KODIAK — Recently, I learned about a community in the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania. The predominantly Italian-American population was studied in the 1950s because — despite their affinity for jugs of wine, meatballs fried in lard and cigars — they had startling vitality. The research done on the community was published in 1964 in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” and found that their close-knit family structure was their secret to longevity. Specifically, the group had much lower rates of heart attack and mortality compared to surrounding communities.

The reason the close-knit structure was effective, researchers believe, is because it cultivated a lower-stress environment. Stress in the mind manifests in the body as disease. Under stress, our reptilian brain produces and releases adrenaline into the bloodstream and it builds into inflammation — a major cause of chronic disease and mortality. 

In articles, the town of Roseto in the 1960s is described similar to the way “old timers” describe Kodiak. I’ve heard that in the past, our community would look out for one another’s children, how neighbors would help each other and how families would support and connect from within and strive to maintain solidarity.

I moved to Kodiak four years ago, and in that short time alone I’ve seen a drastic and ever-more-negative change in the community’s attitude towards each other. And while I understand the concept behind groups such as “Say What You Want Kodiak,” “Kodiak Wanted” and “Kodiak Island Crime Talk & Neighborhood Watch” (that they exist to inform the community of potential harms), the reality is that social media has become an open-forum for creating conflict and shaming. And, from what I understand, the last group mentioned isn’t even mediated by someone who lives in Kodiak. 

Not that I think that makes a difference, because, before leaving the groups, I saw the way residents of Kodiak treat each other in the comments. I can almost already hear the typing of the word “snowflake” if this letter gets posted in them. I won’t use the word “bullying,” because it’s been reduced to play-ground drama between children. And, although the spaces on these pages have become somewhat of a sandbox — posts about legal charges, struggles with drug addiction and mistakes made by someone’s child — it isn’t like sand thrown in one’s eye: easily washed out over time. 

The scientific reality is that when you shame someone and attack them by exposure, there is a chemical response to that stress that manifests in the body in the form of disease if not healed. Therefore, these groups and comments disguised as “for your information” posts that claim to be for the betterment of our community, are, in reality, an immediate and measurable attack on a person that accumulates in their cells and results in shorter, less enjoyable lives. In effect, when we support the forums and groups which expose alleged and/or momentary failure, we collectively give someone an early death-wish in exchange for our entertainment.

I invite you to unjoin with me.

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