Tuesday, March 27, 2018

My Tribe

I read a lot of posts on social media...many of them describing discouragement or loneliness or anxiety and yes, even anger. I suppose such ailments have always been around. But in this day of instant media, perhaps we are more aware of our fellows and their feelings. Perhaps the very anonymity of the Internet permits them to admit to such feelings.

In my younger days, it seems to me there wasn't as much angst and worry. I think it might have been because we had a tribe. Now, the Internet is the tribal substitute and let's face it, it isn't doing the job. It's okay for fast communication, but less efficient when one person needs to have a heart-to-heart with another. This substitute cannot arrive with a 1/2 gallon of ice cream and listen to our woes. It can't provide a week's worth of meals for our family when we're in the hospital. It can't hold us when we suffer the loss of a loved one. And we can't provide those long distance, either.

That's why we have a tribe. Tribes are comprised of family and friends. The friends might be co-workers, though my experience tells me this is not likely. They might have other things in common with us such as church, sports activities, or hobbies. Mostly, though, they're simply friends of the heart. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think most folks have fewer members in their tribes.

One reason for this is mobility. We live all over the world, often thousands of miles from each other and it's inevitable that we gradually lose the intimacy necessary for true tribal cohesion. For instance, I have four children, three siblings, various cousins, aunts and uncles, and parents. The closest are my two children who both live five hours away from me. I have vague ideas about how their lives are going, but no real involvement in their lives.

For true tribal cohesion you need immediacy. And frequent contact. Somehow, so gradually we missed it, we've allowed social media to take the place of our tribe. And when an Internet 'friend' wanders away, well, we don't miss them for long because we're not really involved, are we? They really aren't our tribe.

If we are going to have the comfort and support of a tribe, we first have to build one. We have to exert the effort to join our lives with others around us.

Or we can just sit back and let the fleeting relationships on the Internet act as our substitute tribe. In that case, we shouldn't be surprised if we are lonely or anxious or any of the other separation issues that seem rampant in our world today.