Where Did Community Go?

Posted on March 30, 2010


Uh, Foursquare?

When did smiling at someone become creepy?

Well, when?

I got on the bus once and as I was putting my fare in the box the driver looked me in the eye and asked, “What’s your next-door neighbor’s name?”

Well, I didn’t know what that was about, but I’ve been raised properly and part of my training included answering the questions of people wearing uniforms, provided they weren’t Nazi uniforms, that is, and I don’t even think Coast Mountain would go THAT far.

Although some days it’s hard to tell.

So I said, “Mister Lee,” and he nodded and thanked me and I went and sat down where I could keep an eye on him, in case I had to go all Sandra Bullock in Speed on his ass or something, but no; he just calmly asked everyone who got on the bus what their next-door neighbor’s name was.

And almost no-one could answer.

“Why not?” he’d ask. “How long have you lived there? Five years? Well, after five years, why don’t you know your neighbors?”

By god, the passengers on that bus thought they were going to be driven straight off a cliff and into the inlet but, being good Canadians, they paid the fare anyway and sat down quietly,goggling at one another like survivors of some terrible ordeal that is absurdly funny, but only in retrospect.

What was it about that bus driver’s question that was so…radical? So dangerous?

The idea that we would all be socially connected within our community, and that such connections would be public (a visible social web! what a thought!) seemed almost obscene to us, the denizens of the digital age.

There’s a movement that aims to change that:


  • Why do we prefer iPods to conversations?
  • Why do we have more friends on Facebook than in real life?
  • When did we stop letting our kids walk to school?

Keep your eyes peeled Vancouverites – these questions are popping up all around Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. The postings on which they appear direct all viewers to www.wheredidcommunitygo.com. Here, they can access a thought-provoking animated short, which follows up these simple questions with compelling numbers. Viewers can then click onto an online comment board to share their thoughts thoughts and ideas, and perhaps start your own community initiatives.

What’s it all about? It’s about reopening a centre for community in the downtown core: the Robert Lee YMCA is reopening after 35 years of closure, and the Y wants to use this opportunity to raise questions about the nature of community, how it can be nurtured, and (not least) how the Y fits in to the community from which it’s been absent for so long. Go check out the new facilities which open May 1st, and in the meantime, don’t forget to visit the WhereDidCommunityGo site and answer, and ask, some questions of your own.

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