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Why Millennials Are Lonely
"We’re getting lonelier.

The General Social Survey found that the number of Americans with no close friends has tripled since 1985. “Zero” is the most common number of confidants, reported by almost a quarter of those surveyed. Likewise, the average number of people Americans feel they can talk to about ‘important matters’ has fallen from three to two.

Mysteriously, loneliness appears most prevalent among millennials. I see two compounding explanations.

First, incredibly, loneliness is contagious. A 2009 study using data collected from roughly 5000 people and their offspring from Framingham, Massachusetts since 1948 found that participants are 52% more likely to be lonely if someone they’re directly connected to (such as a friend, neighbor, coworker or family member) is lonely. People who aren’t lonely tend to then become lonelier if they’re around people who are.

Why? Lonely people are less able to pick up on positive social stimuli, like others’ attention and commitment signals, so they withdraw prematurely – in many cases before they’re actually socially isolated. Their inexplicable withdrawal may, in turn, make their close connections feel lonely too. Lonely people also tend to act “in a less trusting and more hostile fashion,” which may further sever social ties and impart loneliness in others.

This is how, as Dr. Nicholas Christakis told the New York Times in a 2009 article on the Framingham findings, one lonely person can “destabilize an entire social network” like a single thread unraveling a sweater.
If you’re lonely, you transmit loneliness, and then you cut the tie or the other person cuts the tie. But now that person has been affected, and they proceed to behave the same way. There is this cascade of loneliness that causes a disintegration of the social network.

Like other contagions, loneliness is bad for you. Lonely adolescents exhibit more social stress compared to not lonely ones. Individuals who feel lonely also have significantly higher Epstein-Barr virus antibodies (the key player in mononucleosis). Lonely women literally feel hungrier. Finally, feeling lonely increases risk of death by 26% and doubles our risk of dying from heart disease.

But if loneliness is inherently contagious, why has it just recently gotten worse?

The second reason for millennial loneliness is the Internet makes it viral. It’s not a coincidence that loneliness began to surge two years after Apple launched its first commercial personal computer and five years before Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.

Ironically, we use the Internet to alleviate our loneliness. Social connection no longer requires a car, phone call or plan – just a click. And it seems to work: World of Warcraft players experience less social anxiety and less loneliness when online than in the real world. The Internet temporarily enhances the social satisfaction and behavior of lonely people, who are more likely to go online when they feel isolated, depressed or anxious.

The Internet provides, as David Brooks wrote in a New York Times column last fall, “a day of happy touch points.”

But the Internet can eventually isolate us and stunt our remaining relationships. Since Robert Putnam’s famous 2000 book Bowling Alone, the breakdown of community and civic society has almost certainly gotten worse. Today, going to a bowling alley alone, Putnam’s central symbol of “social capital deficit,” would actually be definitively social. Instead, we’re “bowling” – and a host of other pseudo-social acts – online.

One reason the Internet makes us lonely is we attempt to substitute real relationships with online relationships. Though we temporarily feel better when we engage others virtually, these connections tend to be superficial and ultimately dissatisfying. Online social contacts are “not an effective alternative for offline social interactions,” sums one study.

In fact, the very presence of technology can hinder genuine offline connection. Simply having a phone nearby caused pairs of strangers to rate their conversation as less meaningful, their conversation partners as less empathetic and their new relationship as less close than strangers with a notebook nearby instead.

Excessive Internet use also increases feelings of loneliness because it disconnects us from the real world. Research shows that lonely people use the Internet to “feel totally absorbed online” – a state that inevitably subtracts time and energy that could otherwise be spent on social activities and building more fulfilling offline friendships.

Further exacerbating our isolation is society’s tendency to ostracize lonely peers. One famous 1965 study found that when monkeys were confined to a solitary isolation chamber called the "pit of despair" and reintroduced to their colony months later, they were shunned and excluded. The Framingham study suggested that humans may also drive away the lonely, so that “feeling socially isolated can lead to one becoming objectively isolated.”

The more isolated we feel, the more we retreat online, forging a virtual escape from loneliness. This is particularly true for my generation, who learned to self-soothe with technology from a young age. It will only become more true as we flock to freelancing and other means of working alone.

