What Changed the Social Fabric of America?

If someone ask you, over the last 100 years, what started the change in the social fabric of America, what would you say?  Last week several of us at the office started talking about this question. Clearly the various wars changed the outlook of America and forever changed the men and women that served, but the question I am asking is different. What changed neighbors from knowing each other and kids playing in the yard, children riding bicycles to their friend’s house and stick ball in the streets etc. The list could go on for pages, but you get the idea. I am asking when the simplicity of life as we once knew it in America, began to shift.

There are many significant events and inventions throughout the 1900’s and early 2000’s that impacted life, but (in my opinion) none was as social changing as the television. Before television, people would sit on the porch in the spring and summer months to get out of the house along with their neighbors and watch their children play in the yard until bath time when the temperature cooled off. They would talk over the fence to friends and they would cruise with the windows down to the local ice cream stand and there were kids outside playing every sport that used a ball.

The TV was invented in the 1927 but became main stream to the public in the mid to late 1950’ s. TV became the main source of information and influence of American citizens. By the late 50’s early 60’s, a large percentage of American homes had more than one TV. This is when (in my opinion) the social fabric of America began to shift. People stayed indoors, and kids found more entertainment through watching shows than playing with their friends outside.

During those years, winter was the time when most people stayed indoors but spring, summer and fall was when all the neighborhood activities were rekindled, and kids were ready for school to start back after three months off. Indoor air conditioning (window units) became main stream about the same time as TV (give or take a few years) and after that there was less desire for people (parents and children) to go outside.

Fast forward 50-60 years and you have the internet and in 2007 the iPhone came out with its mobile accessibility to the internet and America began to shift socially again just as significant as it did in the 50’s and early 60’s. Now, very few children play in the yard and run through the sprinkler, very few boys are playing football in the yard and older children cannot go a day without their phone/iPad and its connectivity. Neighbors today, many times do not even know who lives next door. It is interesting that both the TV and iPhone/iPad have the same pull. They combine voice and visual entertainment.

Are we better or worse off today? It is an interesting question. The real question is what the next social shift in America will be and if you figure that out, please let me know. KT

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