From the Front Porch to Facebook

When you drive through the older sections of the towns and villages of Connecticut, you see house after house with a front porch, six to ten feet deep and across the whole front of the house. Sometimes it runs down one side as well. There was a time when people went out after dinner on a summer evening and sat on the porch to wave to the neighbors and chat with them as they walked by. But there’s no point in waving at the neighbors when they tool by at 30 to 50 miles an hour with the windows closed.

When you drive through the newer developments on the other hand, you never see a front porch. Why would you waste time and money on a useless feature like a front porch? Besides that, who wants to sit outside and visit with the neighbors when you can sit inside watching the flickering images on your television? Nowadays we build our houses with a deck on the back rather than a porch on the front.

But human beings remain social animals with a deep-seated need to communicate with each other. The television can hold our attention for awhile, but when computers came along and gave us e-mail, we began to reconnect. Then came cell phones and texting and we could keep in touch even from work or school or the car or commuter train. Then came Facebook and twitter and the possibility of letting a million strangers keep in touch with us almost minute by minute.

All this comes to mind because my latest and largest book is on the verge of publication. I haven’t finished writing quite yet and although the contract is “in the mail” I haven’t signed it. And yet my agent says I must move into the world of Facebook and twitter and even now post my doings every few hours. The world, he believes, is waiting to know my every thought and movement and, if I let them know, they’ll rush out to buy the book.

Maybe. I will certainly let you know when I move out into this new world and you can follow me if you want. For now, you will have to settle for the blogs I post every four or five days. Or you can sit on your front porch and I’ll stop and chat next time I go by.

1 Comment

Joanne WojtusiakMay 14th, 2010 at 2:22 pm

I have many fond memories of time spent on the front porch of my childhood home; whether counting the seconds between the thunder clap and the lightening strike or watching for neighbors walking their dogs so we could run out to play with them, it was always a place that reminds me of pleasant times. And the front door key – more of a large skeleton key – was always placed behind a chair pillow for those (very) few occasions when Mom was not waiting for you on the porch!

Today we often pretend to be interested in improving community dialogue, but I am doubtful. For example, it is interesting that the arguments put forward forward for clustering homes in Incentive Housing Zones (recently approved in Sharon and under consideration in Salisbury and Cornwall) speak less about the community aspects of placing homes close together to encourage interaction and connection, but instead stress that sprawl will be averted(or at least hidden from the view of those driving by). I feel that one's view of sprawl is seen by others as their community.

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