Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Singletons vs Communitons!

Recently Eric Klineberg, professor of sociology at NYU and author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, wrote an article in the NY Times about his work.

He writes, “Americans pride themselves on their self-reliance and culture of individualism.” He terms these people “singletons.” He claims living alone promotes freedom, personal control and self-realization.

I wonder if this is another outcome of the Information - Internet Age we live in. More and more, the preferred method of communications seems to electronic rather than face-to-face. Klineberg goes on to write, “Dynamic markets, flourishing cities and open communications systems make modern autonomy more appealing; they give us the capacity to live alone but to engage with others when and how we want to and on our own terms.”

At a deeper level, at the heart of our soul, I wonder if this is more appealing. With growing unemployment, not only is stress is mounting and tension increasing but hope waning and depression rising. Wanting to live and even work on our own terms has negative consequences as well.

After organizations downsize, those left behind are asked to do more with no increase in pay. Morale takes a hit, negative attitudes increase and trust becomes very fragile. Those remaining spend more time looking over their shoulder. Rumor mills crank up. Many business leaders are beginning to recognize the last overt benefit and unique difference an organization might have as a competitive advantage is a nurturing culture with a good morale where people do feel valued.

I suggest each of us find a balance of autonomy with commUNITY. We need to connect with others one-no-one and face-to-face, unplugged from distraction. I rank this up there with eating correctly, getting proper exercise and getting enough sleep. This will require the same sort of self-discipline as caring for our well-being. It gets back to understanding our needs versus our wants. This is work of the soul.

I yearn for us to become “communitons” rather than singletons, still respecting the need for individual space. Rather continuously looking in, this will require looking out and asking, “what’s in it for us?” rather than, “what’s in it for me?” It will also require learning more than from just “sound-bites.” I will require suspending judgement and assumption. It will require us to ask more questions including, “tell me more!” By becoming more curious, we might just reduce our fear and build nurturing communities!

What will your choice be moving forward...singleton or communiton?