My friends, we have reached a point of what I will now call “social siloism,” mainly because it makes me sound very smart. Basically, despite being more connected than ever through technology, or perhaps in spite of it, as individual units we are now very isolated from our friends and neighbors. We have become a collection of silos, instead of a genuinely connected community.
I really miss the college days, when it was perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, to drop by unannounced. Our rooms usually looked like crap with dirty laundry and trash everywhere. We also looked like crap in flip-flops and sweat pants. And everyone was happy, discussing how to solve global problems or the ontology of Jell-O or whatever. Spontaneously we would go out for ice cream or fries, recruiting whoever we encountered, and more often than not, they would drop their books and come along, and we’d be an army of scroungy, disheveled, cheap, and very happy people.
Now, out in the real world, no one drops by to visit unannounced any more. Only in TV shows do friends drop by without warning. The protocol is to send a Facebook message or e-mail several days, preferably weeks, in advance to ask if it’s OK to schedule a visit. In fact, when people drop by unannounced, we are offended. “How DARE they visit me!” we think, scrambling to gather up all our stuff from the couch and throw it rapidly into the bedroom.
The reality is that everyone’s place looks like crap. That’s the natural state of most people’s dwellings. Dishes are piling up, bathroom sinks and mirrors are full of toothpaste spots and random strands of hair, and there is usually some sort of weird smell, either from the garbage or compost that should have been taken out earlier, or some pot of food on the stove that has gone sour. Really, the only time any of us clean is when we have people over, or when we’ve reached our personal threshold of squalor where even we are disgusted with ourselves.
But we believe other people’s places are spotless, and we perpetuate this misconception by rarely visiting anyone, and by giving people enough notice to tidy up. We have become obsessed with people’s image and less on the people themselves, turning social visits into a series of rituals that includes giving notice, apologizing for the state of our dwelling, complimenting the host on their wall art, sending thank-you notes, etc. When we do visit people, it is stressful, as we now have to make sure to look presentable, and the choice of wine to bring must be appropriate. Once I accidentally bought what I thought was a classy wine for $17, only to be horrified to find out that it had a twist-off cap! We might as well have asked the host to drink a bottle of sulfuric acid.
We can live for years in an apartment without knowing our neighbors’ names. Most of us naturally drive to the store instead of borrowing a cup of sugar from our next-door neighbors. And our friends rarely drop by. All of this will have consequences on communities, which are formed to protect their members and to conserve scarce resources. A collection of silos is not a community!
I propose we bring back community, college-style. Let’s make a pact. We can agree that everyone’s place generally looks like crap. We can visit each other at any time without notice. On the flip side, the host can kick people out at any time. We do not stress out about stupid stuff like the tidiness of the place. We can be blunt without placing judgment: “Dude, your kitchen smells like my gym socks,” “Really? I’ll get the air freshener. Want a beer?”
Let’s bring back the no-stress environment that once existed, when we only cared about spending time with our friends, not how their apartment or house looks. We must cut the crap by not focusing on the crap. How else are we going to solve global problems?
For JN’s tips for Black Friday shopping, go to jaggednoodles.com and search “how to shove an old lady.”