Sure it gave me a giant beer belly, but it wasn't all bad.
In the idealized wimpified sitcom/drama personified by a show like Friends, there's a community of people hanging out because they all happen to live in expensive flats in New York right next to each other and they all happen to be nice and bland and they support each other despite having their little squabbles and suffering the slings and arrows of being young and beautiful and single whilst living in a NYC penthouse apartment.
In the much less idealized sitcom/drama of Cheers, there's a strong community, but the community is a hell of a lot less touchy-feely than the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Friends.
A German-Swedish friend of mine who used to live here in Prague complained that the strict alcohol rules in Sweden destroyed pub their culture. Nowadays, he said, people in Sweden go to each others' houses and watch a DVD or something when they socialize, instead of meeting in the local pub and talking. I replied, "Yeah, just like in the US, except we never really had a pub culture to begin with."
There's nothing very social about watching a movie at some friends' house compared to bullshitting at a pub for two hours over a few beers, sorry, no way.
Having this close community of friends seems to be everyone's secret ideal but how many have it in real life or have ever had it in real life?
When I do go to the local pub to meet someone I see the older Czechs who are drinking a lot of beer and smoking a lot of cigs, but they are also having a damn good time. These are people in their 50s or 60s who still go to the pub after work for a couple hours, typically a table of five or six men and women. They aren't the healthiest looking people in the world, big Slavic bears with ruddy faces (the men and women), but they typically look a lot healthier than this:
|Dean Ornish in the prime of health|
As one gets older and has children, focus tends to shift inward on the family, people move away, it's harder to make friends, etc. Nowadays, its possible to make up for that with online communities, and I don't have a problem with that at all. It's not the same as live interaction, of course, but on the other hand it allows like-minded, intelligent people to interact from all over the world.
I think we have an innate need for community, something that has been an evolutionary advantage for millions of years of hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and I also think that few of us get it, or certainly enough of it, these days. Call me a paleo-reenactor if you must.