“MORE people live alone now than at any other time in history. In prosperous American cities — Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and Minneapolis — 40 percent or more of all households contain a single occupant. In Manhattan and in Washington, nearly one in two households are occupied by a single person.”
Eric Klinenburg’s opening lines in a recent article in the New York Times has sparked considerable debate in the paper. By my reckoning, at least two discussion blogs (one for readers and another for students), a feature interview, and a column today by David Brooks have engaged this interesting social fact—in cities and countries in which we can afford to do so, many adults choose to live by themselves.
As Klinenburg and Brooks both point out, living on our own does not mean we are unconnected to others. Quite the contrary. Adults living on their own are often quite connected. They form friendships and attend classes; they connect with one another via social media; they get out of the house at night to be with friends or enjoy a restaurant; they build social capital.
Brooks reminds readers, however, that this is not uniformly true. Like so much else in contemporary life, being connected is a privilege that only some of us can achieve. People can and do fall through the cracks for a variety of social, economic, and personal reasons.
I continue to wonder what these realignments of togetherness, independence, advantage, and disadvantage might mean for urban religious organizations. How do we serve people who are embedded in multiple personal and cyber networks of interaction and meaning? How do we serve people who are isolated or shut off from these networks? Brooks’ column today reminds us that urban mobilities and immobilities are interconnected. None of us ministers exclusively to one or the other. How then do we faithfully negotiate these multi-faceted intersections of social mobility and immobility?