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I sort of wish I had a better hobby than reading hacker news. Today I saw a house for sale, built in the 80s, lots of outdoor entertainment stuff for neighborhood parties. Vacant, crumbling, dead. Reminded me. Kids, seriously, this used to really happen. Every day, all the neighborhood kids would play ball games at somebody’s house, and the adults would walk over for about an hour and talk to each other. Adults all tried to outdo each other for the nicest house and best backyard for this kind of thing. Nobody does this anymore. Might as well buy that trailer in Space Park Way and a VR headset. I always thought RP1 was so banal; I was hoping for a more nuanced and unpredictable dystopia.





It happens today!

The secret is getting involved. Join the board of your kids little league or get involved with PTO. We try to get to know people and push off learning what they do for a living as long as possible. Cocktails on the front porch most weekends.


> It happens today!

It happens today sure, but it's a phantom of what it once was. This was American culture when my grandparents grew up. Like you were considered the weirdo for not participating.

Now it's an exceedingly rare thing to find a well-knit community such as the OP describe.

I've seen what amounts of a caricature of what used to be in some neighborhoods where my friends are the "ultra type A" types - but it takes someone like that to both start, and keep it going. As soon as they move away or otherwise have a life event, the community crumbles within months.

The community spirit of the US is effectively dead except for small little pockets that you must actively seek out to participate in. This was not the case even 40 years ago.

Just once small anecdote: My Grandfather loved fishing, lived on a lake, had fishing buddies they'd go out with here and there over the weekends. A few fishing trips scheduled a year where a dozen dudes would rent a cabin for a week and have a good time. Every single one of these guys was a pallbearer, or at least at his funeral. They were also at all his major life events, and when one of the group was in some sort of financial or other trouble the entire group was there helping without even being asked to.

How many quake clan players and HN buddies are going to have that sort of social cohesion and mutual support for each other? How many will drive 6 hours to help you fix the shed that burned out in your back yard? How many will spend 2 weeks visiting you on your death bed? I'd posit a tiny fraction if any at all.

I have though about this since I was a teenager playing Doom II with my clan buddies. Yeah, this is all super fun right now but it's all so fleeting, trite, and really ultimately pointless. Very few of those relationships actually matter. I think I got exactly one IRL long-term friend out of meeting hundreds of "internet friends" since then, and these are guys I'd send money to to pay bills and such in a pinch - not just randos.

This single generation has utterly destroyed the social fabric of America and I have my doubts it can come back.

All I know is that when myself and the closest dozen folks like me I know finally die, there will be no packed church full of people who spent a full life together. It's quite depressing not for that said fact, but because it shows how little "in this shit together" US society is, and what that means for the long term.


> This single generation has utterly destroyed the social fabric of America and I have my doubts it can come back.

If you want to fix this, you have to fix employment.

Your grandfather's generation worked a single job for 30+ years and never moved. That's unheard of in this generation.

You have to break the cycle of forcing people to move in order to have decent employment.


If you move to a location with good employment (a "megacity" or "megaregion") and raise your family there, nobody will have to move, barring any black swan events (e.g., Katrina likely permanently impacted New Orleans to some degree that remains today).

A lot of families were started in areas that were artificially good for their time. Many small-to-medium size towns across the U.S. that once were economically prosperous, but no more. And times were too good to notice. With rose colored glasses, all red flags just look like flags.


> Many small-to-medium size towns across the U.S. that once were economically prosperous, but no more. And times were too good to notice.

Why is the previous organization of society and industry "artificial" instead of what we have now?

I would argue that the current "ship things around the world to save a fraction of a penny" instead of "manufacture locally" is the "artificial" situation.

Our complete inability to adjust manufacturing in a time of great need due to Covid suggests that perhaps our modern organization is actually the wrong organization of industry and society.


> Your grandfather's generation worked a single job for 30+ years and never moved.

Thanks, but no thanks.


That's cool, too. The problem today is that if someone actually wants to have a job like that, it doesn't exist.