In his controversial 1970 book The Pursuit of Loneliness, sociologist Phillip Slater coined the “Toilet Assumption”: our belief that undesirable feelings and social realities will “simply disappear if we ignore them.” Slater argued that America’s individualism and, in turn, our loneliness, “is rooted in the attempt to deny the reality of human interdependence.” The Internet is perhaps the best example to date of our futile attempt to flush away loneliness.

Instead, we’re stuck with a mounting pile of infectious isolation."
online  internet  socialmedia  loneliness  2017  isolation  social  phillipslater  1970  1965  contagion  psychology  technology  smartphones  robertputnam  2000  web  nicholaschristakis  trust  hostility 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People | The American Conservative
"My grandma (Mamaw) recognized this instinctively. She said that most people were probably prejudiced, but they had to be secretive about it. “We”–meaning hillbillies–“are the only group of people you don’t have to be ashamed to look down upon.” During my final year at Yale Law, I took a small class with a professor I really admired (and still do). was the only veteran in the class, and when this came up somehow in conversation, a young woman looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you were in the Marines. You just seem so nice. I thought that people in the military had to act a certain way.” It was incredibly insulting, and it was my first real introduction to the idea that this institution that was so important among my neighbors was looked down upon in such a personal way. To this lady, to be in the military meant that you had to be some sort of barbarian.



"At the same time, the hostility between the working class and the elites is so great that there will always be some wariness toward those who go to the other side. And can you blame them? A lot of these people know nothing but judgment and condescension from those with financial and political power, and the thought of their children acquiring that same hostility is noxious. It may just be the sort of value we have to live with.

The odd thing is, the deeper I get into elite culture, the more I see value in this reverse snobbery. It’s the great privilege of my life that I’m deep enough into the American elite that I can indulge a little anti-elitism. Like I said, it keeps you grounded, if nothing else! But it would have been incredibly destructive to indulge too much of it when I was 18.



the point that the meta-narrative of the 2016 election is learned helplessness as a political value. We’re no longer a country that believes in human agency, and as a formerly poor person, I find it incredibly insulting. To hear Trump or Clinton talk about the poor, one would draw the conclusion that they have no power to affect their own lives. Things have been done to them, from bad trade deals to Chinese labor competition, and they need help. And without that help, they’re doomed to lives of misery they didn’t choose.

Obviously, the idea that there aren’t structural barriers facing both the white and black poor is ridiculous. Mamaw recognized that our lives were harder than rich white people, but she always tempered her recognition of the barriers with a hard-noses willfulness: “never be like those a–holes who think the deck is stacked against them.” In hindsight, she was this incredibly perceptive woman. She recognized the message my environment had for me, and she actively fought against it.

There’s good research on this stuff. Believing you have no control is incredibly destructive, and that may be especially true when you face unique barriers. The first time I encountered this idea was in my exposure to addiction subculture, which is quite supportive and admirable in its own way, but is full of literature that speaks about addiction as a disease. If you spend a day in these circles, you’ll hear someone say something to the effect of, “You wouldn’t judge a cancer patient for a tumor, so why judge an addict for drug use.” This view is a perfect microcosm of the problem among poor Americans. On the one hand, the research is clear that there are biological elements to addiction–in that way, it does mimic a disease. On the other hand, the research is also clear that people who believe their addiction is a biologically mandated disease show less ability to resist it. It’s this awful catch-22, where recognizing the true nature of the problem actually hinders the ability to overcome.

Interestingly, both in my conversations with poor blacks and whites, there’s a recognition of the role of better choices in addressing these problems. The refusal to talk about individual agency is in some ways a consequence of a very detached elite, one too afraid to judge and consequently too handicapped to really understand. At the same time, poor people don’t like to be judged, and a little bit of recognition that life has been unfair to them goes a long way. Since Hillbilly Elegy came out, I’ve gotten so many messages along the lines of: “Thank you for being sympathetic but also honest.”

I think that’s the only way to have this conversation and to make the necessary changes: sympathy and honesty. It’s not easy, especially in our politically polarized world, to recognize both the structural and the cultural barriers that so many poor kids face. But I think that if you don’t recognize both, you risk being heartless or condescending, and often both.



