Caitlin Fraser, Steve Bittner and Cassandre Eakin are helping organize the first of what they hope will be many social events for residents of their Langley City condo complex, The Benjamin. It’s a barbecue this Saturday. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Langley City condo owners hold social experiment

A group of residents in The Benjamin want to bring back the human connection

By Monique Tamminga/Special to the Langley Advance Times

Condo living can be an isolating experience, even when there are so many people living in the same building.

A group of Langley City condo owners in the Benjamin building are hoping to change all that, one human connection at a time.

The Benjamin social committee is hosting a barbecue in the building’s courtyard this coming Saturday, July 6 from noon to 4 p.m. The kid-friendly event will have games and barbecues set up.

“While we are on a mission to build community and connection in our building, the larger vision is to inspire other buildings to do the same kind of gatherings to build connection in their building too,” said Caitlin Fraser, who is one of the organizers of the barbecue.

“The grandiose vision is for the whole world to feel more connected with an abundance of happiness and joy. Given that the rates of depression and mental illness are on the rise, and given that people are feeling increasingly isolated, we feel strongly that in-person human interaction and connection is the antidote,” she said.

The committee members who came up with this idea are all under the age of 35.

They are part of a generation that has grown up online. But the group say face-to-face interactions have been lost in the digital world.

“I think we can achieve a balance where online has purpose, but nothing replaces interacting with someone in person,” said Fraser.

All of the members of the Benjamin social committee have lived in the building since it opened in 2017.

“Informally, we had a fourth-floor party a while ago and since then it’s been a really nice community where we all know each other. But we wanted to get to know everyone in the building,” said Fraser.

“Overall, we would like everyone in our building to love living there and feel connected to their neighbours,” she added.

When Fraser lived in Richmond, it was a lonely experience, where no one seemed to want to know anyone. The other committee members shared similar experiences in other cities.

“I think some of the issue is the high use of social media has replaced that old fashioned face-to-face interaction,” she said. “When 80 per cent of communication is non-verbal, think about how much gets lost in translation when all we do is communicate through our phones.”

That’s why the Benjamin social committee is actually dreaming bigger than just the barbecue.

For committee member Steve Bittner, the barbecue is just the start.

“Maybe the next event is a community day at Linwood Park where everyone in the neighbourhood brings a lawn chair and their dogs and get to know each other,” he said. “We have a great park right beside us, we should enjoy it together. Plus, it’s the perfect park because it is surrounded by condos.”

Bittner wanted to add that if neighbours from the other buildings around them want to come out to the July 6 barbecue, they are welcome.

“We have quite the courtyard so come and hang out,” he added.

For Cassandre Eakin, joining the social committee has helped break the often lonely world of being a mom to babies.

“I have twin boys who are two years old and that can really isolate you from the rest of the world. On top of that, I had moved cities and didn’t know anyone here until recently,” said Eakin. “I built my own community here and joining the social committee gets me out with adults.”

Eakin said the cost of housing in B.C. is bringing more and more young families and seniors into apartment living.

That’s why the social committee not only put up posters about the barbecue, but they also hand-delivered them door-to-door.

“We wanted each resident to know that they were personally invited,” said Fraser.

So far, the response has been positive.

“One woman said she was so grateful we were putting this on so she could get to know her neighbours.”

Fraser believes we need to get back to basics to get people interacting again.

“A long time ago, they used to have dances on the weekends where everybody would go and that’s how everyone got to know each other,” Fraser added.

If a lot of people show up to the barbecue than it will foster a comradery in the building, said Fraser.

“Wouldn’t it be great if you could have authentic conversations in the elevator instead of those awkward ones about the weather?” she asked.

“Overall, we’d like to start a movement for connection in our community and have this idea continue to spread,” Fraser said.

To that end, if anyone has questions about doing this for their building, you can reach them at thebenjaminsocial@gmail.com.

The Benjamin is located at 20175 53rd Ave.

OTHER COMMUNITY EVENTS: Langley City promises music, movies, and art this summer

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