Anthony Flaccavento talks about how we lose community in clear and practical terms in this post. And yes, much of it has to do with that screen I am looking at now and the one many have in their hand some 15- 16 hours per day. I think my readers know that I like technology a great deal. I do like it, but it may be interesting to you to know that I gave up my smart phone for a texting phone – albeit one that has some ability to use the internet if absolutely needed – a few years back because a) it was too invasive b) my work had become much more office-bound and c) not having it meant I needed to rely on others to assist me once in a while.
My market organization was one of the first to equip their staff with smart phones and they were a supremely useful tool. Often though, I handed the market phone to a volunteer to monitor for me while I tried to follow these rules: spend more time roaming the market and talking to people than tweeting about it; attend and help arrange events at bowling alleys/bookstores, in parks and at senior centers to meet more of the community; and more than any other: turn off or ignore my phone when someone engaged me in a conversation.
Many Saturday mornings the line at our farmers market booth includes libertarians, quiet conservatives and liberals; readers of The Nation and folks who listen to Glen Beck. You can be sure that there are some very strong disagreements on economic, environmental and social issues in that queue. But there’s no shouting, no hateful, dogmatic pronouncements. What would happen if I stopped bagging produce and asked what everyone thought about climate change? Or Black Lives Matter? Or the president-elect? I honestly don’t know. I do think, however, that the realities we share, around food, our land and our local economy, may bind us to each other just enough that we’d actually listen, perhaps even consider a discomforting fact or two. Maybe, only maybe. Even so, compared to Facebook’s placeless world, this face-to-face community at least has a common place from which to begin the search for shared truths.