There’s an easy narrative about the fracturing of the modern community: Falling marriage rates produce more single-person households, digital technologies disrupt in-person interactions, and identity politics cast one group against another. Our centuries-long devotion to the idea of the individual, it seems, has gone too far.
But, as sociologist Gary Marx observed 20 years ago, many of these trends are met by counter-trends that strengthen social cohesion rather than weaken it: We attend more cultural events, spend more nights out socializing, and communicate more with each other. In other words, we’re doing what we’ve always done: adapt.
Rather than eroding our communities, it might more accurate to say we’re building a dialectic around them. While we sequence the genetic codes that make our cells unique, we build giant cities that look like cells from space. While we take on more personal responsibility, we divine the outlines of what can only be accomplished through groups. We build new kinds of individuality together with the networks that support them.
Welcome to “Communities.”
Original image from Malte Muelle / Getty Images