Saturday, July 20th, 2024

The Importance of Local Connections Story


by Rob Lauer

Living in the Digital Age, our world is more connected than ever. When a newsworthy event erupts anywhere on the globe--whether it's the outbreak of a war or the breakup of a celebrity couple--our cell phones, laptops, TVs, and other devices immediately inform us of it. While previous generations had to wait for the national evening news broadcast or the morning newspaper to learn what had happened on any given day, we now watch politics, international conflicts, and natural disasters unfold in real time. And because of social media, we can just as quickly learn the opinions of distant relatives, former classmates, and social media "friends" regarding those events. We may not know the names of our neighbors three doors down, but we know which TV show Aunt Molly in Utah watched last Sunday night and how a so-called Facebook "friend," whom we have never actually met, will be voting in the next election.

Thanks to Google, we can, in seconds, find the recipe for any dish that pops into our heads--be it for some traditional comfort food our great-grandma used to cook or some exotic dish from a distant land we know we will never visit. But once we have the recipe, would we feel comfortable walking next door to borrow a cup of sugar or a stick of butter from our neighbor--something people felt comfortable routinely doing just a few decades ago?

Because the world is more connected than ever, it's easy to overlook the significance of our local communities. While being drawn to global news, trends, and developments, we mustn't forget the power and importance of feeling a part of the communities in which we live. Ironically, feeling deeply connected to others helps us develop self-esteem and a stronger sense of ourselves as individuals. We feel less intimidated by the world at large and are willing to venture out in pursuit of our dreams when we feel deeply rooted in a strong, stable, inclusive, and supportive community. That sense of belonging enhances our overall well-being, reduces feelings of isolation, and, according to medical experts, boosts our mental health.

From America's earliest days, locally published newspapers and magazines nurtured a sense of community and belonging. For centuries, U.S. cities of any size typically had several daily newspapers reporting on local as well as national and international affairs. Even the least populated rural communities typically had a weekly news publication focusing primarily on local events. One major downside of the Digital Age has been the demise of local newspapers and magazines. While the internet has been a bonanza for national and international news coverage, sites covering local news and events are increasingly things of the past. Last year alone, 2.5 local newspapers went out of business each and every week, meaning that more than half of all U.S. counties now have limited access to reliable local news and information.

In this quickly growing "local news and information desert," The Shopper is more important than ever to the people of Southside Hampton Roads. As "Your Hometown Magazine," we understand the importance of bringing our readers stories of local business owners, charities, and non-profit organizations, as well as advice columns from local experts in essential matters ranging from healthcare and financial investments to relationship and parenting advice. And we are dedicated to promoting and reporting on local community events. Through our stories, columns, photo spreads, and advertising, The Shopper strives to help our readers build meaningful social connections and establish lasting relationships that enrich the daily lives of everyone in our community.

Local businesses are the lifeblood of any community. When we choose to buy from local shops, eat at local restaurants, or hire local services, we are directly contributing to the economic stability of our neighbors. This, in turn, helps create jobs, increase property values, and generate tax revenue that supports vital community services like schools and infrastructure. Local small business owners select which goods and services they will offer based on their interests and local needs rather than a national sales plan from some far-off corporate headquarters. The end result is always more choices for local customers. A local marketplace filled with small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long term. For 43 years, The Shopper has been bringing its readers the stories of local small-business owners--their dreams and aspirations, challenges and triumphs, and their philosophies regarding customer service and community. We do this because we believe most people prefer doing business with a neighbor they know and trust.

Typically, no community is as homogenous as it might seem at first glance. Our neighbors usually have diverse roots culturally, nationally, ethnically, and religiously. By attending and keeping up with local community gatherings--cultural and sporting events, festivals, charitable fundraisers, and commemorations of local history--we can celebrate what makes our neighbors individually unique while honoring values that unite us all as a community. This is why The Shopper fills its pages with "Gatherings"--our photo-filled reports on community gatherings--be they entertainment or sporting events, charitable galas or fundraisers, or celebrations honoring local individuals whose dedication and hard work have enhanced the lives of others.

The Digital Age has brought many advantages to our daily lives, which we at The Shopper embrace. After all, The Shopper is available online, and we host our own Shopper Facebook page. At the same time, we acknowledge that most news and information sources focus on national and international news, events, and businesses. Despite that focus, when we lay down our devices and walk outside, we find ourselves on the streets where we live and work with the people who give our daily lives meaning--our families, friends, and neighbors. These streets, these people, these connections are what is most important. They are our actual community.

The Shopper

1545 Crossways Blvd.
Chesapeake, VA 23320