I’ve been reading parts of the book Deep Economy by Bill McKibben and its spurred questions about the benefits of individualism. The idea of individualism is usually positive, we have the ability to do what we want, almost anything unless it harms another person. We get to keep what we make, have our own separate lives in which we can have supreme privacy and rest easy knowing this.
Doubt starts to sprout when individualism starts to make a more broken society, one cracked all throughout, cold and distant from each other. Which isn’t exactly what we have right now, but it also isn’t all that far off. Though there’s more people living in America that ever we have never lived so separate. The book references the U.S. Census Bureau saying that we’ve gone from an average living density of 10 people per acre in 1920 to an average of 2 people per acre. Even with more people we continue to distance ourselves from each other.
With Netflix and easy access entertainment from the comfort of our homes there’s no need to go outside and cross paths with others. There are self-checkout machines at stores and almost everyone lives life between two earbuds. If you have an internet connection what need is there to shop outside?
There has been (and still is) a choice between human engagement and efficient solitude. And it seems we’ve, for the most part, chosen efficient solitude. I know there are outliers, but most of us, including myself, have plugged in. We’ve succumbed to the solitary confinement that technology often puts us in.
More than allowing for quality communication, the cell-phone, television and computer often take us out of real connection and into a faux community, a spider-web of social-media surface-level lollygagging or, in the case of permanent earbuds, an overindulgence of solitary entertainment.
I love music. I listen to music all the time. At some point though I need to remove my earbuds, I need to open up my ears to the environment, to the world I’m inhabiting. I love watching movies. I’m on Netflix all the time. At some point I need to close my laptop or get off my couch and ask some friends to go to the theater together.
Whenever people need to sit somewhere in a movie theater or classroom (or anywhere really) they checkboard across the whole room. Sitting next to another human is a last resort. Even when we plop our ass down next to another human, both are doing absolutely nothing mind you, they sit in silence. That’s an opportunity for human engagement, a beautiful moment where a connection may be formed!
Some may say it’s respect for that person’s life that keeps us silent. Maybe they don’t want to be talked to at the moment, they want to live their own life without the interruption of another person.
A theater brings people together to share the experience of a movie, not in order to all individually watch it, that’s what a home television is for.
There’s amazing potential for community. As we keep growing in population we keep growing the size of our potential family. This may sound totally starry-eyed, completely idealistic and childish, but there are eight billion people on this Earth, eight billion people most all with the desire to connect with other people and share their life with the human community.
People want to be smiled at and embraced, they want to share their story and hear others’. This rabbit hole that we’ve all gone down, this individual abyss we live in, is not the way.