Croakers Square

There are no computer graphics. There are no special effects. You can’t stream it and enjoy it whenever you want … in fact, you can’t even do it alone.

In the Age of the Internet, square dancing has a lot of strikes against it. Oh, it’s still here … but even we aficionados will admit, the struggle is real. But then, so are the benefits: the aerobic exercise, the mental agility needed to follow the caller, the social interaction …

That last one is one of the biggest issues we face: at its heart, square dancing is a participatory activity … and it seems that people simply don’t want to participate. That is a part of the public consciousness, now: everything we read or watch or listen to is laced with the message that YOU are the only one that matters, and that the path to happiness lies in doing for yourself … and usually, by yourself.

With all due apologies to Bachman-Turner Overdrive, our dog-eat-dog, rat-race society has adopted “looking out for number one” as some kind of mantra. Sociologists and psychiatrists practically mandate that we need to do what’s best for ourselves first; we help others only if there is any time, energy, and resources left over. And that attitude isn’t just killing square dancing … it’s hurting us individually and damaging our society as a whole.

Now, before you dismiss all this as the rantings of an old-fashioned coot (which they may be, but still …), I’m not just making this up. Sociologists and other academics in recent years have noted a steady erosion in traditional social groups and activities that were once at the heart of American communities.

People used to have groups of friends and face-to-face relationships. Maybe they were Lions Club members, or part of a bridge club, or at the very least, members of a church or synagogue. Now, though, those relationships have been replaced by chat groups and social media. We have “friends” on the other side of the globe, but we don’t know the people across the street. The hectic, career-centered schedules in many households make it harder to make–let alone sustain–friendships.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a little alone time. Experts say we all need a little time to recharge. But how much rejuvenation are you really getting from sitting in the dark by yourself and binge-watching “Game of Thrones”? Science says you may be doing more harm than good.

Research has shown that selfishness leads to loneliness and social isolation, both of which are associated with increased blood pressure, higher cholesterol levels, depression, and can even contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.

On the other hand, another study found a 33 percent reduction the mortality rate of people who do volunteer work compared to those who didn’t. Getting out into society–connecting with your community–helps you live longer and happier. And square dancing piles more benefits on top of that.

Some highly successful people recommend dancing as a part of an overall healthy lifestyle. But probably the best thing we can do to keep square dance from dying is change people’s perception. In the end, we can’t compete with video games and virtual reality–we shouldn’t even try. But we can learn to embrace the quirks that make square dancing classic. We have to convince the world that this is not that … it’s something totally different.

But it’s fun.

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