One thing that always struck me when I visited Asia last year, was that so much of daily life was carried out outside of the home. There’s always lots of cooking, eating, socialising etc taking place in the streets; sitting just outside of kitchen doorways, in back yards & alleyways etc. There’s often groups of men and women talking at volume as they go about chores and such.
I just assumed it was something that was always a cultural difference between East and West, to be honest. Beyond the initial observation the thought hadn’t really gone anywhere else.
Then, as I was having a look at a post about street life in London in 1876 from one of my favourite sites, and it struck me that it wasn’t always the case in the West; this notion that we’re just more indoor people.
So, I got to thinking about when it was that we moved inside so completely? And why? And how good or bad was it for society as a whole? Whereas in China, Malaysia et al, groups of people milling about outside is seen as par for the course. Here, it would more than likely be treated with suspicion, and perhaps fear.
There’s something a little bit sad about how remote we’ve all got from our closest neighbours, isn’t there.
Has going indoors kept us from being the social creatures we naturally are? Social media no doubt makes it easier for us to feel social – to have the kind of random chit-chat conversations that we might previously have shared with our neighbour, over the back wall, as we hung out our washing. But is it actually making us more social?
Technology and social media has apparently had a positive impact upon people’s connections with their local neighbourhoods – perhaps retraining us to be more open to social interaction with those beyond our immediate circle of friends and family.
I can’t help but wonder though, if it’s a double-edged sword. While we’re becoming more social, we’re also becoming more reliant of technology as the facilitator of these social interactions. We’re perhaps becoming more social only on a superficial level. It’s hard to say.
I don’t know the answers, clearly. But it’s a question that keeps popping up in my mind. If it were more natural for us to speak and interact in a tangible, “real world” way with more people around us, not just our small group of family and friends, would we be happier? How can we better leverage social media and technology to encourage more face-to-face social activity? To better connect with those around us and help us to feel more a part of our local neighbourhoods and communities? To give us back a sense of belonging that is currently in decline?
One to ponder over a pot of tea anyway.