Social Capital is the fabric of a community and its pool of human resources available to it – the individual and communal time and energy that is available for such things as community improvement, social networking, civic engagement, personal recreation, and other activities that create social bonds between individuals and groups – it’s the glue that holds a community together, as it once did in villages and small towns. That’s one of the main reasons this examiner was happy that the networking site Nextdoor started up recently. He was one of 16 in our neighborhood who joined, which is about a third of all residents.
He once wondered if he was the only person in the Bosque Montano community on the West side of Albuquerque that sometimes feels disconnected from many of the other 75-80 other people there and in other close-by neighborhoods. He found out he’s not (maybe the problem was he!). Here is what he heard from others when he found the courage to ask them:
- “In all the time I’ve lived here, I have met and talked regularly with only two families. A lot of the people do not even wave hello.”
- “It has been virtually impossible to get people to pitch in to help with things like decorating the neighborhood with luminarias or help take them down afterward.”
- “ I don’t know nearly anyone on my street as so many people are in and out… we once were provided with a list of emails and telephone numbers for each home. Now that list is outdated.”
- “Unfortunately, many in our ‘hood’ are not active in their community. We typically have a very low turnout at HOA meetings, etc.”
- “My frustrations with my neighborhood ‘community’ are residents letting their big dogs poop all over the place and not picking it up, people not ever pulling their weeds, way too few participate in the community, and there is trash everywhere.”
He also turned to (paper) books to learn more.
The Connection Gap is one of those rare books that he feels everyone should read. Award-winning journalist and author Laura Pappano discusses the pluses and minuses of life in our frenzied, disconnected, technological society. When we choose to order food or groceries online, she writes, we miss out on the smells and sights of the food that is an integral part of life, and we no longer experience the relaxed chatter with fellow shoppers, diners and grocery-store workers. We need to engage and reconnect, she writes, by infusing our lives with some of the activities we have worked so hard to banish and that were once so commonplace in the past and in villages.She offers many concrete suggestions for filling our lives what’s really important, including:
- spending more time with each other
- spending less time with the gadgets around us
- leaving the house more often
Pappano’s book is similar to, but less exhaustive than Robert Putnam’s enlightening read Bowling Alone. He says that Americans have withdrawn into themselves, refuse to join social clubs, community projects, and professional organizations, vote, or go to church. There are fewer families who eat together or discuss things as a family, entertain friends at home, participate in group games, social or sports activities, or who have political and interpersonal trust. Putnam took the connection gap deeper than Pappano’s concerns about loneliness and emphasized the importance of social connection in improving wellness.
Subdivided is a documentary about life in contemporary suburbia: a study of isolation and the struggle to find and maintain community in an era of often careless development, the urban sprawl, securely locked gates, and a growing number of “McMansions.”
Although Albuquerque’s West side is definitely not a poster child for isolation and lack of community, it does seem to have its share of that social problem.Therefore, I feel that it is important to promote public discussion about this topic as a way to try to build social wellness in the Land of Enchantment.