In this article I will say something that flies in the face of conventional wisdom. But on this issue experience and observation have made my conviction strong. Here let me reiterate the title of this thread: living in a big house tends to engender anti-social behavior. The American dream traditionally defined consists of living in a big house, driving a nice car, and having a nuclear family with approximately two kids. While each of these elements is a worthy achievement, I want to push back against the idea that bigger is always better when it comes to the house you live in.
There are certain advantages to living in a bigger house. Big houses are physically attractive. Big houses feature greater space in-between other houses on the same block. Big houses comes with the luxury of hosting karaoke night any day of the week and spare the misery of hearing the neighbor’s baby spontaneously lose his head. In short, big houses afford greater privacy. They can be used to store possessions in areas of the home with little traffic–out of sight and out of mind. Big houses can encompass individual rooms, guest rooms, game rooms, living rooms, and dining rooms. Living in a big house is a slam dunk, all things equal.
The problem is that all things are not equal. I have observed time and again the social cost of children raised in big houses. While big houses afford the luxury of privacy, in practice they often lead to isolating behaviors. When a dispute breaks out, many Americans retreat to their private room for hours on end, devoid of genuine human interaction. This privacy, coupled with smartphones and technology, gives people the perfect anti-social outlet for their problems. The perceived need to interact with human beings in one’s environment is minimized when there are two factors present: abundant space to oneself and the illusion of connection afforded by technology. Similarly, many kids growing up in big houses are accustomed to spending hours every day doing homework in their rooms with only their mobile phones as company. Through countless hours spent in isolation and the problematic habit of falling asleep alone, they develop anti-social behaviors that may be a contributing factor of depression, anxiety, and other social ills.
I have traveled to other countries and witnessed the contrast in social behaviors. In many poorer countries, it is customary for a family of four or five to live in a one-story home, share rooms, and spend the majority of time together. There are, for sure, certain downsides to living in a smaller house, and I am not saying it is a preferable alternative all things taken into account. But one of the clear advantages I have observed is young people who are more socially adapted. For many people, not being able to afford a big home is a blessing in disguise.
Meaningful, in-person relationships fueled by presence and vulnerability are essential to human health and well-being. They will always be the gold standard of relationships no matter how seemingly dispensable they have become in an age of material wealth and technology.
Do you agree or disagree with my observations? How do you think your development growing up was affected by the size of your home? Overall, do you think living in a big home is a positive or negative thing? What are some strategies for making life in a big home a win-win proposition for all parties involved?