[to liberals:] stop pretending that every problem is a structural problem, something imposed on the poor from the outside. I see a significant failure on the Left to understand how these problems develop. They see rising divorce rates as the natural consequence of economic stress. Undoubtedly, that’s partially true. Some of these family problems run far deeper. They see school problems as the consequence of too little money (despite the fact that the per pupil spend in many districts is quite high), and ignore that, as a teacher from my hometown once told me, “They want us to be shepherds to these kids, but they ignore that many of them are raised by wolves.” Again, they’re not all wrong: certainly some schools are unfairly funded. But there’s this weird refusal to deal with the poor as moral agents in their own right. In some cases, the best that public policy can do is help people make better choices, or expose them to better influences through better family policy (like my Mamaw).

There was a huge study that came out a couple of years ago, led by the Harvard economist Raj Chetty. He found that two of the biggest predictors of low upward mobility were 1) living in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty and 2) growing up in a neighborhood with a lot of single mothers. I recall that some of the news articles about the study didn’t even mention the single mother conclusion. That’s a massive oversight! Liberals have to get more comfortable with dealing with the poor as they actually are. I admire their refusal to look down on the least among us, but at some level, that can become an excuse to never really look at the problem at all.



Well, I think it’s important to point out that Christianity, in the quirky way I’ve experienced it, was really important to me, too. For my dad, the way he tells it is that he was a hard partier, he drank a lot, and didn’t have a lot of direction. His Christian faith gave him focus, forced him to think hard about his personal choices, and gave him a community of people who demanded, even if only implicitly, that he act a certain way. I think we all understate the importance of moral pressure, but it helped my dad, and it has certainly helped me! There’s obviously a more explicitly religious argument here, too. If you believe as I do, you believe that the Holy Spirit works in people in a mysterious way. I recognize that a lot of secular folks may look down on that, but I’d make one important point: that not drinking, treating people well, working hard, and so forth, requires a lot of willpower when you didn’t grow up in privilege. That feeling–whether it’s real or entirely fake–that there’s something divine helping you and directing your mind and body, is extraordinarily powerful.

General Chuck Krulak, a former commandant of the Marine Corps, once said that the most important thing the Corps does for the country is “win wars and make Marines.” I didn’t understand that statement the first time I heard it, but for a kid like me, the Marine Corps was basically a four-year education in character and self-management. The challenges start small–running two miles, then three, and more. But they build on each other. If you have good mentors (and I certainly did), you are constantly given tasks, yelled at for failing, advised on how not to fail next time, and then given another try. You learn, through sheer repetition, that you can do difficult things. And that was quite revelatory for me. It gave me a lot of self-confidence. If I had learned helplessness from my environment back home, four years in the Marine Corps taught me something quite different.



After so many years of Republican politicians refusing to even talk about factory closures, Trump’s message is an oasis in the desert. But of course he spent way too much time appealing to people’s fears, and he offered zero substance for how to improve their lives. It was Trump at his best and worst.

My biggest fear with Trump is that, because of the failures of the Republican and Democratic elites, the bar for the white working class is too low. They’re willing to listen to Trump about rapist immigrants and banning all Muslims because other parts of his message are clearly legitimate. A lot of people think Trump is just the first to appeal to the racism and xenophobia that were already there, but I think he’s making the problem worse.

The other big problem I have with Trump is that he has dragged down our entire political conversation. It’s not just that he inflames the tribalism of the Right; it’s that he encourages the worst impulses of the Left. In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from so many of my elite friends some version of, “Trump is the racist leader all of these racist white people deserve.” These comments almost always come from white progressives who know literally zero culturally working class Americans. And I’m always left thinking: if this is the quality of thought of a Harvard Law graduate, then our society is truly doomed. In a world of Trump, we’ve abandoned the pretense of persuasion. The November election strikes me as little more than a referendum on whose tribe is bigger."
donaldtrump  us  elections  2016  politics  poverty  roddreher  jdvance  agency  personalagency  race  economics  policy  optimism  bias  hostility  elitism  tribalism  progressives  liberals  resilience  military  christianity  structure  discipline  willpower  mentors  self-management  character  education  society  class  judgement  condescension  helplessness  despair  learnedhelplessness  sympathy  honesty  rajchetty  snobbery  complexity 
july 2016 by robertogreco
From park bench to lab bench - What kind of future are we designing? | Ruha Benjamin | TEDxBaltimore - YouTube
"From Park Bench to Lab Bench: What kind of future are we designing? - Ruha challenges biases inherent to modern scientific research.

