When one thinks of a commune, the imagery of tie-dyed t-shirts, oversized sunglasses, sandals, primitive living conditions and marijuana come to mind. Recently there has been a surge in companies that provide all the necessities and amenities needed for a twenty-first century updated hippie commune. They are called co-living companies. These new communes are completely different from the hippie communes of old. While adopting the same live-free message, they’ve adapted to appeal to the newer generation.
There is definitely something unappealing about the hippy lifestyle of the sixties and seventies. If you ask a millennial today if he wants to hop in a Volkswagen bus and head off for some communal farmhouse where he would live off the grid, forsake society and its comforts, live and sleep together with others, doing all this as an ultimate act of rebellion against the “establishment,” he’d probably give you a weird look and go back to his iPhone to avoid any further communication.
Man does need to live in society to interact, converse, and build relationships. In today’s hyper tech-obsessed world, people are slowly withdrawing from the world around them and disconnecting, though under the guise of connecting. This is devastating. Online “sociability” does not fulfill man’s desire to interact with others.
What exactly is co-living?
Coliving.org defines the concept of co-living is “a modern, urban lifestyle that values openness, sharing, and collaboration.”1 The purpose, the web site continues, is “to create a home environment that inspires and empowers its residents to be active creators and participants in the world around them.”2 Apparently, this is possible through, “sharing and efficient use of resources and space.”3 The web site goes on to say, “co-living is for people who want a home environment that actively supports them in living with purpose and intention.”4 They claim this is possible because residents unite around common resources, space, and activities in order to collectively contribute to the world.
So apparently, by collective creativity and inspiration co-living is a solution that will uplift the soul of the youth and inspire them to make a difference in the world. It seems to be “just the thing” for today’s uncommitted, virtually isolated individualist. It appears to solve the dilemma of man’s insatiable social nature. Doesn’t it?
But co-living presents a false solution. A place where people can come together and live under the same roof and share intimate aspects of life does not necessarily resolve the problem of sociability of isolated youth.
Open Door, a California-based co-living startup, promises much in their advertising message: “Live Better Together.”5 Their promo video begins by stating, “I think there’s something really powerful when you get to share intimate space with lots of people.” It then continues, lamenting how these intimate aspects of daily life are only seen by family and close friends. It suggests that these aspects should be broadcasted and open for all to see, especially unknown people. According to them, co-living will fill the void of happiness in your life. No more loneliness.
Co-living is different than some college students trying to save money and make ends meet by pulling together to buy a house or apartment for a few years.
This arrangement is much more intimate and complete. With a pricey rent pay of up to $2,000 a month, co-living companies will provide all your toiletries, cleaning services, and maintenance. In addition, there is Wi-Fi, food, friends, semi-luxurious furnishings and no real responsibilities. Seemingly a millennial’s ideal life.
But is that realistic?
What destroyed the communes of the sixties will end up doing the same to today’s co-living havens. Man is a social being but not too social. Intimacy with others can be handled with family and close friends with whom one has trust, confidence and a permanent relationship.
However, when every aspect of your life is invaded by others whom you hardly know, it leads to friction and stress. Life in a community-living house is not all fun, laughter and smiles.
Some have painfully related how their experience in a communal living house was anything but enjoyable. After the initial meet and greet ice-breaker, reality sets in when everyone starts to notice the defects of others. Friction ensues.
Co-living houses do not provide a healthy environment for the practice of virtue needed for living with others, given that everyone is following a separate agenda. Moreover, unrelated single men and women who live together in the same private space under the same roof can lead to promiscuous behavior.
Just as not enough social life can be harmful, so also too much social life with unrelated people can be stressful.
In the final analysis, co-living or the commune do not sufficiently address the social needs of the individual. Man needs social interaction not social invasion. The best way to “live better together” is in permanent relationships like that found in the family.