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I think this is the heart of the matter. Why are people disengaging? I have the same experience as you in central Austin which, while not NYC, is still one the biggest cities in the US. I encounter people I know everywhere I go. The grocery store, theater, bar, etc. But I'm engaged in my community. I think there's something else at play here. I suspect many people aren't interested in engagement and are seeking out ways to retreat. Clearly in your rural Texas town someone could still buy a house miles away from anyone and not engage at all. I wonder if people aren't doing so, or if they do so in such small numbers that you don't really notice.

There is an order of magnitude between the population of Austin and NYC. Perhaps comparing Austin with a similar sized city, Columbus for example, would be a better comparison.

I was comparing to a small Texas town.

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