Ruha is on the faculty at Princeton University. Her work examines the relationship between innovation & equity, science & citizenship, health & justice."
ruhabenjamin  design  equity  innovation  citizenship  civics  justice  socialjustice  society  2015  discrimination  hostility  benches  furniture  publicspace  privatization  urbanism  urban  discriminatorydesign  housing  publicsafety  education  policy  politics  loitering  homelessness  henriettalacks 
april 2016 by robertogreco
How masks explain the psychology behind online haras...
"Every human culture has used masks for ritual disinhibition, shaming and play. Is being online the ultimate masquerade?"



"Everywhere there are masks, we find this pattern of transgression. In medieval Venice, where masks were common fashion accessories, various laws testify to their anarchic tendencies. Masks were subject to a curfew, and could not be worn after dark. Mask-wearers were prohibited from carrying weapons or entering a church, and men were forbidden to wear masks in a convent. A law from 1268 forbids the apparently common practice of putting on a mask and throwing eggs full of rose water at ladies.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the fashion for mask-wearing spread to women all over Europe. Typically made of silk and velvet, these masks were first popularised as a means of protecting one’s complexion from the sun – and one’s modesty from the gaze of impertinent men. But women soon realised that masks also protected one’s identity, and began to wear them when they were up to no good. Sometimes, that just meant attending the theatre – frowned upon because of the indecency of the performances, and the audience. But a mask also allowed a lady to flirt outrageously without losing her reputation, and was an indispensable accessory when sneaking off to an assignation. In short, as soon as people put on masks they begin to violate social norms.

In psychology, this effect is known as ‘disinhibition’, and there’s a rich research literature on masks as disinhibiting props. In a typical experiment in 1976, researchers at Western Illinois University paid students to walk around their campus cafeteria carrying a banner reading: ‘Masturbation is fun.’ Students who were allowed to wear a ski mask were willing to do it for an average of $29.98, while bare-faced students demanded almost twice as much. A 1979 study at Purdue University found that trick-or-treating children, when left alone with a bowl of candy and told to take just one piece, were significantly more likely to grab a handful if their costumes included masks. This was true even when they had already told the researchers their names.

Identical patterns appear when people interact online. In the article ‘The Online Disinhibition Effect’ (2004), the psychologist John Suler at Rider University in New Jersey distinguishes benign disinhibition (a tendency for people to be more open when communicating virtually) from toxic disinhibition. A study in 2000 for the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that people reported more drug use when questionnaires were administered by computer instead of in person. In research published in 1996 by scientists at the National Opinion Research Center in Chicago established that, when dealing with a computer (as opposed to a human interviewer), male respondents report having fewer sexual partners – and women more. Various other researchers, including Adam Joinson in Bristol and Joseph Walther at Cornell, have found that people disclose more personal information chatting online, as opposed to speaking face-to-face. These are all positive examples of the liberating influence of online masking. As Suler notes: ‘Hostile words in a chat encounter could be a therapeutic breakthrough for some people.’

But online life is also riddled with toxic disinhibition. A Pew survey in 2014 found that 40 per cent of adult internet users reported being harassed online. Most harassment consisted of insults and verbal humiliation, but 8 per cent of respondents said they’d experienced physical threats, and 7 per cent had been the targets of a sustained campaign of harassment. The problem is much worse among young people: 70 per cent of those aged 18-24 claimed to be victims of online harassment. A Johns Hopkins University study in 2007 found that 64 per cent of bullied children were exclusively attacked online. That is, many children who were habitual bullies on social media would completely refrain from this behaviour when meeting their victims in person.

The uncomfortable message is that online mask-wearing doesn’t just conceal one’s identity, it transforms it – just as with ritual mask-wearers possessed by unruly gods. These effects are strongly amplified by a sense of the activity as separate from ‘real’ life. Suler calls this phenomenon ‘dissociative imagination’, commenting: ‘people may feel that the imaginary characters they “created” exist in a different space, that one’s online persona… [inhabits] a make-believe dimension, separate and apart from the demands and responsibilities of the real world.’"



