“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood…”
I started thinking about Frost’s famous poem after reading a news article about 15 recognized restaurant chains that are facing major declines in their sales. One reason given for these declines is people’s gravitation towards grabbing take-out or ordering delivery. Restaurants are not the only businesses suffering from people’s withdrawal from the outside world: bookstores, movie theaters and retail stores are all having to face the issue of online shopping, watching, reading. What does this trend say about us as a society and as human beings?
The interesting thing to note is that while as a whole we are secluding ourselves within our homes, we are not completely withdrawing from all social interaction. We have created entire communities of like-minded people through social media. Entire conversations can be had on Facebook and Instagram; text messages fly back and forth; Skype and video messaging create a sense of connection that used to be had on walks through the neighborhood or on people’s front porches. We are social creatures and seek community like a duck seeks water; the longing is unquenchable. The question we must ask ourselves is this: are virtual communities the equivalent to physical ones?
I asked myself if the source of our community truly matters in the long run. Sure, it’s easy to look wistfully back upon Mayberry and wish for once was; but life is continuously evolving, right? There was a time when outhouses were all the rage. Do we really want to return to that? Moving forward means moving upward, doesn’t it? Maybe not. Speaking from personal experience, it is much easier to create a pleasant community on social media since I can hide the notifications I dislike; delete the comments that rub me wrong; block people who offend me. I can see what’s’ going on in other people’s lives without them even knowing I had stopped by and without having to exert the effort of saying a single word. Best of all, I decide what parts of my life people see and, of course, it’s only the picture-perfect portions. Text messaging is great too because I don’t have to write more than a few words at a time; I can stop responding at any time; I can resume the conversation at my convenience. Are you noticing what I’m noticing?
Convenience is not a bad thing, but it comes with a price. Virtual living may seem ideal: we can shop for everything from toilet paper to milk, send birthday presents, connect with friends, and entertain ourselves without having to leave our homes! But it’s purchased at the price of reality. We are losing touch with the rough, the raw, the real side of relationships. Sometimes the path of least resistance only leads to loneliness, emptiness, and weakness; the road less traveled is the one that takes us deeper, fulfills our longings and makes us stronger than ever before.
“…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”