All of this is theoretical conjectural pondering.
I’ve been watching a Chinese-produced documentary about culinary traditions of China called “Bite of China.” It’s great and right up my alley. It has got me thinking about a lot of things. It got me thinking about traditions…techniques and values passed down. It also got me thinking about people living in the community in which they grew up versus moving away to the city.
On one hand, it seems that the choice whether to stay or move has pretty much been available to all mankind since the beginning of time. However, thinking more of recent times, as the United States has moved away from an agrarian society in the 2nd half the 20th century it seems that we have become a more mobile culture than we were prior to that. I’m not just talking about people leaving their ancestral lands of their forefathers (rarely a thing nowadays anyway). I’m talking about people who grew up mobile, or in the suburbs far from where their parents grew up, who then move far away one or multiple times. There’s no sense of taking root. I am myself guilty of this, of course. Of course there are certain occupations that do tend to require one to be more mobile such as those in the military or ministry jobs, etc. Obviously when there is such transiency, there develops a lack of a sense of place, or a feeling of a true home. Development of local culture is hindered like growth in a Petri dish would be if you don’t leave it alone. Grown children would not have that sentimental nostalgia when looking back at their childhood home.
Now, as we are here in 2019, it seems that the continued advancement further into the digital age and the “social media age” has accelerated changes in American culture such that people are even more socially disconnected than ever before. That seems like an incorrect statement, but I believe it’s the truth. I believe the psychology behind it is this: When you have the ability to communicate via a cellular app or computer it normalizes communication that is not face-to-face and makes it possible to spend the majority of one’s social interaction remotely. This obviates the need for “getting out” and exploring places with friends, knocking on an old friend’s door, calling up people unawares, venturing into a new joint hobby, and other social activities. This also affects the nuances of face-to-face social interaction. My guess is that the youngest of Gen Z will be more socially inept than generations before them because of the predominance that remote social interaction has in their lives. My overall gist is this: people just seem to be more confined to their homes. The garage door goes up, in the car goes, and the human is generally not seen. And they seem less socially connected not only in spite of social media but perhaps in part because of it. And this seems to be true of all generations nowadays, not just the youngest. I am definitely guilty of all of this myself.
On a side note, the polarization of the political climate just makes this worse. There seems to be a distrust of others that is heightened by cable news and social media.
After thinking about the above, I feel there are two sacrificial remedies that would help counteract these social trends. 1) The first would be settling down somewhere and really digging in and taking root. What I mean by this is investing in a place whether this be rural, urban, or suburban and trying to make it better. Make it morally better. Or make it asthetically better. Or make it a better place to live by preserving something of its history or increasing recreational activities, etc. Or show love to those in need. Or just be a good citizen by being nice to people and taking good care of your shit. Notice I just said somewhere. Not necessarily the place you grew up. I really think it only takes maybe 5-10 years for roots to get established somewhere. Obviously, the longer the better. 2) The second would be overall less communication via instant messenger apps on phones and less social media use in general. I have no idea how to achieve this on a societal level and it basically seems hopeless to me. But oh well.
One (I) may ask, “does any of this really matter?” After all, we do live a “post-truth” society (sarcasm) and we are all just cosmic stardust with no absolute moral reference with which to govern our lives (more sarcasm). Well, for Christians, I would argue that it does matter in the sense that the more (truly) socially connected we are the more opportunities we will have to make the Gospel part of the every day public square interactions of life. In other words, there would be more missionary opportunity, especially as secular culture drifts further away from “cultural christianity.” This makes me want to go on another tangent but instead I’ll just link to an article on the topic of Christians living in secular societies.
And the irony of posting this on social media does not escape me.