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Well, it looks like diversity is not only scary, it makes people unhappy. Erm, right.

I wrote about what I think is a major hidden variable in the low social capital of modern, urban populations last year when I came back from two months in a small, Costa Rican farming community. Essentially, it seems to me a problem of comparing ad hoc social networks with traditional family or geography-based social networks. It takes a long time to get to know and trust people, which is a lot harder when the population you're looking at is more likely to move house frequently and to live farther from easy proximity to family members.

But also, people's tastes in social activities are changing, which reminds me of a comment and discussion at the rural issues panel at last weekend's Yearly Kos. Bill Bishop, of the The Daily Yonder, said that Republicans had been so successful in spite of their unpopular stances because they'd adopted a social network model that was reminiscent of churches. "Stong social networks repel people who now vote Democratic," he said.

That really ticked me off (I know, not hard, whatever.)

I talked to Bishop afterwards and challenged him on it, saying that for myself, I'd actually like to have more access to stronger social networks. I find myself moving a lot, and it's hard to build a new group of friends and acquaintances each time. If I know I'm not going to be somewhere long, I barely bother. Still, for me it's more a question of activities, and as I told him: I don't want to bowl, belong to a lodge, or go to church.

See, he responded, "strong social networks repel you."

No. Bowling repels me. I don't find it entertaining. Sorry. I also don't want to get up early in the morning on Sundays and go to church, I'm pretty happy being an independent agent of my beliefs at the moment. And I hate getting up early in the morning on Sundays. Criminy. Even if the reason I was up late on Saturday is all too frequently that I was surfing the internet by myself.

The fact is, it's hard for a mobile, urbanized population to meet people outside the confines of organizations structured around activities they're no longer interested in. And then we get painted as being cold and unfriendly. When I said that I'd moved at least once a year for the last several years, Bishop's flip response was to ask if I had a criminal record, because yeah, that's the only reason. Not that I've been moving for (among the many reasons over time) work, or to shorten my commute, or to live closer to my then-boyfriend, or to go to a new university.

In Bishop's world, people move because they've become social pariahs. Thanks a lot. I felt so respected as an individual at that moment.

The outrageous irony is that he said this ... at Yearly Kos. At a convention of people who've been working actively for years to turn a loose network of strangers with shared interests into a close-knit community that works for a common cause. He said this to a person, me, whose most consistent source of new friends over the last several years has been the liberal blogging community.

I've said it before, and will again: I'd take first chances with even those people in the progressive blogosphere and netroots who irritate me to have as colleagues than a random stranger. Even when we get on each other's nerves,and we realy, really do sometimes, we're all on the same side. We're on the same page. We've got each other's backs. (Though I'd really like to see our sense of 'we' expand a fair bit, so that more voices felt included in it.)

Yet my problem is that my network of like-minded sympathizers is geographically dispersed. So I share the challenge of easily meeting new people with many, many, many of my fellow city dwellers. The people who sign up for social networking software tools, go to swing dancing lessons, form ongoing relationships and activity circles with people they know loosely through, say, other Burning Man attendees. People who form parenting groups and knitting circles, start Meetups and book clubs, attend Drinking Liberally events, etc. It isn't, by a long shot, that we don't want to meet and interact with other people.

Considering that this dimension of urban life seems overlooked in all this talk about how terrible diversity is for social capital, I haven't got much use for it. Yeah, it's true that I'm not going to very readily trust people I don't know. But it doesn't mean that I wouldn't like to get to know them.

Originally posted to natasha on Sun Aug 12, 2007 at 10:05 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips! (6+ / 0-)

    Pretty please with a cherry on top?

  •  Yep, this is where churches are useful (2+ / 0-)

    I am not religious and never have been. I am not inclined to join a church solely for the social networking aspects.

    Still, it impresses me as a powerful social network.

    I moved to my current location anchored by grandparents. Still, meeting other moms, finding people in our immediate vicinity, has been hard, especially before DD was in school.

    Recently I met a fresh newcomer with a daughter DD's age. We hit it off great and will be seeing more of them. In their first two weeks here, her daughter already had a network of playdates and was invited to a birthday party, because of the connection through their church. I envy that ease of finding new people, new groups, new connections.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sun Aug 12, 2007 at 10:17:50 AM PDT

  •  Get a dog (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Halcyon, Runs With Scissors

    Dogs are great in urban settings. You get to meet and interact casually with all kinds of people on a regular basis

  •  i know someone who recently joined a church (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    because she was worried no one would bring casseroles to their funerals, should she and/or her husband pass on to the other world.