"Updated and transferred online, both the masked avenger and the Schandmaske reappear in the phenomenon of internet shaming, where a crowd of strangers come together to punish someone, usually for an offensive statement. These campaigns can quickly escalate from insults to death threats, and almost always include demands that the target be fired from their job – demands that are often gratified by intimidated employers. Targets are also ‘doxxed’, meaning that their personal details are published online – a practice that combines the symbolic unmasking of the lucha libre wrestler with the implied threat of real-world violence. Most of the aggressors are masked by anonymity. All are operating in the world of the computer screen, where the consequences of actions – losing one’s livelihood for a single off-colour joke – can be seen as symbolic, not quite real.

An essential part of internet shaming is that the target is reduced to a single definition: they are made to wear the mask of the Sexist or the Racist (or the Angry Feminist or the Race-Baiter). Then, just as with the medieval Scold’s Bridle, a mob gathers to throw filth and insults at the idea represented by the mask. The other qualities of its wearer, and the suffering they experience, remain out of sight, and mind.

These considerations might make both masks and online communication seem dangerous and uncanny; a thing we would be well-advised to avoid, since much of our social life has overtones of a mask experience. We go to work and wear a professional mask, then come home and adopt a parental mask. We even have specific personas that go with individual friends. As Johnstone writes:
We don’t realise that much of our lives is spent in some form of trance, ie absorbed. What we assume to be ‘normal consciousness’ is actually quite rare, it’s like the light in the refrigerator: when you look in, there you are ON, but what’s happening when you don’t look in?

These mask states have a purpose. Role-playing provides us with a suite of shortcuts, facilitating behaviours that might feel false or embarrassing to our ‘true’ selves (think of making polite small talk, or singing nonsense songs to a three-year-old). When people see us in terms of these masks, we’re mostly content to let them do so. We do not interrupt business meetings by saying: ‘Hold on – I also have a range of tender emotions’, or break into a romantic moment by saying: ‘These clichéd endearments don’t fit very well with my usual idea of myself.’ And in fact, the self might just be an agglomeration of masks, of all the roles we play, including the roles we play in private fantasies; a personal Mardi Gras that parades multifariously through our lives.

So the point is not that we should always be our ‘true’ selves – an aim that is probably impossible, and certainly impractical. Instead, we should learn to understand the power of the masks we wear. We should cultivate an awareness of when we’re being unduly ‘possessed’ by them, and practise the invaluable skill of tearing them off in a timely fashion. We should resist any angry impulse to pick up a mask that carries a streak of sadism. When others are trying to impose a ‘punishment mask’ on someone else, we should have the courage to intervene. Above all, we should remember that, behind the masked figures that surround us, there are people as vulnerable, fallible, as real as ourselves."
sandranewman  masks  online  web  internet  behavior  disinhibition  shaming  play  bullying  culture  anonymity  hooliganism  responsibility  identity  vandalism  psychology  johnsuler  benigndisinhibition  toxicdisinhibition  adamjoinson  josephwalther  masking  hostility  harassment  socialmedia  transgression  dissociativeimagination  personas  onlinepersonas  luchalibre  mexico  humiliation  superheroes  comics  sadism  mardigras  carnaval  self 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Have you ever come across a description of someone and thought, "If I could do ANY thing, be ANY way, this is it"? - what what
"EB White, writer of what are almost certainly the best pig stories ever put to paper*, was once described as exemplifying “eloquence without affectation, profundity without pomposity, and wit without frivolity or hostility” - as well as “creative, humane and graceful.”

I don’t know that it gets any better than this.

* Death of a Pig (1948) and Charlotte’s Web (1952)"
ebwhite  writing  pigs  affectation  eloquence  profundity  pomposity  wit  frivolity  hostility  grace  humanity  creativity  aspiration  annegalloway  2013 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Boredom Can Fuel Hostility Toward Outsiders - Miller-McCune
"New research explains how feelings of boredom can both strengthen solidarity within your in-group and heighten hostility toward outsiders."

[via: http://stevemiranda.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/fascinating-study-on-the-impact-of-boredom-on-peoples-behavior/ ]
boredom  hostility  meaning  meaninglessness  2011  research 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Stanley Kubrick - Wikiquote
"The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light."
stanleykubrick  universe  darkeness  meaning  fulfillment  indifference  life  humanity  human  quotes  hostility  existence 
december 2009 by robertogreco

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