Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

All the Lonely People? The Continuing Lament about the Loss of Community

Sun, August 12, 2:30 to 4:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Floor: Level 100, 105AB


When we look back, we find that many generations—perhaps each generation—have feared that community has disappeared. The most recent examples can be found in the response that commentators have had to the rise of social media, mobile phone, and related digital technologies. We trace here the long history of misplaced grieving for supposedly lost community – a fear that has always been misplaced – and examine how communication technologies are now transforming communities into persistent, pervasive networks. Our discussion is largely based on observations about the structure of community in North America and Europe, but our historical account has been observed in many countries. The changes to community structure that we describe likely apply to diverse societal contexts, although at different points in time. Some of the current alarm about the loss of community is in the recognition that the structure of community is changing as technologies change. Another part of the unease comes from a selective perception of the present. There is nostalgia for a perfect pastoral past that never was. This longing for a time when the grass was ever greener dims an awareness of the powerful stresses and cleavages that have always pervaded human society. In people’s haste to bemoan what has been lost and focus on what is absent from contemporary community, they have neglected to recognize those aspects of traditional community that are returning and changing everyday lives.