Tuesday, November 21, 2006

CONNECTED? TO WHOM?

Our communities change. Over the years, people move away or move in, and the community spirit seems to become less. Priorities and activities appear to change. Social scientists have studied this in the U.S. and have found that the ways we interact with one another in groups have declined over the past 30 years or so.

P.T.A. membership is down 50%, participation in town and school board meetings is down 40%, men's clubs down 20%, women's clubs down more, youth particiption in extra-curricular activies has decined and church attendance has dropped.

We are far more likely to listed to a CD at home alone that join a local choral group, more likely to watch TV sports than join a softball team, more likely to be intrigued by the internet than volunteer with others at the local food bank.

There is a steady trend away from group involvement. Face-to-face participation in group involvement is important because it requires commitment. It encourages responsibility because group members must be accountable to one another in their lasting relationship. Group interaction makes for a connectedness in which people learn to cooperate and trust one another.

I sit in my favorite coffeehouse and look around at the dozen or so patrons who sit staring intently at their laptop computers. They are said to be "connected," but to whom? Certainly not to each other. Each person, immersed in cyberspace activity, was oblivious to the other customers in the coffeehouse. However, it made no difference to those patrons, for they also were "connected" to someone, somewhere, but not in the room.

Each of the dozen people in the room was connected to just one person somewhere, but not to each other. A dozen lonely people staring at screens, supposedly "connected" to a world "out there," but disconnected to the world around them.

Recruit someone to the Esperanto movement? Who? Where? How?

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