01 December 2008

Social Internet and the Urban Loneliness Myth

From New York Magazine:
...this idea that cities are bastions of lonely, despairing people is a myth,”

...Rather than driving people apart, large population centers pull them together, and as a rule tend to possess greater community virtues than smaller ones. This, even though cities are consistently, overwhelmingly, places where people are more likely to live on their own.

...our large brains didn’t evolve in order to do multivariable calculus or compose sonatas. They evolved in order to process social information—and hence to work collaboratively. “And if you look at any city,” he says, “you see that we have the capacity, as a species, to do so.

...Cities... are the ultimate expression of our humanity, the ultimate habitat in which to be ourselves...

...today’s city dwellers consistently rate as less lonely than their country cousins. “There’s a new sense of community in cities, an increase in social capital, an increase in trust, ...It all leads to less alienation.”

...Bowling Alone, a meticulous chronicle of scary numbers by Harvard public-policy expert Robert Putnam... showed that almost every measurable form of civic participation, from church attendance to union membership to bowling leagues, declined in the waning decades of the last century. ...Putnam focused too much on obsolescent activities and organizations (card-playing, the Elks); ... he gave short shrift to new, emerging forms of social capital, like Internet groups...

... loneliness isn’t about objective matters, like whether we live alone. It’s about subjective matters, like whether we feel alone.

... friends are the glue that binds cities together. In study after study, urban dwellers have a more substantial social network.

...cities, in which we have a large network of companions and a wide variety of activities to do with them, are better for marriages generally. ...new experiences, rather than repeated favorites, are the best way to keep romantic feelings alive in a marriage...

...urbanism has converged, to some extent, with another field of study: Internet use. It’s probably not an accident. Both cities and the Internet are at once highly atomized and elaborately connected ..

...“Online and offline life are inherently connected...They’re not separate worlds.”

...who wants to ride the subway alone?


bsherm said...

Great find. I totally buy into this. I feel more a part of community since I moved to the city than I ever did, and I am a big introvert.

DP said...

I realize it may not be as applicable to the readers of Citykin (the whole point of which is to support families in the city), but I also have a feeling that some portion of this has to do with the fact that urbanites (on average) are less likely to have kids and therefore have more time for external (non-family) interaction. (Trust me, I wish it weren't the case.)

The lack of "3rd places" (and time to utilize them) in the burbs discourages random meetings - if your kid doesn't play soccer with their kid, you're unlikely to meet/interact.

dave said...

The next big thing downtown...Urban Surfing!

They are doing it in Venice through the citys famous St. Marks Square.