The Great Influenza
For Every Tomorrow

Together Apart

I had planned to write a short blog post on friendship, but I went down a rabbit hole reading about social capital. The title for this post is together apart but when you read of the decline of social capital something more apt would be together alone.

But first, friendship. If you are fortunate to have one or two friends, perhaps more, that have been with you across the decades then you are fortunate indeed. Right now we are together but apart from friends though some you stand a good chance of seeing them again soon. Others we may not see again. Not through death but through drift. People come and go in our lives and sometimes we miss them. Perhaps other people also miss us, but there comes a point in a life where people do not have the time and must prioritize other things over you. Life will not be the same when the pandemic passes so be prepared for the natural end of some friendships. 

We have all had friends who have moved, or married, or had children and your relationship with them changes. It may get stronger if you now have a shared interest, but chances are your friendship with them will weaken. They, or you, are required to reallocate limited time and energy to new priorities. Post-pandemic expect new priorities and do not be surprised if you do not factor in them. Remember fondly the time you spent together and then journey forth alone with confidence. Better to have good memories than bad.

While friendship is one-to-one my reading this morning on social capital deals with one to many. Social capital involves group membership and focuses on the links of cooperation and friendship between group members. It involves reciprocal obligations between groups of people, their civility, humor, conversation, and the responsibilities incurred by being part of a community.

Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam covers the decline of social capital. The book is dated but its theory holds up. We now live in a world with a high degree of individual self-sufficiency, where the marketplace will tend to your needs at the click of an app. You probably do not need as many favors done today as your great-grandparents may have in their time. This may cause you to drift from your local community.

With the number of in person day-to-day social interactions reduced social capital and the sense of community belonging it brings to people has declined. We are also less interesting to one another as the Internet has made the world smaller and connected more of us together. To be different, to be interesting, requires hard work. When you can see the multitude of people out there you recognize that people are not the same but they are also not that interesting.

The next time you look at a religious or political movement gathering, protesting, (or rioting) you are looking at the vacuum of social capital in modern life being filled by something. If the local community fails due to apathy of the people living there collective action moves up a level but loses nuance.

This post is already twice as long as I planned so now I am going back to reading.


Photo by Lauren Richmond on Unsplash