In the olden days, we sat down as a family for at least one meal a day - usually two, breakfast and dinner. On weekends, lunch was a family affair - often a picnic. We had to learn our manners, and our parents had to tolerate eating with children (the ultimate diet plan!). Today, well, we all go our own way, as it is "easier."
Today, we are a wealthier country, so the family car is gone and everyone in a middle-class family has their own set of wheels. People eat apart, work apart, watch television apart - even go to the movies apart, thanks to the multiplex (Mom and Dad can see one movie, the kids another). Doing things together is frowned upon or just avoided. Too much social anxiety to be with all those other people!
And I have to say that I am part of this trend. I don't like being with the herd, and like everyone else, I like to think I am unique and individual, even if I am unique and individual in a very ordinary and common sort of way. Things like potluck suppers and group activities are not something our generation really is into. Perhaps it is all that marijuana smoking that made us anti-social.
Even something as common and binding as the Internet turns out to be dividing, not uniting. We all find our cubbies or chat groups or facebook friends or subreddits where everyone agrees with what we say. Group activities where you might have to deal with someone you don't like, or worse, who disagrees with you is atypical.
And maybe this is why we are so partisan today. We all want things "our way" and individualized. We don't want to share - not one iota. If we have, we want to keep. If we don't have, we want to take. There may be two sides to any given issue, but each side really isn't interested in listening to the other or worse yet, compromising on any given position. Heads I win, tails you lose - no one wants anything less than that.
Even group activities that still exist, such as group sports, are becoming more individualized. There may be no "I" in "Team" but the superstar athlete is not viewed in the context of his teamwork, but his individual achievement. We are fans of a team not as a group, but as individuals. The box seat is the new norm. Leave me alone, I'm watching the game.
Of course, folks in other countries still do group activities. The Germans love their Volksmarches and their beer festivals, where everyone sits at a "fest bench" and shares a beer and bratwurst with total strangers (who often become friends). Of course, the Germans were famous for their group activities and that sort of got them into a lot of trouble a few years back. But I digress.
I guess it just struck me that our world is changing in this one small way. Our generation are not joiners. We don't join clubs or organizations like our parents did. Dads today don't go to the "lodge" to be initiated in the fraternal order of the buffalo or whatever. We kind of look at that sort of stuff as hokey and dumb.
And maybe it was, or maybe we are losing something important by being so individual.