I'm not sure to what extent it's possible to have it both ways.

I have not experienced it first hand, but my impression is that such long tenures have been underpinned by a social expectations on both sides - that employee will remain with the company for a long time, and that company will in turn heavily invest in new employees and treat experienced ones better than would be expected solely from their "market value".

But as soon as that expectation starts to lessen on one side (say, on employees side), it might necessarily reduce it on the other.


> How many quake clan players and HN buddies are going to have that sort of social cohesion and mutual support for each other? How many will drive 6 hours to help you fix the shed that burned out in your back yard? How many will spend 2 weeks visiting you on your death bed? I'd posit a tiny fraction if any at all.

Large parts of our social group were initially met through gaming and we've had examples of all of those things (well, nobody's shed burned down, but...)

I think the issue you're seeing is with the people you gamed with, not the way you met them.


>This single generation has utterly destroyed the social fabric of America and I have my doubts it can come back.

I don't think it's the fault of the video game generation. There is higher volatility in general, which causes people to move around and focus on securing income more than recreation. The post WW2 to 2000 period of the US might have been an atypically stable period lifting everyone up at the same time.


A lot of them couldn’t visit their friends without involving an adult because everything is so far away. Plus you get the “stranger danger” hammered into you so hard you learn that staying in and playing video games is what everyone wants out of you.

A lot of the poor behavior of this generation is due to the fact that they weren’t given much of an alternative.


> This single generation has utterly destroyed the social fabric of America and I have my doubts it can come back.

This resentment is legitimate. I believe it is more than just the generation that destroyed the fabric. And it not happening only in the US.

But it doesn't mean we don't have our agency about it. Yes, a whole lot of things keep changing in our environment very fast. That's our making because we participate in it. But in that there is a space for us to do the right thing, lead with example, gather those friends that we've lost to mindless internet scrolling for mindful and deep chat, to change our environment that makes cultivating such relationships possible. Let some defect, let some betray, but make a stance with what value you choose to act on.

The fact you are sad about this loss, gives me and I'm sure many others hope that we will eventually figure our way through this. Maybe not soon, maybe not even in our lifetime, but as long as we don't numb our pain or replace the need for genuine connection with addiction, we will find ourselves making steps in the right direction.


> Maybe not soon, maybe not even in our lifetime, but as long as we don't numb our pain or replace the need for genuine connection with addiction, we will find ourselves making steps in the right direction.

Meanwhile the best minds of my generation are figuring out new ways to numb the pain and to replace the need for genuine connection with addiction.


The problem is work culture, not Internet culture. We’re all quick to leave our communities for greener pastures. Many young people don’t even give it a second thought. Learn to love the region you’re in, and let work amd pop culture take a backseat to family, friends, place, etc.

There isn't anything wrong with using Hacker News. The loneliness epidemic is real. Technology was intended to supplement our in-person interactions; not subsume it.

I empathize with the anecdote. The person who moves away that keeps everyone together; that's real. Not everyone has the social presence to pull that off. Communities come and go with those linchpin organizers. Some people can try to be the linchpin, but if the replacement person doesn't have that "it" factor, the community does indeed crumble.


Good time to link to [0]. Even if it happens, it's harder. If you are social and you are not part of a minority, you can always find at least a small group of people around you to socialize. Any excuse will do if your priority is socializing and you "belong". But not everyone is like that. Many have moved to smaller online groups, where in the short term they feel more comfortable. Sometimes that might lead to real world interactions, but that's not the most usual outcome for those that don't really belong or feel comfortable on a broader group in the first place. And there's no easy solution for that. There might be specific solutions for certain kinds of people, but we have never managed to create big inclusive groups where everyone is comfortable. And small groups where you could feel comfortable might not be physically close to you, or might be too sparse and remain hidden to you. Now, you can make your bet: do you think we can create big inclusive groups? Or maybe you think there's always at least a suitable small group near everyone and we just need to do a better job at connecting them? Or do you think we can change everyone to feel ok on a certain kind of big group? Or do you think internet subculture society is pretty optimal already? Or do you think we have to force people to participate more? Or we just need to free more time and people will already get together? Or that there's some people that just can't be helped and will never belong? Or a mix of some of the previous?

