Ben Bartosik

February 13, 2024

How much do you trust your neighbours? How about the wider community in which you live? I've come across a few things over the last little while on the decline of social trust and the importance of it, especially when it comes to surviving disasters. This seems to be one of the consequences of our increasingly online world, the loss of the day-today encounters with the people we live closest to. Many of the daily interactions we once had with neighbours and other community members are being replaced with online checkouts, AI support chats, and faceless deliveries.

The thing is, this loss of trust also erodes empathy. Humans are naturally tribal, it's how we've survived. Yet, we've shifted so much of that into online communities with people we don't actually know and do not share geographic proximity with. This leaves us more likely to extend empathy to @username10128 than the family living across the street.

What I want to note here is that as our world continues to move into crisis after crisis we need to reclaim the art of working together for a shared public good. Cooperation might be the most needed skill of the 21st century. And it begins at a neighbourhood level.

As Bill McKiben writes,

"We’ve come through 75 years where having neighbors was essentially optional: if you had a credit card, you could get everything you needed to survive dropped off at your front door. But the next 75 years aren’t going to be like that; we’re going to need to return to the basic human experience of relying on the people around you. We’re going to need to rediscover that we’re a social species, which for [North] Americans will be hard."