The man in the Google Glasses

The Man in the Google Glasses lives alone, in a drab, impersonal apartment. He meets a friend for coffee, but the video cuts away from this live interaction, leaping ahead to the moment when he snaps a photo of some “cool” graffiti and shares it online. He has a significant other, but she’s far enough away that when sunset arrives, he climbs up on a roof and shares it with her via video, while she grins from a window at the bottom of his field of vision.

He is, in other words, a characteristic 21st-century American, more electronically networked but more personally isolated than ever before. As the N.Y.U. sociologist Eric Klinenberg notes in “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone,” there are now more Americans living by themselves than there are Americans in intact nuclear-family households. Children are much more likely to grow up with only a single parent in the home; adults marry less and divorce relatively frequently; seniors are more likely to face old age alone. And friendship, too, seems to be attenuating: a 2006 Duke University study found that Americans reported having, on average, three people with whom they discussed important issues in 1985, but just two by the mid-2000s…

Today, social media are hailed for empowering dissidents and undercutting tyrannies around the world. Yet it’s hard not to watch the Google video and agree with Forbes’s Kashmir Hill when she suggests that such a technology could ultimately “accelerate the arrival of the persistent and pervasive citizen surveillance state,” in which everything you see and do can be recorded, reported, subpoenaed … you name it.