We are now in the middle of a long period of shuffling away. In his 2000 book Bowling Alone, Robert D. Putnam attributed the dramatic post-war decline of social capital—the strength and value of interpersonal networks—to numerous interconnected trends in American life: suburban sprawl, television’s dominance over culture, the self-absorption of the Baby Boomers, the disintegration of the traditional family. The trends he observed continued through the prosperity of the aughts, and have only become more pronounced with time: the rate of union membership declined in 2011, again; screen time rose; the Masons and the Elks continued their slide into irrelevance. We are lonely because we want to be lonely. We have made ourselves lonely.
The question of the future is this: Is Facebook part of the separating or part of the congregating; is it a huddling-together for warmth or a shuffling-away in pain?
Well before Facebook, digital technology was enabling our tendency for isolation, to an unprecedented degree. Back in the 1990s, scholars started calling the contradiction between an increased opportunity to connect and a lack of human contact the “Internet paradox....”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Children History Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
Posted April 16, 2012 at 6:57 am
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