One of the objectives of developing suburbs around towns was to get people to buy more stuff. Unfortunately, it worked rather too well. While I wouldn’t wish to blame suburbs entirely for the break down of community, they did help release the brakes on the juggernaut of conspicuous consumption which is used by many people today to fill the emotional voids they find around them. Apparently, 25% of Americans say they don’t have anyone to confide in.
Following on from my earlier post about being Depressed and disconnected, I was wondering if the explosion of social networks will help to reconnect people and build sustainable communities or whether the popularity of social networks is just another example of conspicuous consumption. Take Facebook for example. What motivates someone to join dozens of groups, add dozens of applications to their profiles and have lists of ‘friends’ running into the hundreds? Is it a desire to be connected or just more conspicuous consumption? How does it feel to land on a profile page that is 3 ft long? Does it feel good … do you want to be the person’s friend … does it make you feel envious and/or inadequate?
It is well understood that happy lives are full of human interaction … does social network activity constitute ‘human interaction’ … does having an active Facebook profile make you a happier person?
As an aside, since we’ve set up a world that ‘feeds’ itself emotionally by buying stuff, how can we expect to control global warming – the byproduct of that feeding frenzy – without first filling the emotional voids in our lives with something more nourishing than consumer goods? Surely we can’t fix the environmental ecology without fixing the social ecology too.