The cover story on the current edition of The Atlantic is by Stephen Marche. Marche, a novelist and an Esquire columnist, entitles his article, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” (May 2012, pp. 60-69).
Given the growing awareness about mental health issues coupled with the exponential growth of all things virtual, I think this is an excellent question to entertain. And entertain it, Marche does. Not only do I highly recommend the article to you, but I will devote several of my blog posts to various aspects of it beginning today.
As he sets up his thesis, one of Marche’s most powerful descriptions in the third paragraph of his piece addresses the paradoxes of our social media world:
“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.” (p. 62)
Relentlessly, Marche lays the bleak and despairing picture on the table.
Facebook is an incredibly rich and powerful mechanism for connecting with people for both personal and business reasons. Much good has arisen from it. Sadly, simultaneously, the online landscape has revealed our many human weaknesses, personal character flaws, and psychological challenges. So much good . . . and so much bad.
The world of Facebook presents challenges to us all we must engage. These include personal and professional challenges, ethical and moral challenges, business and societal challenges, and emotional and psychological challenges. We absolutely cannot afford to ignore them.
The powerful front cover illustration of the print edition sums it up—a man and a woman, embracing tightly, while the man is simultaneously staring hypnotically into the smartphone he holds in his hand.
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