The physical world around you matters more than your virtual connections.
Wow, ok, Noah's stuff is great and thanks for recommending him long ago. Vertical/horizontal thing is for more deeper contemplation on the Tree of Woe. But podcasts, I generally dislike the format. Too many - mostly I'm exposed to those which involve my hobbies - are mostly brutal affairs with 10 or 15 minutes of educational content stretched across a 45 or 60 minute rap session. I much prefer the tightly organized written out product of someone's ideas. Just had to take the podcast shot since it came up.
Re: “meatspace and the importance of horizontal communities”
Noah’s piece about the benefits of very communities was really good. But even accounting for his concern that vertical communities will never fully be able to replace horizontal communities, he misses an important point.
He links to Bill Bishop’s 2009 book “The Big Sort”. The social worker, researcher and author Brené Brown also quotes Bishop to explain how Americans have “geographically, politically and even spiritually sorted ourselves into like-minded groups in which we silence dissent, grow more extreme in our thinking, and consume only facts that support our thinking - making it easier to ignore evidence that our positions are wrong.” This, she says, reminds her of Veronica Rothy’s dystopian novel “Divergent”, in which people choose factions based on their personalities. The axiom was “Faction before blood”. More than family, our factions are where we belong.”
Rather than Noah’s positive spin, she finds this idea horrifying. “Walking away from people we know and love because of our support for strangers we really don’t know, can barely believe, and definitely don’t love, who for sure won’t be there to drive us to chemo or bring over food when the kids are sick - that’s the shadow side of sorting”.
But perhaps most damning is that counterintuitively, all the sorting by politics and beliefs we’ve been doing hasn’t led to more social interaction or a deeper sense of connection with our like-minded friends. According to Bishop, *at the same time sorting is on the rise, so is loneliness*. In 1980, about 20% of people reported feeling lonely. Today, it’s closer to 50%.
So yeah, the data totally supports JVL’s concern here. I don’t know if we’ve gone too far down the rabbit hole that we can still fix things by “hugging it out”. But I pray we haven’t and we should do everything we can to try to connect to our actual families and communities while we still can. Loneliness isn’t just problematic- loneliness kills.
The podcast company buyers are following the Elon model.
Meatspace does matter. A friend of mine irl was the sweetest, kindest person you could ever meet, but we argued constantly on Facebook about politics. To anyone reading our comments, you might think we didn’t like each other. But our meatspace friendship made it possible to disagree on some things while still loving and respecting each other. That’s something that’s harder to have if you don’t share coffee with someone occasionally.
Read it every day
"What if we talk and socialize and cooperate and fall in love with the people from our online crowds, and grow terminally apart from the people next door?"
Didn't The Big Sort sort that out? People just moved. Our neighbors are more like us than ever.
Re: podcasts There are lots of them that I would like to listen to—Bill Kristol’s, for one—but the medium just doesn’t work for me. I would enjoy them during a long commute to work, but that doesn’t apply. Can’t imagine any other time that I would want to listen. I prefer reading—articles and newsletters.
Am I the only one who thinks "meatspace" sounds creepy? It makes me think I am in a abattoir.
I live in a small town,the capitol of my state, in a more Democrat dominated district. I would say there is more networking and community interaction here - more meatspace - than when I lived in Los Angeles, where I was born and raised and lived most of my adult life until leaving 6 years ago. I like that an introvert like me can hibernate quietly in my home yet have opportunities to interact and contribute when I feel like it. Yesterday, my husband and I, liberal lefties, left our sanctuary and ventured into the Trumpier part of the county for a country music dance. The live music was great, doing the Texas Two-Step was fun, and the opportunity to meet and talk with people whose worldview and life experience are very different than ours was wonderful. We met an 81 year old Vietnam vet (4 tours), who was tortured and left with injuries similar to John McCain, whose family has passed on, including the 35 year old son who drunkenly drove over a cliff, who lives alone and is so joyfully happy that he can walk to Jack-in-the Box or Dirty Dave's for a good meal. He was so warm and friendly, as were others. My point is the concept of political and cultural divisiveness kind of melts away when you're face to face with people, making a heartfelt and sincere connection in the meatspace.
I don’t understand the argument about commercial podcasts not being predictably sustainable. Should I have known that this would happen because there was over investment in the sector?
Speaking of taking the time in meat-space... President Biden stopped by my town yesterday to pay his respects to his recently deceased brother-in-law (brother of his first wife Neilla). I don't know about you, but I was pretty impressed because it was freakishly cold here--wind chills below zero. I would not leave the house. But his motorcade went through Camillus. Bonus--there were no self-aggrandizing public speeches made by President Biden. He was there to honor his BIL Michael Hunter at a private family gathering. People actually came out right before the NYS police and parked in shopping plaza parking lots to watch the motorcade (and I have to tell you it was so cold my cats would not even go outside).
The problem with vertical community is that human beings, at heart, will seek to aggrandize and aggregate their worst selves, and race to the moral, intellectual, and social bottom in groups.
