Remembering Together: Our Collective Desire To Connect Through A Common Experience

It’s interesting to watch how people react to a major news event. We reach out. We tell stories. We try to connect through a common experience.

Most recently, this can be seen with the passing of Steve Jobs, though it happens all the time. Events like September 11th, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the assassination of JFK all form pointed moments that everyone alive at the time experienced. Often, these even cross physical, political, and cultural boundaries.

But, why are these tied so strongly to our desire to connect with other people?

To start, let’s look at how societies have changed over time. For most of history, humans lived in small groups or communities composed of families of individuals. These units were self-sustaining and didn’t have the need or even the means to meet frequently with others. They were nothing like the large, highly organized, urban centers of today.

While this arrangement decreased the number of people any one person could interact with, it heightened the level of engagement between individuals. People were more tightly connected and closely woven together through life experiences. There was a rich culture of folklore, storytelling, and oral history.

Remnants of this can still be seen today. As is still said about living in a small town, “Everybody knows everybody.”

Of course, this all sounds romantic and even a bit utopian. Given all that we have gained through urbanization, it’s doubtful that many would go back to small scale living. World census figures support this observation as well. That said, it doesn’t prevent us from trying to regain some of what was lost.

When meeting unfamiliar people, we attempt to connect through commonalities. Take, for example, starting a job and meeting new coworkers. We might share our hometown, last employer, interests, or hobbies. We work to find something in common with the hope of making a personal connection.

Experiences function in much the same way. With family and friends, they serve to solidify and reenforce a common bond. It might be remembering a concert attended together, a family celebration, or the death of a loved one. It’s a strong connection, deeply rooted in our desire to know and to share with one another.

The same holds true when interacting with complete strangers. Though we may have never met, we still desire to connect in a personal, meaningful way. Life’s common moments enable this, as they transcend so many barriers.

Once again, the events of this week demonstrate this. Steve Jobs was widely known and appreciated by many people around the world. His death ultimately served as a moment for people across the globe to come together, share their experiences, and connect in a deeply personal way.

We may live in an ever growing, urbanized society. But, our desire to sit by a fire, remember together, and bond with a close group is still very strong.


  1. So true. And, I think as one grows older, the need to connect gets stronger. I will always remember how my father would go to the shopping mall….not to shop as my mother was apt to do…..but to sit in the center and begin talking to people. I always laughed when I realized he usually knew someone who knew someone who knew him! And, now it happens to me. Whenever I meet someone new, I find myself asking, “Where did you grow up? What do you do?” The need to connect becomes more important as we begin to think about our own demise.

    1. That’s a great story. I think there’s a lot to be said from smaller communities in making us feel more embraced. Big cities can definitely get a little impersonal.

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