Another research rebuts the cyberspace-makes-us-lonely meme.
Claude Fischer breaks it down:
- We tend to make more connections through digital tech: "People using the Internet, most studies show, increase the volume of their meaningful social contacts."
- We use those connections to intensify relationships: "People use new media largely to enhance their existing relationships—say, by sending pictures to grandma... people tell researchers that electronic media have enriched their personal relationships."
- We don't lose offline friends to online simulacra: "E-communications do not generally replace in-person contact."
- We sometimes use the net to meet folks for like: "a forthcoming study shows that many more Americans are meeting life partners online."
A key point is that not only doesn't technology cause loneliness, but loneliness itself is not on the rise.
Americans are not discernibly more isolated—few were isolated at any point in those decades—and Americans remain just as confident of the support family and friends provide. [emphasis in original]
Loneliness is a social problem because lonely people suffer. But it’s not a growing problem.
For Americans, it's an old worry, in fact:
The 1950s—the era of large families, crowded churches, and schmoozing suburbanites—brought us hand-wringing books such as Man Alone: Alienation in Modern Society and the best-selling The Lonely Crowd, which landed author David Reisman on the cover of Time magazine. About a half-century before that, policymakers were worrying about the loneliness of America’s farmers, and observers were attributing a rising suicide rate to the loneliness of immigrants or to modernity in general. And so on, ever back in time. Noted historian Page Smith described colonial Americans’ “cosmic loneliness” and the upset stomachs and alcoholism that resulted. Americans have either been getting lonelier since time immemorial or worrying about it since then.