04/03/2012 06:29 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2012

Technology Killed Neighbors, Kindness

By Jourdan Cole

Mr. Roger's famously asked at the end of every episode, "Won't you be my neighbor?" Today, the neighborhood is a dying idea of a society long past. It's just easier to connect via Internet communities and ignore the communities in our own backyards.

Technology is at our fingertips every moment of the day, and we're losing sight of our old ways. We can connect more with someone who is halfway across the world than someone who goes to the same school.

A 2011 Pew Internet and American Life Project report about Americans and their cell phones found that 13 percent of cell phone owners pretend to use their phones in order to avoid interacting with the people around them. By doing this, we are preventing unwanted human contact.

Technology has given us a diversion, a reason to block others from seeing who we really are. On a daily trip to class, people can be seen listening to music, texting, watching videos on their smart phones or iPads, or talking on their cell phones.

As we leave traditional communities for Internet communities, there should still be a connection felt by people who live in the same physical area.

Internet communities can meet a variety of needs: They can give feelings of affiliation and provide emotional support and access to information, education and entertainment. Online communities can bring people together, but real life communication is suffering because of it.

Try having a conversation with a stranger and strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you on the bus. It's harder than it sounds.

Many people don't like to come out from underneath their ear buds or detach their eyes from a YouTube clip.

We don't have conversations with strangers -- and everyone around is strange. From my own experiences, conversations among strangers are rare.

Introducing myself to a few people in a class has always worked out well for me -- there's someone to relate to about the teacher or to grab notes from if I missed a class. But I sit next to many people in classes whom I've never spoken to and who express no interest in speaking to me.

While I don't doubt that people can connect in ways they never have before, it doesn't mean we should stop looking for common interests among those who live in similar places.

Even in State College, how often can people say that they know who their neighbors are or that they've gone outside of their social circle to meet someone different?

There is ample opportunity to meet new people when you move to a new place and get to know the neighbors, but people tend to separate themselves instead.

The idea of the 1950s society where moms get together for book clubs, dads form bowling leagues together and children play in the street is dead.

There is a general distrust of those around us.

Mr. Roger's liked everyone just the way they were, but can we say that for our neighbors today?

People aren't making the effort to bond with their neighbors anymore. You were once considered to be suspicious if you were a loner, but who can pick out the loners in their neighborhood when everyone is so distant from each other?

Families come and go from neighborhoods, but does anyone take the time to get to know them?

If we're finding our communities and niches elsewhere, then we shouldn't reject others. So while global communication increases, is neighborhood interaction decreasing?

Embrace technology, but don't let it come between the opportunity to have a mindful conversation with someone in person.

Jourdan Cole is a senior majoring in international politics, sociology, and crime, law and justice. She is The Daily Collegian's Monday columnist.