In the book Bowling Alone, Robert D Putnam discussed ways in which Americans have withdrawn from social and professional organizations. He notes loss of membership and volunteers in many civic organizations such as religious groups, unions, Boy Scouts, and fraternal organizations. He uses the analogy of bowling alone versus bowling in leagues to personalize his point.
If bowling alone, we don’t participate in social issue discussions regarding religion or civic issues. We can remain within own shell and be less open to other ideas. Ultimately, this may lead to erosion of social capital in our society.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, these disturbing trends are accelerating. Even before we became reliant upon FaceTime to communicate with loved ones and Zoom to interact with our coworkers, Technology, in particular our smart phones was “individualizing“ as Mr. Putnam put it, our leisure time.
Professional organizations in particular are essential. Currently, however, less than 50% of physicians belong to the local state and national medical organizations. They are still receiving many of the financial benefits that paying members support but not the camaraderie and exchange of ideas. It is essential that we all stick together and support with our time and money, the multitude of benefits that are professional medical organizations provide.
Recently, professional organizations have been invaluable Examples of recent activities include helping members operate safely with proper personal protective equipment supplies during the Covid crisis, as well as insurance and professional service discounts. They have further advocated for financial assistance to keep small practices financially afloat during the pandemic crisis, and they have been a resource for up-to-date research and treatment information.
My hope that when we are on the other side of this pandemic crisis, we will appreciate more dearly the value of our social organizations and social work environment. I for one don’t even want to envision permanent work and social environments where we were all sitting alone and talking to our patients, coworkers, and friends through a computer.