May 24, 2021•1,206 words
Happy Monday and welcome to Take Notice! Each month we build on a topic, dive deeper, and generate resources you can keep coming back to.
There are 10 wonderful friends plus wife who is currently playing the solo variant of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective boardgame which makes for finer reading reading 1206 words all over the world, yay!
Dark skies, dirt roads.
I'm currently sat in a wooden log cabin, at a dark brown wooden rectangular table, keenly aware of the warped wood bulging out and straining the flat surface of my laptop as I gently strike the keyboard. The wooden fans are spinning and forcing down tepid air, the dark woods' hum can be excused for not stimulating my senses as they compete with the drone of an aging refrigerator.
As we drove up to this small town, I noticed the expansive fields, the distance between homes, the fences, gates, the local politics on display through stickers and lawn ornaments. Neighbours it seemed, congregated off road, in small groups, talking about, I imagined, the issue that most outraged them in their seemingly quiet town.
In the United States, if you're older than 65 and live in a rural area, you're more likely to know your neighbour. 3 in 10 adults know all or most of their neighbours, a fraction of that number interact more deeply than a once in a while face to face conversation.
If you're curious about how ethnicity, trust, and wealth show up in relationships, click on the link above for the complete Pew report.
Growing up, the neighbours my family interacted with were similar to us. They were immigrants, had a young family with many children, and lived in areas considered urban, relatively safe, but impoverished in terms of public infrastructure (public libraries, playgrounds etc). There was a bond forged through a shared experience of acclimating to a new life and social norms. To make this long story short, your privilege and positionality, or how your context informs "your understanding and outlook on the world", will influence your interactions with (among other things) your neighbours.
Bonding and Bridging Social Capital
Visualize this, you're walking, minding your own business, deep in thought about the direction a director chose to take for your favourite character, and as you mourn for the time you spent investing in the show, you sense someone about to walk past you. For some reason, you find yourself looking up, catching their eye, and you decide to give them a nod, not just any nod, a knowing nod, one that communicates more than a predictable "what's up". You would will have noticed something that your subconscious processed as familiar, a pattern, a symbol, a memory. Chances are that you're more likely to give that nod to someone that shares in your culture, ethnicity or an aspect of your identity (sports teams).
Social capital is all things that allow for adhesion between individuals, and groups. Bonding social capital uses super glue, and takes effort and energy to break. Bridging social capital is as strong as the glue on a post-it. Both types of social capital are contextually useful and necessary, the word capital means value, and we literally get value from the relationships in our lives that we choose to nurture and maintain.
A study on individual social capital and it's impact on subjective well-being (or happiness) in urban and rural Austrian areas, found that to be content or happy, the frequency of contact with family and close friends differed for each environment. In rural areas, staying in contact with family only needed to happen once a week to have an impact, and in urban areas, having close contact with a friend or participating socially needed to happen almost daily for people to report they were subjectively well (or happy). The distinction of course is that in urban areas, you get to choose your social circles, and invest in them. I interpret it as it being easier to feel lonely when you're surrounded by people, especially in an urban setting where interactions are brief, and transactional (coffee shop, grocery store, elevator).
Remember the people I drove past on the way to the cabin? The ones more likely to know their neighbours? There's a reason for that. They've lived in their community for a longer amount of time than urban people and knowing and engaging their neighbours is contributing to their well being. Older people in rural areas overwhelmingly admit that they have someone to support them most if not all of the time.
I think there's beauty in people being there for each other, Randah's story of being connected to her neighbour because they enjoy each other is something I'd love to have and see more of. For our part, we moved into a new neighbourhood midway through the pandemic, with no vaccine in sight, which doesn't make it easy to be neighborly. More recently, with my mom's help, we started giving our neighbours little baked goods which they appreciated. I think it's allowed us to see each other a bit more easily. A more extended 'nod' if you will. One of these interactions allowed me to learn about a fantastic Nepalese restaurant on the way to the cabin, where I got a taste of a place I lived in long ago.
I'm starting to believe that we create the conditions for serendipitous human connection moments to surprise and delight us. What I'll be offering you in the next piece are a few thoughts and strategies on how to nurture more of these moments. Because "What we do with our lives individually is not what determines whether we are a success. What determines our success is how we affect the lives of others" - Albert Schweitzer
Resources accessed for article
- Individual social capital and subjective well-being in urban- and rural Austrian areas | SpringerLink
- How to Invest in Social Capital HBR
- What is Bonding Social Capital?
- BBC documentary: Meet the Neighbours by maddysavage | Maddy Savage | Free Listening on SoundCloud
- Similarities and differences between urban, suburban and rural communities in America | Pew Research Center
- The Emergence of the Galactic City: Population and Employment Growth in American Metropolitan Areas, 1970-2000
- Neighborhood Social Capital, Neighborhood Disadvantage, and Change of Neighborhood as Predictors of School Readiness
- A Comparison of Social Capital in Rural and Urban Settings
- Social Capital and Human Mortality: Explaining the Rural Paradox with County-Level Mortality Data
- Rural-Urban Differences in Bonding and Bridging Social Capital
- Differences in Social Capital between Urban and Rural Environments | Request PDF
- Social Capital in Rural and Urban Communities: Testing Differences in Media Effects and Models - Christopher E. Beaudoin, Esther Thorson, 2004
- Social capital in vulnerable urban settings: an analytical framework | Journal of International Humanitarian Action | Full Text
- Why Fractals Are So Soothing - The Atlantic Fractal Cities Fractal Brains: Fractal Thoughts | Psychology Today
- Neighborhoods and Urban Fractals—The Building Blocks of Sustainable Cities – The Nature of Cities
- Fractal Analysis Proves People Hate the Suburbs