Effects of Disconnection in Neighborhood Ties
Disconnection in social relationships has continued to increase in the 21st century, and neighborhood ties are no exception. Half a century ago, neighborhood ties were marked by mutual support, solidarity, friendship and interactions. In the current age, these ties have been dropped dramatically. People living in close proximity prefer to lead closed-off lives, completely oblivious of the person living next door or down the street. This societal trend is proving to cause more harm than good and should in fact be a cause for concern. Disconnection in neighbor relations is negatively impacting on lives.
Many people have asserted that they do not know their neighbors or their names. A man recently admitted in a poll that he could not even identify any of his next-door neighbors in a police lineup. People have disintegrated neighborhood ties and adopted private individualistic habits such as reading books. They defend those habits claiming long commutes to work, lengthy working days and having both spouses working. Personally, growing up, I have rarely encountered neighbors leave alone befriending them. This means the way modern society raises children creates suburban neighborhoods that are empty most part of the day.
Digital communication has taken over physical social ties. In this era of the internet, people can create online communities and online platforms for relating. Lovenheim wonders that, “Why is it that in an age of cheap long-distance rates, discount airlines and the internet, when we can create community anywhere, we often don’t know the people who live next door?” My nephew recently underwent a phase of internet addiction which adversely affected his social connection with his family and friends. It took him professional help to overcome his addiction and regain some of his relationships, though he lost some of his friends completely. The internet has made society to lose value for physical interaction.
Another reason attributed to the disappearing neighbor is trust issues. Due to increasing incidences of crimes such as robbery, people have lost faith in each other. In addition to mistrust, people have lost the heart to hold personal interactions. A friend to my brother once asked, “If I have not talked to my friend face to face this week, why should I go knocking on some stranger’s door or start talking in the elevator?” His friends seemed to share in his opinion, portraying how humans have left no room for neighborliness or social interaction.
Increasingly cut off ties with neighbors is endangering health. Neighbors do not care about each other’s lives and have become hesitant to intrude even in emergencies. Joyce Vincent was a woman whose death was unnoticed for more than two years. She had health problems of asthma and peptic ulcer. She had a disconnected relationship with her family and neighbors and therefore no neighbor noticed her sudden disappearance or raised any concern. They brushed off the constant smell of a decomposing body assuming it was the waste bins. This famous incident, among many, portrays how disconnected neighborhood ties is impacting society in terms of health. If neighborliness had existed between Ms. Vincent and her neighbors, she would have reached out to her neighbors that she was having a heart attack and they would have driven her to hospital. In his article, Lovenheim encountered a neighbor who needed help due to breast cancer. “Lou and I and some other neighbors ended up taking turns driving her to doctors’ appointment.” This proves how a supportive neighborhood can help manage serious illnesses.
Disconnected neighborhood relations is an untapped cause of mental health problems. Cases of loneliness, depression and suicide due to loner habits and disconnected relationships has been on the rise. Face to face interactions, even brief conversations, and a sense of community belonging are great contributors of emotional wellbeing. Friendly neighbors reduce sadness and perhaps this could be an unexploited solution to some of the mental conditions such as loneliness and dementia. An old woman who lives on the fifth floor of our resident apartments happily asserts that, “The boys downstairs usually help me to carry my grocery and help me talk my sadness away on some evenings.” Her frequent assertions come from a place of happiness indicating that neighborliness and feeling like part of the neighborhood makes many people happy.
Disconnected neighborhoods are pulling down collective interest efforts and child development. Collective interest such as lower crime rate is interrupted because people do not consider it their responsibility to look out for their neighbors’ residences. A friend once narrated how burglars broke into their home once the family had gone out for dinner. They do not usually speak to their immediate neighbors. When neighbors were questioned by police, they claimed to have seen three strange-looking men and heard glasses breaking minutes later but they took no action because they did not know if the men were related to their neighbors due to their disconnected neighbor relationship. Children develop better in settings of high social involvement and that means in settings where they interact with their neighbors.
Disconnected neighbor relations are increasingly becoming the norm in this era of modernity and digitization. While modern settings are pushing for social disconnect in neighbor relations, this trend is proving to be poison to society. Cordial relations with people in close proximity is an innate need that should not be ignored. People can improve aspects of their lives by creating good neighbor interactions and connections. Negative impacts of neighbor disconnection are therefore pushing the need for rebuilding good neighborhood ties.
Lovenheim, Peter. “Won’t you be my neighbor?” New York Times, 23 June 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/23/opinion/23lovenheim.html.