Urbanism: Issues and Concerns

Urban areas are said to be developed settlements that constitute a fast-paced lifestyle and are directly exposed to globalization and social and cultural change. It is generally characterized as a place that has a high density of population, a complex division of labor, advancement of technology, high mobility, individualism, and impersonality in social relationships, collectively referred to by the term urbanism. Urbanism is a social-cultural-economic phenomenon, which represents a way of life. It has a wide range of consequences on human nature, in terms of needs, emotions, experiences, and behavior in general.

In urban areas, people are generally achievement-oriented and have a consumerist attitude. In such instances relationships often take a backseat and become neglected, which affects the nature of those relationships.

The idea of relationships has also been changing over the years. Families are breaking down into smaller units, and people are marrying late in life or prefer to stay unmarried. Marrying late or the decision to remain unmarried has led to the rise of one-person households (OPH), in which an individual prefers to live alone in a house. The perspectives about living alone are slightly changing and it is now not necessarily viewed in a negative manner. People are gradually looking beyond the negative stereotypes of living a life by themselves. Recent research also suggests that aloneness has positive aspects associated with it, such as being more perceptive, self-fulfillment, and having a greater purpose in life

Further, there is a rise in live-in relationships and part-time live-in relationships. People’s beliefs about traditional notions of relationships are changing. People being more involved in their work and focusing on career development has led to a change in perspective towards marriage. There is more of an acceptance of remaining unmarried. Due to this people prefer alternatives to marriage like living together without being married.

In the same regard, because of being more work and career-oriented, people also prefer to go a step beyond live-in relationships. They prefer to be in a part-time live-in relationship, which means staying together during weekends or off-days and then getting back with their own lives, the rest of the time.

With respect to interpersonal relationships in general, urbanism gives rise to the issue of loneliness. Being highly self-involved, with limited interpersonal interaction, there is a likelihood of the feeling of emptiness and an unfulfilled need for intimacy and self-expression. Additionally, interpersonal processes such as empathy and relationship quality become important.

Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why people have turned to the cyberspace. The fast-paced life of urban areas coupled with advancements in technology has led individuals to be spending more and more time on the internet.

Many of the social networking sites have reduced distances between people. Individuals can easily be in touch with their family and friends who are in another city. It helps them to have interactions with their loved ones, which may not always be possible.

The internet also becomes a medium for self-expression, for individuals who otherwise may be too self-involved due to the lifestyle they become accustomed to in urban areas. Specifically, things like blogging and microblogging help a lot in sharing experiences and expressing views about various issues. In many ways, interaction on the internet helps to fulfill the needs for intimacy and self-expression.

On the other hand, however, spending too much time on the internet leads to hyperactivity, and lack of focus and concentration. It also leads to issues like online disinhibition effect, cyber-trolling, and cyberbullying, which cannot be ignored, especially when it comes to the youth.

Apart from the many issues related to online interaction, in urban areas, the youth in today’s time, face a large number of problems and challenges. In the age of globalization and economic and technological development, it is the youth that is the most affected.

The fast-paced urban lifestyle can often become too demanding for adolescents and young adults, which may cause emotional vulnerability and instability. They become highly susceptible to stress. If not given proper care, it may lead individuals towards substance abuse and erratic behavior, including erratic sexuality.

The person may face a number of problems associated with relationships, which may include disruptive familial relationships as well as problematic romantic relationships. The consequences of such issues might be low self-esteem, depression, chronic loneliness, stress, anxiety, and suicidality.

The transitional phase of adolescence often tends to be highly confusing for the individual. Confusion may arise not just regarding decisions about relationships, but even educational and career choices. A wrong step can prove to be fatal, leading to a lack of purpose, being directionless, lack of meaningfulness, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and a sense of failure.

With the changing of times, especially in urban areas, the traditional gender roles have been going through a transformation. People have started looking beyond the gender stereotypes, though in a more subtle manner. Men are seen to have a sensitive side and not necessarily tough and outspoken, and women are now seen to be as bold and not necessarily coy. Likewise, men are not necessarily seen as the sole bread earner and women are not necessarily expected to be a homemaker. Women are also being seen as career-oriented and ambitious.

On the other hand, men are seen as taking part in household chores and being more participative in the upbringing of a child, something that was not considered very masculine-like earlier. In recent times, there has been more of an egalitarian relationship and an equal division of labor among husbands and wives, and partners.

The changing gender roles and stereotypes have given rise to concepts like the metro-sexual man and the alpha female. The metro-sexual man is someone who likes spending time on grooming and shopping, shows interest in fashion, has no qualms in being sensitive, and on the whole does not really believe in the traditional gender roles.

The alpha female, unlike the traditional beliefs associated with women in general, is someone who is strong, confident, independent, dominating, and outspoken. She is also highly career-oriented, very ambitious, and does not really believe in relying on a man to be her support system.

Apart from the changing gender roles, people are also becoming more aware and comfortable with issues related to different sexual orientations, sexual identity crises, and other LGBTQ (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer) issues. There has been a growing acceptance of homosexual relationships. Homosexuality is no longer viewed as something that is unusual and quite a few people are coming out in the open and accepting and willing to talk about having a homosexual orientation.

The changing gender roles, in urban areas, are also bringing about changes in the workplace. The proportion of female employees in corporate sectors is on the rise. Females are willing to work at late hours as well as being in higher positions. There are a lot more managers, leaders, and CEOs that are females. The idea of gender-specific jobs is becoming obsolete. More of females are getting into jobs related to engineering and information technology. Likewise, more of males are getting into jobs related to teaching, social work, and counseling.

Along with the gender-specific changes, the workplace in urban areas is going through other changes as well. Due to the rise of multinational companies (MNCs), there is more of a multi-cultural environment, in the workplace, with people from different cultures working together.

Further, in order to cope effectively with the competitive work environment, in urban areas, there has been a lot of emphasis on the social and emotional skills of employees, in the past decade or so. Employees, especially in corporate sectors, are expected to be emotionally intelligent and not just have good technical skills. Research has suggested that being high on emotional intelligence is a major factor in organizational success.

Additionally, in the workplace, there is a change in the perception of individuals. There has been a growing awareness about introversion and how introverts can be successful in the workplace, which was not considered earlier. Introverts being empathetic, sensitive, perceptive, and far-sighted are now considered to be effective leaders, which was not the same earlier. Thus, there has been a significant change in the work environment, in the past few years.

On the whole, urbanism, which represents a way of life in urban settings, has raised a number of issues and concerns. It has changed the nature of relationships and patterns of interpersonal communication. It has raised concerns over youth behavior and mental health. Further, to quite an extent, it has helped in bringing about a change in gender stereotypes and raised awareness over issues of gender and sexuality. Finally, it has also brought about significant changes in the work environment and the workplace culture.

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Saif Farooqi, PhD

Saif Farooqi, PhD

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Psychologist (Ph.D.), Blogger, Podcaster, Writer, Assistant Professor, Strongly endorse the idea of Critical Thinking www.anchor.fm/psychologysociety