Spread the Love and Stay Off Your iPhones
Modern society is at a deficit. And no, this deficit is not a fault of monetary policy, nor is it a vast government conspiracy to silence the masses. The biggest change of modern history, in contrast to our past, is the shift in normative ethical and moral values.
Many academics have consistently laid the problem down at the age old question of monetary policy; many studies support the hypothesis that American political capital is earned and spent in accordance to the theory of economic voting, in which votes are accumulated with economic policies and conditions.
But perhaps this within itself is an unsubstantiated claim of origination. Too many lingering variables exist outside the paradigm of education and income. Even beyond this, there is plenty of evidence to hint at a confounding situation outside the political pretenses controlled by either Trump or economic policy: social alienation.
Culture, by it’s nature, is intangible. There are, however, empirical indicators of a shift; on the more conservative side, marriage rates are the lowest in generations, even though 69% of millennials report a desire to get married.
A further study by San Diego University found that between 1972 and 2012 the average American adult had become significantly less trusting of media, big business, and governmental institutions. The rising social justice movements on college campuses, and their so called ‘safe spaces’, illuminate this trend. In reality, the rally was behind this notion of cultural crisis, whether it is a conservative view on protecting western society, or a liberal view on globalism. All of these movements trended back towards the same premise: the desire to belong.
This ‘desire to belong’ has culturally encompassed all aspects of life. The advent of the iPhone is the symbol of the paradox of our social reality; connection, a necessity for socializing, has been proven to significantly hamper our ability to socialize.
Social media has compounded this situation. It is now an evident fact that humans are more connected than ever before. But is this connection actually resulting in more true socialization? Empirically, the answer is a solid ‘no.’ Through an analysis of 50,000 online observations, a study from the University of Rome found that access to the internet was correlated to an increase in general social distrust. The reasoning behind this conclusion was startling; the internet, and its related social networks, acted as a form of confirmation bias. This discovery was shocking:
We suggest that the decline in trust may be interpreted as an individual reaction to diversity, which has been found to be a major source of frustration and distrust by empirical studies in 41 [studies]... The conflicting directions of online networks also suggest that Internet usage may be reinforcing the distinction between in-group and out-group relationships, as far as it seems to help individuals to further strengthen their social relationships and to lower their trust in unknown others.
Most of us will sweep these findings aside. After all, why not only socialize with a distinct group of peers, all of whom share your opinion? It’s easier. It’ll create less conflict. But this act also disincentives active market participation; isolated groups of individuals, much like cults, interact only within confined social markets, and this creates immense problems for capital investment and growth.
In an analysis of 29 market economies around the globe, The Quarterly Journal of Economics found that trust and civic cooperation were strongly associated with economic performance.
Robert Putnam, perhaps one of the most esteemed scholars studying these associations, has written that social capital, the principle of studying connections among individuals, is the one of the strongest indicators of healthy economic growth. Putnam further found that credit associations and groups encouraged financial opportunities, with studies finding that 84% of young men used social networks to find employment. Startlingly, Duke University in 2006 found that these connections, in paradox to the logical extension of social media, have begun to shrink.
Empirically, Duke further found that the number of individuals who felt socially isolated had doubled in the past few decades to 25%. The growing disconnect in our society has consequences. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health explains that people who are socially disconnected have a 2 to 5 times increased probability of dying from all causes. Our increasingly divisive attitudes are, most literally, killing us.
So as our holiday season draws nearer, make a friendly gesture. Talk to people around you. Have a party. Play a board game. And maybe, for once in your lives, get off social media, snuggle up with your loved ones, and watch a movie. Because after all, do those retweets really matter?
Follow this author on Twitter: @Kimo_Gandall