We don't yearn to be thrown together with people who don't agree with us. We yearn to be with others like ourselves.
The strength of diversity in a horizontal community is the "wisdom of crowds" phenomenon-- that in many matters the aggregate of individual perceptions can neutralize out errors and outliers. The economic need to eat and survive also constrain how far we can go down the death road to uniformity and extinction.
We invented the internet and it happens to be an almost perfect vehicle to unleash our worst inclinations and ambitions. If we don't break the verticalization of community, we will destroy ourselves. And since we also have the technology to destroy not only our human world but the very biosphere itself -- and there seems nothing in view to stop the momentum toward disaster It may be -- we are using our skills, technology, and energy to rush over the precipice. Very likely it's too late to stop even if we choose.
Fascism is about the insane dream of making all the horizontal communities into a single vertical community. When every vertical community seeks to subjugate the others, we have civil war. When vertical communities seek not only to subjugate but to annihilate the others, we have holocausts and the death of civilization. Stage one of the pathology of civilization death.
I think we're pretty near full blown stage 1.
Re: vertical vs. horizontal communities
I appreciate linking the language of horizontal and vertical communities with incarnation.
I grew up in Pentecostal and Evangelical spaces that navigated this differently than the mainline churches I inhabit now. Early TV evangelists like Swaggart and Bakker were forerunners to creating vertical communities. The communities became ethically messy when they spilled over into horizontal spaces with mail fraud at Heritage USA and prostitutes. Consequently, I attached a negative value to these non-incarnational communities that claimed to be churches. Vertical communities seemed to be fertile spaces for ethical abuses because they lacked the natural oversight that incarnational community grants. When I go to church with others in meatspace, I know one how one talks to one’s partner or those with less power, and my spidey sense can be activated.
Over the years, I’ve also gravitated to vertical spaces with others who have deconstructed that Evangelical identity. I’ve found deep community with others who shared experiences. Where else do you find others who speak with clarity about experiences like my church in Maryland who assigned a “mentor” to a youth for conversion therapy away from same-gender attraction? Leftists with no personal experience of this community offer simplistic screeds but little awareness. The trauma created in the meatspace of that Pentecostal church needed a vertical community for healing.
And yet, if I retreat into those vertical spaces, I lose the incarnational joy and pain of learning who I have become when living with my neighbor. I can’t unfriend my neighbor two doors down with MAGA bumper stickers as I could on Facebook. The incarnational community wears down the rough edges of my humanity that are too quick to judge.
The vertical and horizontal communities have their place, whether it is finding vertical, niche communities of healing from specific trauma or horizontal communities where I have to see the truth of what my love of others actually looks like.
Thank you, JVL, for this post. The vertical/horizontal framework is life-giving and helpful for my reflection.
I don't know how to be meat space friends with MAGA people in my community who literally want me dead based on various identities I either A) have, B)might have, or C) in some way care about (liberal, democrat, pro-democracy, anti-authoritarian, anti-trump, anti-maga, pro-biden, black, immigrant, jewish, gay, trans etc etc. But I agree this is a problem that needs solving. Because I agree that's this is a necessary component of getting out of America's quasi-fascist moment.
I'm suffering from cognitive dissonance after reading the first and third parts of the newsletter. Wouldn't it be better to skip spending $450 to $5900 on one of these machines and just go to a local coffee shop to support your local business and hug it out with the people there face to face?
Admittedly, I'm just an old crank, having reached the age at which one turns into a rusting old Ford and every time I turn around something either breaks or falls off. And back in my twenties and thirties, when I wanted every toy in the Sears tool catalog, I would have been right in the front of the line to buy one of these coffee machines if I could afford it.
But still, those two parts seem to be a little at odds. No?
"What if we begin to feel our primary allegiance is toward people who share our race or our religion or our interests, rather than toward the people who share our country and our city? What if we go to the PTA or the planning board meeting and discover a bunch of strangers we despise and disdain?"
This has already happened. We had a President specifically elected to fuck with the people Republicans distain and fear. Maybe the "normies" in the middle wake up and react to that and this ends up being a blip but I don't really see strong evidence of that within my personal relationships or from nationwide indicators like voting patterns.
Let's not blame tech either. It's a convenient scapegoat as usual but while it has contributed to an environment where distain and hostility is possible by accelerating cultural change and sorting it didn't force people to walk that path.
New cultural ideas and practices are always evolving. You can decide to accommodate new people and ideas and move forward or you can react with anger at the audacity and fear losing control. Many people are choosing the latter and have been for some time. That only forces the people they shun and attack to seek shelter in non-geographical communities. Before social media that was done by moving to a city big enough that you could find a community that would be accepting. That community tended to be ideological because the experience of being forced out was what most people shared. Social media provides a new, easier way of doing all that which accelerates the process but it was always there.
The key to reconciling the geographic and ideological communities is to get the geographic ones to be more tolerant. People prefer meatspace if they feel they belong.