In a recent article, Norman Jacknis asks the question, “Are Any Small Towns Flourishing?” Research shows that Millenials could be ready to leave the bigger cities in droves and head for more rural areas, but it very much depends on their access to broadband digital. The rural counties with the best access to quality internet are more likely to continue to flourish.
But what about Connection?
It’s great that people are heading to more rural areas, and wonderful that digital connectivity is helping make that happen. But what about CONNECTION? What happens when they get there? What’s happening in these rural communities, who lives there, what do people do in their spare time, and how do they find out?
We Are All Connected
I was recently at the Taylor Swift Reputation Stadium tour with my 11-year old daughter in Denver, CO. There were 58,000 of us in the stadium. FIFTY-EIGHT THOUSAND! That’s more people than most rural towns, and even most rural counties! We were each given an LED bracelet on the way in that looked like a white fitbit. We were told they’d light up with Taylor got on stage. And did they ever… somehow they were all connected by their geolocation and found their place on the light mapping of the stadium… as we danced and sang along, our wrists changed color, blinked, went on or off, in synchronicity.
At one point Taylor Swift said, “Want to know why you all have on those bracelets? There are 58,000 of you here tonight. And all 58,000 of you want to feel connected to someone, to something. Whether you are way up there at the top, or right here in front, I can see each one of you dancing and moving and having a great time. You are all a part of this show, and we are all connected.”
Bam – that moment hit me hard.
It’s likely no wonder that Taylor Swift “gets it” and that she’s a Millenial. She knows, even when you’re Taylor Swift, that you just want to feel connected to someone, to something. So I ask, at the end of the day, when the great migration does (or does not) happen to these rural areas, and then they all have broadband connectivity to go along with their automated milking stations and digitally-sensored irrigation systems…who, or what, are you connecting with?
To bring it back around, how will Millenials connect with each other when they move out to rural areas once the digital divide is bridged? It is my sincere hope that they will create and share live events, where they can go and meet and interact with each other, face to face. That they will use the internet as a vehicle for real human connection.