The New Era of Social Isolationism

Well, it’s official.  If we didn’t already know it for a fact, this recent New York Times business story predicting that digital advertising will surpass television advertising by the end of 2017 confirmed it.  We’ve become a society of isolationists.  Not political isolationists, but Social Isolationists.  We’ve become a society of individuals who spend more and more of their time isolated in a world unto themselves, absorbing content in highly customized ways on our laptops, tablets and smartphones.

I can’t even begin to contemplate all of the implications this transformation poses to future generations of Americans and their families.  Say what you will about television and its harmful effects (God knows the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations grew up hearing about the long list of evils associated with too much television viewing), the fact of the matter is that television was and is an inherently social medium.  For most of us, television exists in the “family” room where some or most of the family congregates to watch a movie, a show, or, more likely, a special entertainment or sporting event. 

To be sure, I’ve watched my own children, nephews, and nieces (Millennials through and through) watch less and less television and more and more content on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones, but I guess I thought that the television, (with all of the hype over 3D, OLED, HD and Ultra HD), would always find a way to maintain its central position in the modern lifestyle. 

Perhaps it will.  Perhaps the New York Times story is wrong.  Perhaps the digital advertising spend cited in the article includes television on-demand.  I hope so, because, as much as television can be a vast wasteland of mindless programming, its decline speaks volumes about where we are headed as a society of Social Isolationists.