The importance of community and the self

No man can be an island all the time - even if our digital lifestyle makes us that way.

People using their phones at brunch.

I have heard, we are born alone, we live alone on this earth and we die alone.

Deep within me, I don’t think this is accurate – but I do think it is the mindset and perception that more and more people are experiencing.

This is true for our “Gen Z” population, which is the self-reported loneliest part of our population. The group of 18-22 year old young people feel the most isolated and alone.


I think it is because of the overuse of social media, electronic devices and the completion for our attention by advertisers, media folks and our egos.

When we experience abundance, which many of us in the United States do, we become bored. We spend more time focused on how we are positioned to make others be impressed with our lives, rather than working on authenticity and growth.

This oversubscription to the image of the quality of our lives leads to constant comparisons and then to relative deprivation (“I feel good about me until I perceive that someone else is doing better or is better liked”).

This online world of positioning and status is damaging to us. The author David Brooks wrote in “The Road to Character,” that we should spend more time on our eulogy work, than on our resume work.

In other words, we should spend more time doing the things that we would want our friends and families to remember us for, as opposed as constantly trying to position ourselves over our perceived competitors.

What can we do?

We can create a community for ourselves and others wherever we are and whatever we do. A network of support and connection.

This is the kind of eulogy work that harmonizes place, person and activity.

Tom Friedman, editorial writer for The New York Times, said the difference in outcomes in our country are not rich versus poor, coasts versus the center, but strong communities versus weak communities.

We at West Virginia University are working with the Blue Zone organization, that is working on improving the life span and life quality of people in America as the founder and National Geographic fellow, Dan Buettner, found as he researched the longest lived and highest quality aged in the world.

His findings and their secrets to longevity?

  • Great purpose
  • Great food
  • Great friends
  • Great connections
  • Great community

Almost heaven.

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