Question: Is America suffering from a loneliness pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has both revealed and underscored underlying fault lines and fissures in American society. The pandemic’s impact has been exacerbated by the fact that Americans are living in a society tormented by unprecedented levels of loneliness.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States from 2014-2017, has written a new book, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World. Dr. Murthy, the “nation’s doctor,” was stunned to discover just how desperately “lonely” and “isolated” large numbers of Americans felt. Dr. Murthy began his tenure as Surgeon General by embarking on a nationwide fact-finding listening tour. He found the results of his research very unsettling. The issue that most resonated prevalently among the American population was a crippling sense of emotional isolation, even in densely populated urban areas.
Why would this be? One major reason is the breakdown of the “mediating” institutions in American society — the family, the church, social service organizations, etc. For instance, American adults are living alone now more than ever before in our history. The nation was forewarned about these alarming developments and the dire consequences that would ensue unless drastic action was taken. In 2003 the Commission on Children at Risk issued a report (Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities, A Report to the Nation from the Commission on Children at Risk, sponsored by the YMCA of the USA, Dartmouth Medical School and the Institute for American Values [New York: Institute for American Values, 2003].)
This report addressed the then burgeoning “connection crisis.” The report presented extensive scientific evidence that the human brain is hard-wired for two fundamental kinds of connections: horizontally in close relationship with other human beings and vertically in finding moral and spiritual meaning through a relationship with a transcendent divine being. The report went on to warn that if American society continued to ignore this “hard-wiring” in human brains, the consequences would be dire.
We are now witnessing a generation later the consequences on the adults those then adolescents have now become. This prevailing sense of loneliness is greatly exacerbated by the ubiquitous presence of the internet. People are seeking the human social connections their psyches crave online, and that is akin to seeking to substitute cotton candy for a nutritious diet — it may taste good and momentarily satisfy your hunger, but you end up with severe emotional malnutrition.
Christians should not be surprised by these disturbing developments. God reveals to us in Holy Scripture that He created us as “social” beings — created for vertical fellowship with Him and horizontal relationship with each other. At the very beginning, even before the calamitous impact of the Fall on human nature and the creation itself, God declared, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Richard D. Land