It's reassuring to walk into a local restaurant and see the morning coffee klatch.
It's usually older folks, sometimes speaking French, who gather to talk about news, sports, politics or, we suppose, other people.
They seem like people who have known each other a long time, perhaps from living in the same neighborhood, working at the same factory or attending the same church.
It's nice to see, but will Facebook, or some other virtual meeting place, host the coffee klatches of the future?
It is, of course, normal for one generation to worry over the fate of the next. Too often "different" is assumed to be "inferior."
So we won't go there.
But we ran a sad story Friday about the Raymond J. Lavigne Post 9459 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Members were packing up four decades' worth of plaques, pictures and mementos and moving out when a reporter recently visited.
The group will continue meeting once a month, but it is selling its long-time home on Route 196 in Lisbon. Post Commander William Thomas explained that the club no longer has enough members or money to keep the building open.
In 1982, Thomas said, the place was a town hub, with dances, suppers and wedding receptions. Now it has an official roster of 500 members, but only 15 are active.
The places where people used to regularly meet face to face and form lasting friendships have been disappearing for the past 20 years, and they are going fast.
Last year, the Knights of Columbus Council 106, associated with the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul and the second-oldest council in Maine, closed its doors.
It once had 900 members, but that was down to 50 active members in 2012, none of them younger than 50 years of age, when it shut the doors for the last time.
The churches that were once the hub of neighborhoods are themselves disappearing.
Most recently, Catholic officials announced that St. Louis Church in Auburn faces demolition because of extensive structural problems.
Large congregations could at one time keep up with significant maintenance issues. Small congregations cannot raise enough money.
In 2011, the handsome United Baptist Church on Main Street went dark and is now a parking lot, again deferred maintenance and a small congregation were to blame.
St. Patrick's Church held its final mass in 2009, as did St. Joseph's Church, both in Lewiston.
At least three other Catholic churches in Maine, two in Biddeford and one in Saco, all closed in 2009.
There are bright spots: St. Mary's Church in Lewiston is now the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston, a different sort of meeting place. Plus new forms of community organizations have popped up in L-A in recent years — representing the arts, business and people with common interests — and a host of organizations have responded to the recent displacement of more than 200 downtown residents by three fires.
Several reasons come to mind for the losses.
First is the tendency of people to go home and stay home. We use far more electronic media, such as TVs and videos.
Plus, there has been a huge swing in people socializing in the virtual space created by online services, particularly Facebook.
We have a greater ability than ever to stay in touch with friends and family members, in a way we never had before.
With a few clicks, we can share a photo or a thought with dozens of friends and acquaintances, or with people who share our interests whether they be politics or beekeeping.
People can even form and maintain daily relationships with others in distant countries.
It's dangerous to speculate on what we will gain and lose in this inexorable process. Twenty years ago, Robert Putnam theorized that the decline of social organizations would lead to a loss of the "civic capital" necessary to keep a democracy going.
In the election just after Putnam published his book, U.S. presidential turnout was 49 percent. But in 2008 and 2012, it was more than 57 percent, the highest it had been since 1968.
Will the new form be better or worse for society? We don't know.
But the transition is clearly painful. People who have invested a lifetime in a particular church and its congregation are deeply wounded when they must walk away.
People who devoted 40 years to an organization and the personal relationships it created are emotionally stranded when it's all over.
For them, Facebook may be interesting, but it will never be the same.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.