When I was in college, I lived in a dorm that had sleeping porches. Four men shared a porch, so you got to know at least two other people in addition to your roommate. [You could also study without disturbing a roommate who wanted to sleep.] There was no air conditioning, so doors and windows were often open in the fall and spring. Television was not permitted in the rooms. If you wanted to watch TV, you had to join the crowd in the lobby. The bathroom and shower stalls were down the hall. There were no phones in the room. A telephone was in the hallway and there was an arcane buzzer system to tell you if you had to go to the phone, a visitor was coming up, or you were wanted in the lobby.
The result of all of these conditions was that you got to know quite a few people and they got to know you.
What is it like nowadays? There is central heating and cooling so the doors are closed. The sleeping porches were chopped up to make additional rooms so that extra contact is gone. Rooms have televisions, phones, and - perhaps the greatest change of all - computers. The buzzer system is no more. There is a much greater sense of isolation.
[Photo by Christopher Yoder]