The Desperate Loneliness of Social Media

by Robert E. Wright
The American Institute for Economic Research

Too long forgotten in the musty corners of academe, the classics of postwar social science can help to illuminate our own less-than-sane times. The Lonely Crowd (1950) is yet another work (previous posts cover The True Believer and the experiments of Stanley Milgram and other social psychologists) that tried to figure out what went wrong with the world between 1914 and 1945.

Sociologist David Riesman (1909-2002) was the main author but sociologist Nathan Glazer and poet Reuel Denney also contributed.

None of the trio (hereafter RGD) were libertarian but all were known for solid scholarship. RGD identified three main social personality types: tradition-, inner-, and other-directed. In the messy real world, nobody completely fits into any of those categories but the typical behaviors of many people fit into one of the three and RGD saw the other-directed personality trait gaining ascendance in mid-century America.

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