The other day I came on this NPR story, which led me to this book, The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter. This idea, that human contact powers the world, is nothing new to us here Switchboard HQ. I’d say 75% of the interactions facilitated on Switchboard happen in real life, from farmers finding customers to people meeting over coffee to talk about non-traditional paths to tech careers.
I’ve highlighted nearly the entire book, but I wanted to share this passage. Pinker writes: “This book has shown that intimate contact is a basic human need. Indeed, most of us not born in Sardinian mountain villages still hanker for the feeling of belonging…that these villages bestow.” She goes on to quote American historian Christopher Lasch who had this to say about the social contract in the ’90s, soon after the word “cyberspace” came on the scene.
"We wanted our children to grown up in a kind of extended family, or at least with an abundance of ‘significant others.’ A house full of people; a crowded table ranging across the generations; four-hand music at the piano; nonstop conversation and cooking; baseball games and swimming in the afternoon; long walks after dinner; a poker game or Diplomacy or charades in the evening, all these activities mixing adults and children—that was our idea of a well-ordered household and more specifically a well-ordered education…Home was not to be thought of as the nuclear family.”
We’ve seen at Switchboard that we cobble together these extended families with the people we trust. Over at the Switchboard for women cyclists Kassandra posted this ask for care package ideas after a member of her extended family was in a bike accident…
And here’s how it all resolved:
Melinda, a total stranger until this “village” was created, offers to lend a hand:
At Switchboard we’re interested in making it easier for these villages of significant others can gather online so we can reunite at the dinner table, the piano, or the bedside of a friend in need. The internet shouldn’t feel like home, but it should make home easier to find.