    •  Maybe we could start a volunteer organization: (2+ / 0-)

      Casseroles for Atheists.  Then nobody would have to have that anxiety.

    •  Easy way to fix that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Runs With Scissors

      Don't have a funeral.  If you don't know anyone who will bring a casserole, you probably don't know enough people to have anyone show up to mourn you.

      DH has already requested a leftover refrigerator box and a hole in the backyard at midnight.  Me, I'm going to take the Eskimo way out and walk out into the snow in midwinter.

      Food and the art of improvisation:
      Jazz Cooking

      by kate petersen on Sun Aug 12, 2007 at 12:45:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  lol! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kate petersen

        well, i already know i want to be cremated, and i'm not too sure about a funeral because people always feel the need to buy new outfits for them, no matter who they are.

        my real plan, though, is to buy a shotgun to scare away all my relatives who want to put me in a home when i'm old and decrepite.

        and then ... and then one evening when i'm positively ancient and already half disintegrated, i plan to drop dead while getting a midnight snack, and i'll do it in the middle of summer when the temperature's over 100 like it is now.

        and because it's already so hot and because everyone's scared of me because i keep pulling the shotgun on them, i'll slowly first decompose - worms and all that - then POOF turn into a tiny pile of dust with some pitiful bones here and there and my poor pitiful darkish blue tee-shirt nightgown draped festively about the dust and bones.

        then sometime in October or November when my relatives (fearful though they are of me thanks to my handy shotgun) realize they haven't seen or heard from me in a while, even though it has been a relief, hasn't it now Harold, i mean, my GAWD, that woman pulling a shotgun on us how dare she that old geezer, they'll realize they better make an appearance because the holidays are coming up but maybe they'd better enlist the sheriff because i might actually pull the trigger on the shotgun this time around ...

        ::deep breath::

        and so ... and so one morning assuming i'll still be asleep and they can catch me unawares, they (shaking in their boots) and the local sheriff will come sneaking up to my front door and knock gingerly, then duck (in case i decide to shoot at them this time).

        then when they get no response, it'll buck up their courage a bit and there will be some indignant "well i never!"s and "after all we've done for her driving over here and all!"s, they'll knock a little louder.

        and there will be no response.

        and this will buck up their courage even further especially as it appears i might not be home and didn't Jethro say something about --- oh, i dunno --- something in the mattress or buried beneath the floor?

        and after the dollars signs light up, they'll implore the sheriff to kick in that door to save their poor old [insert appropriate kin term here], which he will do.

        and they'll look in the door, only to find ... nothing! and they'll walk in hesitantly - i might be hiding after all, laying a trap so i can shoot them with my shotgun so they won't take me to the home! - then gain a bit more courage especially as how someone has fed them the notion there's money in there!

        and then they'll walk right in and meander around a bit then someone will decide to see if there's any cold cuts in the refrigerator (like i buy cold cuts - ha!) ...

        and there i'll be, a tiny pitiful mess of dust and old bones wrapped in my pitiful dark blue (although dusky or twilight might better describe it) sleeping tee.

        and that's how i'll go out.

        either that or i'll get flattened by a horse trailer when i decide one night to walk to Tennessee in my nightie when i'm 89 years old.

  •  Reading this diary reminded me of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SarahLee, sardonyx, sarahnity

    Doug Muder's Red Family Blue Family, Making sense of the values issue. The cognitive dissonance between your view of social networks and, apparently, Bishops' is probably clarified by reading what Muder describes. It's the 'inherited obligation' versus 'negotiated commitment' frame. It's also authoritarian. Shunning is used to cast out those who refuse to submit to authoritarian family/social structure. Bishop may be imputing this identity on you, since you are highly mobile. He may assume you were outcast by your family/community of origin. I don't think people whose frame is that of the 'inherited obligation' family/community can understand how anyone could want to be independent and seek their own muse. By their definition such a person is a misfit/transient/criminal/ne'erdowell.

    Doug Muder posts here as Pericles. More about families in Lakoff/Ault Synthesis: Fixing Lakoff's Family Models.

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