Why the “virtual village” doesn’t exist.
What happens when we enter a world of constant connection—a world in which technology infiltrates nearly every moment of our waking existence? “We all feel the porcupine quill of constant contact, the irritant of ever presence, and long to escape, if only for a moment,” Rabbi David Wolpe writes for TIME Magazine. But Wolpe also believes that, in a sense, this new form of constant connection is just an echo of past forms:
People tired of living in villages, where everyone knew everyone’s business and where there was no privacy or space. So, we built large, anonymous cities with ample rooms and deliberate neglect of others. Finding that such space parched our souls, we began to devise technological ways to bring us closer, from texting to tinder. Now, back in the virtual village, we are too close, and long for the space that we had just two decades ago.
Wolpe is right to note the role that urban disconnect and division has played in driving people apart, and the way in which it’s led to increased technology use. Many Americans live in an extremely atomistic space: whether we commute to jobs far from home, live far from family and friends, rent space in an apartment complex full of people we don’t know, or go to a mega-church filled with unfamiliar faces—many of us could report feelings of disconnected, loneliness, isolation.
But I think there’s a problem with comparing the closeness of the social media era with the community we might have seen in villages (or small-town communities) past.
Featured columnist Gracy Olmstead is a senior writer for The American Conservative, a senior contributor for The Federalist, and the Thursday editor of BRIGHT, a weekly newsletter for women. Her writings can also be found at The Week, Christianity Today, Acculturated, The University Bookman, and Catholic Rural Life.