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Americans are Feeling More Lonely and Isolated than Ever

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

Last week, The American Spectator published a fascinating article by Janice Shaw Crouse linked here and entitled “The Loneliness of American Society I highly recommend you read it.

I don’t think there can be any doubt that Americans feel more isolated than ever before, despite (and perhaps because of) the explosion of communications technology and social media that allow us easy but fleeting access to others through cyberspace and mobile phones. The General Social Survey has also noted that our trust in our fellow human beings has been steadily eroding. In 1972 about a half of all respondents agreed with the statement: “you can’t be too careful when dealing with others.” Today, two thirds agree. My guess is that this number will continue to climb unless the culture changes for the better. The consequences of this to our health as a society are not good.

This past week the news was dominated by the insane actions of a young man who went on a killing spree at the University of California Santa Barbara. Why? He gave some crazy reasons in his “Manifesto,” but the bottom line was that he was lonely. He felt rejected, isolated, separated from his fellow human beings. In his misery and confusion, he claimed humanity was his enemy.

Most of us can see that his view of reality was distorted and twisted. But his feelings were his feelings, even if he was detached from reality. Amanda Todd — the teenager who committed suicide two years ago after being mercilessly treated as subhuman by her peers — suffered bullying in a way the Santa Barbara killer seemed only to imagine. Yet both pleaded loneliness as a motive for their acts of destruction. Prior to her suicide Amanda Todd posted a video on Youtube in which she told her story and said she had nobody to talk to and nobody would be her friend in school.

Crouse addresses the tragedy of disconnected youth in her American Spectator article:

“Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests that “we are raising a generation of children who are orphans in time.” He laments that today’s generation of young people is “incapable of integrating their past and their future … [living] instinctively in an almost animal-like fashion only in the present.” He notes that it is virtually impossible, then, to connect time and space in a way that enables them to build their “present.” Thus, they wander aimlessly about without connections — physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

What we really want as human beings is to be known by others, and especially to share. But we don’t always understand what sharing means. Crouse continues:

“In the best of circumstances, sharing is not simple; it is a complex combination of conflicting factors. On the one hand, we have an innate need to be known and understood; the desire to be open and vulnerable with others is too strong in some and too weak in others. On the other hand, we need the freedom to control our lives and particularly our personal or emotional space. But the self-centeredness that results from a culture dominated by the values of radical individualism is not a pretty thing; it does not contribute to the maturing of individuals, the strengthening of family, the growth of friendship, or the development of communities.”

We seem to be caught in a maze of our own making. Groupthink, the herd mentality, commericialism, and phony celebrity culture only make things worse. All is bait that look like palliatives for loneliness, but only dig us in deeper. More people than ever before are alienated and hurting. The only solution is to de-cocoon ourselves and show love and concern to those hurting around us. And to teach others to do the same. It’s not always an easy thing, because reaching out in real friendship requires that we step outside of ourselves and try to see the world through the eyes of others. But that’s the only way to build a true sense of community in which people can establish bonds of trust that allow all to function with dignity.

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