Monday, September 29, 2008

Human Contact, Community and Discontentment

It is a well establish fact that isolation from others is extremely stressful biochemically to human beings. One of the ironies of technology is that it has always been presented with the promise that is will lead to increased human contact and connectedness. It hasn't really fulfilled on that promise.

I've come across a few interesting discussions on the subjects of human contact and contentment. Below are links and a few summarized points from each.

WNYC's Radio Lab episode on the subject of "Contact".

Some interesting points in the segment of the program with Robert Putnam of Harvard University: From about 1900 on, American's involvement in social organizations (Scouts, Church, PTA, Moose Club) increased. Sometime in the late 60's or early 70's the trend reversed and participation began to decrease. Even drinking in local bars decreased 35%. During this same period of time levels of trust of others decreased.

Your chances of dying in the next 12 months are cut in half by joining 1 social group.

KERA's Think podcast: American Discontent in the New Millennium. Episode description: As Americans, most of us live comfortable, safe, free and long lives. So why are many of us so unhappy and angry at the rest of our fellow citizens? We'll talk this hour with Dick Meyer, editorial director of digital media at NPR and author of the new book Why We Hate Us

The promise of technology to connect us to one another hasn't really panned out. People in general feel more lonely and isolated. One of the ways that this has been measured is by surveying how many confidants people have in their lives. From the early 1980's to the early 2000's the number of people reporting to have 0 or only 1 confidant has doubled.

In the interview the author also discusses the 60's "me" generations idealism and how it subsequently transformed into a form of narcissism. I've been ranting a bit lately how I believe that the baby boomer generation is responsible for the downfall of America. Dick Meyer seems to agree with me on this. He describes their lack of ethical and moral moorings as resulting from their rejection of their parents and grandparents values and institution and their failure to replace them with anything meaningful.

I will end with a clip of Marshall McLuhan on "The Global Village".


Nixta said...

That reminds me of the National Geographic show on Elephant Rage that they rebroadcast the other day.

One hypothesis, broadly borne out through remedial experiments, is that the widespread population control of elephants involving the killing of older males has left them without a dominant male (why don't they just say "father figure"?).

When groups of elephants that are angry and prone to attacking have an older stable male introduced, the behaviour (which suddenly seems little more than petulant) disappears.

Thomas Sherman said...

to quote spock... "fascinating"