Take a good look around you. Stop right there in the middle of the sidewalk and watch what goes on around for a few minutes. There’s something about our society today that doesn’t tick. Something that doesn’t feel right about it. If you look at what’s happening overall, at the general trend, we live during the best times this planet has ever seen – evolution and technology wise – but we’re going fast in the wrong direction when it comes to our more humane side. We live in a wonderful but lonely world.
We’re living in a lonely and individualistic society and we’re doing too much of everything. We’re in over our heads. Tired, lonely and depressed, we don’t have time to care for ourselves anymore. But how did we get here?
Some say it all started with ancient Greece and our culture of logic. Others, that it started with the invention of the personal computer and the internet. Some blame the western civilization and its excessive focus on the individual.
While no one can say precisely when and where all this started, it’s clear that the evolution of technology, the widespread access to information, infinite options and all the cultural shifts of the last decades have changed a critical part of our lives. They’ve changed the very way we live our lives. Loneliness is a real problem which became more acute within our modern and overly connected society. And it doesn’t seem to stop anytime soon. At least not by itself.
Smartphones and social media got us closer but farther away at the same time. We can connect with someone on the other side of the planet in an instant and travel faster to more distant lands but we’re farther and farther away from what matters most to us as human beings – genuine connection in social interaction.
Today, when we’re down, we grab our smartphones and go online to alleviate the social pain of loneliness, but while that works on the short term, the very short one, it only makes matters worse in the long term. We choose to watch and live our lives more and more through our smartphone screens.
Doing Too Much
Another important consequence of the modern life is that we’re doing too much at the same time these days. We live individual lives more and more instead of focusing on growing communities to help each other out. Nowadays, the individual comes first.
Man or woman, we choose to live lonely and independent lives and do everything by ourselves. We have the lives we dreamed about but at the end of the day, we are lonely. We commute, we work, we shop and drink our morning coffee in the middle of so many people every day, but when we get back home, we’re all alone.
This individualism of our society only leads to us doing everything we have to do, alone. Families are shrinking, communities are virtual and at the end of the day, there’s no one else there to share our duties with, to share our chores and shopping and cooking, fixing and plumbing and washing with. We do everything by ourselves.
And when we need help, we choose to click a button or swipe a touchscreen.
Two is a Far Greater Number Than One
We have to understand that two is a far greater number than one. That friendships and relationships can’t exist online and that a healthy community can’t be accessed on a smartphone. History has proved that a home and a community are the two best cures for loneliness.
But since it’s so easy to change jobs and cities nowadays, homes are on the road and communities virtual. What’s more, friendships and relationships happen from a safe distance. As opposed to the people in the past, we’re less and less living in healthy and stable communities. We live individual lives in virtual communities. But that doesn’t help. No Facebook group can replace a real community of caring people.
In the past, people lived together and helped each other out and took care of everything together. One did the cooking, another one the fixing, somebody else took care of the groceries.
Today we do everything individually. We cook, we wash the dishes and we take the trash out, we drive to work, we go shopping, we clean our homes and pay the bills, we do everything all by ourselves. We’re doing too much and there’s little time left for anything else. We think that everything only takes five minutes but the truth is nothing takes five minutes anymore. Not to mention that nowadays there’s YouTube and Facebook and Twitter and all the appealing things that keep us glued to smart devices and their screens. No wonder we have this general feeling that we don’t have time for friends, for us and for our hobbies anymore.
And no, money won’t help either. There was a study in which researchers found out that those top 1% who control most of Earth’s wealth express feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness.
The Danish Model
Since nothing can replace genuine connections and true relationships, the solution lies exactly in that. Making the real community our top priority. It’s not all lost. We can still change our ways of living this life and transform this lonely world.
A few weeks ago, I took a Danish family on a one day guided tour in the Fagaras Mountains around the Balea Lake area. We went on talking and they told me that they live near Copenhagen, in a sort of a family association. There are several families living together in the same big space. Those places are called communal homes. While at first it sounded awkward to me, I realized that it’s a better way of living. People in the past were doing something similar.
They’ve told me that they had days scheduled for cooking meals and during those days they cooked for all the families in the community. They would do that every one or two weeks and that was nice. They are taking turns in doing the shopping, cooking or other chores. Which isn’t a bad idea since it guarantees you time for yourself, time with your kids, time with your loved ones, for your friends and for your hobbies. Imagine the opposite scenario, the one most of us are living right now. Take cooking for example. Which option is more time consuming in the long term? Cooking every day or cooking once every one or two weeks?
While they live together in the same space, they do have their own living areas with bedrooms, toilets and all the modern amenities they need and only share gardens, a large living room or similar spaces.
Co-housing, as it’s called, is an idea that originated in Denmark in the 60’s when groups of families, unhappy with the way houses and communities were built and feeling that they didn’t meet their real needs, decided to change the way things were going on and started an experiment.
Nowadays, this lifestyle is spreading to other parts of the world such as the UK and the US and seems to be a better alternative to this lonely world we live in.
While this idea may not appeal to every one of us, it’s indeed an efficient way of living, and it’s not a novel thing. People in the past used to live the same. Extended families were more widespread centuries ago than they are now. But even if we don’t have the means to go co-housing, we can still choose to work more on our friendships and build trust-based relationships and share more in the real life than online.
We can still heal this wonderful and lonely world of ours.
Cover Photo: Pixabay.