October 30, 2008

I live in a typical mid-rise NYC apartment building; 6 floors with 8 apartments each. I have approximately 75 total neighbors and I couldn’t pick a single one of them out of a line-up.

I do know some things about the guy who lives in the apartment next to mine. He’s a Giants fan, and often does the “yelling at the TV during sporting events” routine that so many men are fond of. He orders food from the Italian place around the corner every Friday night. He’s handy and often uses power tools. I have never seen his face, yet I know things about him. He is a familiar stranger.

Most Americans have a very narrow world view, but it is just as easy to be ignorant of our domestic community. I have been to 4 other countries and most of the continental US states, yet I don’t know the names of the people with the same address as me. In these politically-charged times, we all want our voices to be heard, but we don’t even talk to those next door. We are learning of the struggles of our “neighbors” from our Presidential candidates. We take for granted that the issues being force-fed to us are the issues of our communities, but really, how do we know?

These days much socialization involves typing. Days of sitting on the stoop and having neighborhood gatherings are often replaced with chats on instant messenger. By no means am I anti-internet or against social media networking. I am constantly awed by the reconnectivity power of Facebook and I am admittedly addicted to Twitter, yet at times I find myself feeling socially unfulfilled. I miss the physical presence of people and the inexplicable connection that comes with just being in the same room as another person. I love my online community but sometimes I wish I had a neighbor to share the Sunday paper with over coffee.

If TV neighbors are any indication maybe I should be careful what I wish for. It is New York. Kramer could be living next door.


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