We Are Alone Together

“A world without shared meanings is one in which it is easy to feel lost. Anomie, it seems to me, aptly describes the state we inhabit today: a world of relativism, non-judgementalism, subjectivity, autonomy, individual rights, and self-esteem. The gains of this long process have been many, but the loss, too, has been profound. The revolutionary shift from ‘We’ to ‘I’ means that everything that once consecrated the moral bonds binding us to one another – faith, creed, culture, custom and convention – no longer does so. The energy now localised in the ‘I’ has been diverted from family, congregation and community, all of which have now grown weak, leaving us vulnerable and alone. An individualistic universe may be free but it is fraught with loneliness, isolation, vulnerability and nihilism, a prevailing sense of the ultimate meaninglessness of life. We are, in the title of Sherry Turkle’s book, Alone Together. That is the price of radical individualism, massively accelerated by smartphones, social media and the loss of contexts in which we form enduring moral commitments. Everything has become immediate, transactional and presentational. We hide behind our profile and become the masks we wear.”

Morality, Chapter 5, p. 85