City life is far from lonely
The problem with studies like Social Cities from Melbourne’s Grattan Institute is that they cling to old-fashioned notions of social norms. Like the difference between suburban and city life and what it means to be part of a community.
According to their research, the fact that 25 per cent of Australian city dwellers live in single occupancy households, shows a heightened increase in the national experience of loneliness and isolation. But just because a person lives alone, does not mean that they are lonely.
Ask anyone who might be sharing with their extended family right now, or living in a share house. To people like this, the idea of living alone and having your own space is a luxury. You get to come home to a house just the way you left it, have full ownership of the contents of your fridge and never have to fight over the remote.
Living in the city does not rule out the opportunity to be part of a community, either. It’s 2012, being neighbourly is not confined to life in the suburbs. In fact, the shop on the corner and the local community school has become more a hallmark of the inner-city than suburban Australian life.
Think about it. Forty years ago, life in the suburbs was probably akin to life in a small town – quiet and close knit. But that’s changed. Our suburbs have become enormous, sprawling mini-cities. Suburban local shops have become huge malls and the local kids are just as likely to go to a school more than hour’s drive away, than they are to walk down the road.
Inner-city life on the other hand, is full of opportunities for interaction. Our houses and apartments are close together, and much of our daily life, like work, school and social activities are spent within a 15km radius.
Where I live the local park is packed to the brim on the weekends with people tending to the community garden. You don’t have to live in the same street as the park to be a member, you just have to have an interest in looking after the environment. Having a long arm for digging crap out of the river also helps.
Modern notions of community also exist online. You only have to read the open thread section of The Punch to realise that. There’s a group of ten to twenty regular names that have been there since we set up almost three years ago.
Same with Facebook. Don’t groan. That really is a way of keeping in contact with people, the modern way. Yes, it has its problems and annoying idiosyncrasies, but above all it remains a great way of keeping in touch.
City dwellers also find community when we join our children’s schools, universities and even our place of our work to a certain extent. Who says that those experiences are not just as good as the old-fashioned notion of sticking our heads over the suburban back fence? People in apartments share a cup of sugar sometimes too.
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