Social atomisation is the tendency for society to be made up of a collection of self-interested and largely self-sufficient individuals operating as separate atoms. This is different to our experience of human beings as unique and irreplaceable.
Social atomisation for many people is being utterly alone yet surrounded by people. I remember when I used to work and catch the train. I would often see the same people. We would never say hello to each other or know each other. We are often buried in our phones.
My experience over the years is neighbours don’t want to know me. I once had a kind neighbour for a year where I lived before. 1 in 10 UK Adults don’t know their neighbours name. Under 25 this is 1 in 6 adults. It is higher for renter’s where 15% don’t know their neighbours name.
Even at the church there are people who attend who I see regularly but don’t stop for a tea or coffee after. I think sometimes we are seen as Non-Playable Characters (NPC). Rather than as real people. People are seen like optional apps in a smartphone.
Over the years I have done all kinds of things. University, Ju Jitsu, Tennis, a gay bar, Grindr, mental health groups, an autistic group, french, creative writing, gaming, gym and social media. I rarely make long standing friendships. I am in the out group than the in.
I wonder if I attended social outings in a suit and pretended my occupation was an accountant if I would be more involved. I think being autistic and unemployed does put me on a lower rung of the social ladder. Socialising with me gets no expediency and thus I am a charity case.
My opinion of a lot of social groups is the people of the “in group” have made their friends and aren’t really interested in being your friend. The group is just the conduit for seeing their friends. You are just a Non-Playable Character (NPC) to them.
In some ways I’m like a ghost. I’ll be around for a while and then I will simply vanish as I see no point anymore The same happened with the peer support group I ran for 2 years. They call this ghosting.
Most of the time I’m atomised as soon as we meet. Once I’ve said I’m unemployed and I’m autistic I’m a Non-Playable Character. The person is looking for someone else to talk to or to be rescued. I’m not cool and I could make you uncool.
It can be challenging to live as a NPC. I’ve decided I won’t be giving up Church even if no one spoke to me.I go there to commune with Jesus, a God, who in the end was othered at the end of his life too. Jesus taught love and I try to practice that in any new interactions I have.