Americans are more divorced than ever, and less churched than ever. The sociologist Robert Putnam chronicled the new American loneliness in his book Bowling Alone, which shows the declining trends of membership in all social organizations, from labor unions to PTAs to fraternal organizations to volunteering with the Boy Scouts and the Red Cross. Putnam mostly blames technology and its atomization forces — and the book was written nearly two decades ago, a positive dark age compared to today’s attention-sucking technologies.
A 2014 study by the National Science Foundation found that one in four Americans (one in four!) said they have no one with whom they can talk about their personal troubles or triumphs; the number doubles to more than half of Americans if immediate family is not counted. Read that again.
And you know what one of the most common consequences of persistent loneliness is? Distrust of outsiders — which is everyone when you’re lonely. That distrust can quickly and easily shade into anger.
A lot of people talk about Trump’s white working-class base (it’s so nice that the American intelligentsia finally noticed their existence), and analyze either their immiseration or their alleged prejudice, both of which are important issues. But it should also be noted that it’s among this cohort that the trend toward loneliness is most profound, as an important article in The Atlantic recounts.