often. Perhaps they learned the value of down time or having a hobby. They may even come to really appreciate many things that they previously took for granted.

 

Whatever your story, make sure that you learn as much from 2020 as you can. If you don’t learn, you are likely to repeat the lesson. Something most of us don’t want to do.