Unintended Consequences of “Modern Improvements”

“Researcher Brene Brown told a story about a village where all the women washed clothes together down by the river. When they all got washing machines, there was a sudden outbreak of depression and no one could figure out why.”

“It wasn’t the washing machines in and of themselves. It was the absence of time spent doing things together. It was the absence of community.” (Basudha Modak, worldpulse.com)

In the comments section below that article, one person said she had washed clothes in the river when she was growing up. “We always looked forward to Saturday mornings to go wash our clothes.”

Along similar lines: In my first Permaculture Design Certificate course (back in 2005; taught by Scott Pittman), Scott told us about a village where the houses got running water so the people were “saved” from having to go fetch water from the village well. The problem with this improvement? It removed the main channel by which young people met and formed friendships; fell in love.

Also: I wonder if garage-door openers have led to a reduction in neighborly conversations? It wouldn’t surprise me.

Not to say that modern conveniences are bad in themselves; just to point out that such modernizations can have unintended consequences on personal and community wellbeing. Once we notice such consequences, we might be able to find ways to bring the community element back in.