This column originally appeared in the Hope Star-Journal newspaper

If you live in Hope and your house is more than 50 years old, chances are you have a front porch with a sidewalk in front of it.

Until the 1950s, that's the way houses were built and the way communities evolved. In warm weather, people sat on those front porches in wooden swings and fan-backed metal chairs, sipping iced tea out of tall, Tupperware tumblers.

They greeted the neighbors who strolled by. They swapped stories and spun yarns until it was dark enough for the June bugs to gather around the porch light. Then they went inside. Realizing television was yet to be invented and computer surfing was impossible, they went to bed.

Then about 1950 the post-war housing boom brought us the subdivision and the back-patio revolution. Towns and cities expanded by adding tracts of houses on winding streets with dead-end cul-de-sacs. There were few sidewalks, since the neighborhood grocery stores were being replaced by distant supermarkets, leaving no place to walk of any importance.

The new houses had a front step instead of a front porch, since everyone had gone inside to watch TV and no one knew their neighbors well enough to say hello anyway. The new houses did have backyard patios, where the families could place a barbecue grill and cook food out of sight to eat in front of the TV.

It was all such a great idea that people who lived in the old houses along the town's sidewalks abandoned their porches too, filling the old swing with potted plants and placing a nicely dressed, concrete goose by the door. Then they went out back and built a patio with a barbecue grill and put a privacy fence around it all.

Crime seemed to increase, since the news on television showed violence everywhere. People, therefore, began locking their doors to protect themselves from the neighbors they didn't know.

Eventually, cable TV, the Internet and Google made it possible for everyone to know almost nothing about everything without ever leaving the house or having any meaningful human contact.

When all this isolation became too much to bear, someone invented internet "social networking" and text messaging to fill the human need for interaction with other people without actually seeing or talking to anyone.

It is sad. All we really ever needed was a front porch with a sidewalk in front and a tall glass of iced tea.