Alienated, Alone And Angry: What The Digital Revolution Really Did To Us

In 1997 Wired Magazine ran a feature story titled, "Birth of a Digital Nation". In it, author Jon Katz proclaimed, despite the United States being in the midst of a monumental upswing with a soaring stock market and unprecedented technological developments, was on the cusp of something even bigger - "25 years of prosperity and freedom" largely thanks to "a new social class” of “young, educated, affluent” urbanites whose “business, social and cultural lives increasingly revolve around” the internet". Joseph Bernstein of Buzzfeed argues that the digital revolution in fact alienated us as a country instead of bringing people closer together.

Here is the most alienating fact about the Digital Nation we live in: It incentivizes forms of engagement that make Americans feel less empowered and more alone than ever, to the benefit of very few. It seizes some of the best, noblest human instincts — to share, to know, to connect, to belong — and harnesses them to a degrading system of profit. Anesthetization to these conditions is dangerous. Cynicism and powerlessness are the hallmarks of another form of digital life, an authoritarian one Americans should badly want to avoid.
I wonder, as the US stumbles into a new decade, what kind of groups and communities we’ll form to deal with these feelings of alienation. Alienated people are especially vulnerable to the destructive forms of belonging promised by nationalism and racism. We know where those lead. Among those who can afford it, people may simply pay their way into less alienating online experiences. One thing that gives me a small amount of hope is the recent wave of tech worker organizing. Whatever becomes of it, it’s heartening to witness a group of people who are part of this alienating system attempt to build a movement around solidarity and direct action.


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