Some of these are really hard to understand when you can't see through the eyes of those that take a different path.

I mean, your comment is great in the sense that many can benefit from following your advice, but there's still much more to the picture. We are still leaving out too many people.

[0] https://www.gwern.net/The-Melancholy-of-Subculture-Society


Yes, but why.

I mean, most often I see my friends online, and they are likely equally or more interesting than my neighbors who I did not choose (but you never know, of course). It also takes less time, and the time is more convenient; if the only option to see my friends were a Saturday 6pm party, I would interact with my friends a whole lot less.

Ball games — well, at least they exercise the body. For that, I can go to a park.


Being friends with neighbors can be mutually beneficial. People borrow tools, easy advice, don't have to go far for a beer, someone to watch your house when you're gone, or get in if you left the stove on, etc.

I'm not saying that having online friends is bad, but being friends with your neighbors is a mutually beneficial. Pretty much for the same reasons living in a society is beneficial to all players.

You should really have both.


But how many of those friendships with neighbors really boiled down to friendships of convenience? I’ve always liked the people I live near, but I’ve never felt that I connect to them on a deeper level.

If I couldn’t spend time shooting the breeze with my actual friends on Discord, maybe I’d be more inclined to spend time with my neighbors. Even if we didn’t really connect a deep level, at least we could converse for a few hours.

I have no interest in that though. I have no need for that kind of interaction. If I want to be social, I can contact people that I feel a deep connection to at any time.


I think that if you don't have connection with people who are not like you, you lose perspective. I think we need a diversity of friendships in order to not just be happy, but also to stay grounded. Otherwise, we get into bubbles and lose our ability to communicate with people, especially people who are not like ourselves. We can say that technology has enabled and accelerated this trend to society's detriment.

Like Steve Jobs creating a corporate building layout that forced random and disparate people to bump into each other in order to have random conversations and create innovation, friendships of convenience due to geographical realities also enabled for innovation, diversity of thought, and an interesting sense of community in its own way.


There's different kinds of friendships and that's okay. Not all your friends have to be your best friends. I'm not saying you have to be best friends with your neighbor.

I assume there's a level of connection that is differently deeper with people nearby. Unless you really have good solid feelings for the people you talk to online, but I never feel the same when I meet someone I like to be in the same room with. It's less fickle it seems (<= emphasis on seems). There's a lot about internet that was about freeing yourself from geography. No more locked in your local culture. I believed it was necessary but I think otherwise today. I value local a little bit over my personal clicking with people on the other side of the planet.

My 2 cents


> Yes, but why.

I don't know how to better describe why, other than mentioning Stewart Lee's standup-comedy "Content Provider" sums it up brutally. it is a meta comedy about making comedy content but also about out modern connected life compared to our grandparents.

note: It's not something you'd watch while doing something else. Miss 1 minute and you won't get a 15 minute long bit 20 minutes later. It gets more brilliant with repetitive viewing.


A group of online friends who are just like you quickly turns into an echo chamber.

It's pretty widely argued now that we are losing empathy for people who are not just like us because of this.


Adults all tried to outdo each other for the nicest house

I don't think this aspect is missed by many people. It's nice if people on your block inspire eachother to keep their place nice, but "keeping up with the Joneses" is widely considered to be a driver of our materialistic & workaholic culture.


Well this happens in the neighborhood you live in when you have kids. Some people live in big houses set far apart so it's harder to have that neighborhood feel. You can replicate this in condos and other living arrangements too if you want. When I was a kid I lived in a big 1 acre house surrounded by 1 acre homes of mostly retirees.. you basically had to drive to play with friends or interact. Beautiful house with beautiful views but really no neighborhood community. A lot of people will give up the house in the country to move into neighborhoods with kids of similar ages just for this reason. It's a bonus if you can make it multi-generational.



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