Social media—from Facebook to Twitter—have made us more densely networked than ever. Yet for all this connectivity, new research suggests that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic)—and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill. A report on what the epidemic of loneliness is doing to our souls and our society.
[ ]….Over the past three decades, technology has delivered to us a world in which we need not be out of contact for a fraction of a moment. In 2010, at a cost of $300 million, 800 miles of fiber-optic cable was laid between the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange to shave three milliseconds off trading times. Yet within this world of instant and absolute communication, unbounded by limits of time or space, we suffer from unprecedented alienation. We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier. In a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society. We live in an accelerating contradiction: the more connected we become, the lonelier we are. We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information.
Hasn’t being with other people always been a trade-off. In the best circumstances you get human warmth, sympathy, sometimes emotional intimacy, fun, shared experiences that become the nostalgic memories of old age. We also give up part of ourselves. We sacrifice part of who we are in order to establish some peace, some agree-ability. There are always a few that thrive on conflict, but most of us do not like contentious relationships. Even among our closest friends sometimes our moods or priorities don’t match. There was or never should have been an expectation that the internet would smooth out the complications that follow any sustained interactions with others.
We know intuitively that loneliness and being alone are not the same thing. Solitude can be lovely. Crowded parties can be agony. We also know, thanks to a growing body of research on the topic, that loneliness is not a matter of external conditions; it is a psychological state. A 2005 analysis of data from a longitudinal study of Dutch twins showed that the tendency toward loneliness has roughly the same genetic component as other psychological problems such as neuroticism or anxiety.
I’m not so sure about the basic thesis that we’re lonelier than ever or that loneliness per se is something we need to work on. It can be debilitating at its worse, yet the average amount might be something to embrace. Privately, aspects of our lives like loneliness, lack of popularity ( she also touches on shallowness) have always been part of the human experience. It has always been the case that publicly one did not go around professing loneliness. That was fine to express in a novel, poem or song lyric, but public confessions of loneliness implied a flaw, a lack of virtue even. You must lack some inner strength, some quality of character or perhaps lack of faith, if you are lonely. This went hand in hand with the pressure to walk around like a perpetually happy clown. If you were unhappy you must not possess the kind of mind set that makes for happiness. Though you could be as tragically unhappy as you like in your plays, biography or other artistic expression. The more tragic and unhappy, almost the better. You served society’s need for socially acceptable catharsis.
Why did they send me so far and so lonely,
Up where the moors spread and grey rocks are piled?
Men are hard-hearted, and kind angels only
Watch o’er the steps of a poor orphan child. – Charlotte Bronte. Jane Eyre, Chapter 3.
And he broke into a long string of complaints. When he accepted the post of manager, he understood that he would have been allowed to reside in Paris, and not be forced to bury himself in this country district, far from his friends, deprived of newspapers. No matter! he had overlooked all that. But Arnoux appeared to pay no heed to his merits. He was, moreover, shallow and retrograde—no one could be more ignorant. – Gustave Flaubert. Sentimental Education, Chapter 9.
My father’s impulses, never under his own controul, perpetually led him into
difficulties from which his ingenuity alone could extricate him; and the
accumulating pile of debts of honour and of trade, which would have bent to
earth any other, was supported by him with a light spirit and tameless
hilarity; while his company was so necessary at the tables and assemblies
of the rich, that his derelictions were considered venial, and he himself
received with intoxicating flattery. (shallowness and self delusions) Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. The Last Man, Chapter 1.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. – William Wordsworth. I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.
For the photo illustrations for this week’s profile of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, we asked Louis-Dreyfus to channel Audrey Hepburn — but with a twist. You’ll notice that in each of the three film publicity stills we recreated — from “Funny Face,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and “Charade” — something is awry. The idea was to put Louis-Dreyfus in these iconic poses that she (comically) can’t quite pull off.
I cannot post those photos here for obvious reasons, but I do have an original of Audrey Hepburn.
The AFL-CIO has released its CEO Paywatch with 2011 data. So how do CEOs stack up against ordinary workers? Well, the average CEO of a company on the S&P 500 Index earned 380 times the average American worker’s wage, with average CEO pay having increased 13.9 percent in 2011
CEOs in a merit based society such as ours work 380 times harder? Intelligence – by way of technical, scientific or management skills have value in a merit based economy. Thus these 380 people are the smartest people in the nation?
Factory Child Bean Stringers 1909. If we could only get rid of child labor laws, environmental laws, get rid of health and safety regulations, just get gov’mint outa our lives – the USA could return the paradise we once were.
This piece is composed by Harold Arlen, arranged by Benny Carter (1942), transcribed by Dick Domek and was performed live by the University of Kentucky Jazz Ensemble directed by Miles Osland at the 2007 UK Band Spectacular. It features Angie Ortega on alto saxophone.