Drudge links to this article from the Washington Post reporting that the average American is more socially isolated than ever before. The first two paragraphs read

"Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of the decline of social ties in the United States.

A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two."


Social connectedness took a turn for the worse in the mid-60s.

"Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard and the author of "Bowling Alone," a book about increasing social isolation in the United States, said the new study supports what he has been saying for years to skeptical audiences in the academy.

'For most of the 20th century, Americans were becoming more connected with family and friends, and there was more giving of blood and money, and all of those trend lines turn sharply in the middle '60s and have gone in the other direction ever since,' he said.

Americans go on 60 percent fewer picnics today and families eat dinner together 40 percent less often compared with 1965, he said. They are less likely to meet at clubs or go bowling in groups. Putnam has estimated that every 10-minute increase in commutes makes it 10 percent less likely that people will establish and maintain close social ties.

Television is a big part of the problem, he contends. Whereas 5 percent of U.S. households in 1950 owned television sets, 95 percent did a decade later."

(an okie gardener again) Within the counter-culture of the 60s were two opposing trends: on the one hand, a drive to find significant new forms of community which found expression in experiments in communes for example; but on the other hand, there was a drive for the complete autonomy of the individual which found expression in "free love," (that is, sex free from commitment), drug use (the journey inward), and free speech (speech with no thought given to the sensibilities of others in a community). By the 70s it became clear that the drive for the complete autonomy of the individual had won the struggle. As the counterculture went mainstream in the 70s it was this exaltation of the individual that permeated American culture. We have seen the results: marital breakdown, lack of commitment to raising children, the cult of self-esteem.

Here is an opportunity for America's churches to become places of connectedness. Such a vision will run somewhat counter to the prevailing trend of megachurches (the Christian equivalent of the retail trend to large impersonal box stores). But, even now some very large churches are doing great work through small groups. Perhaps what remains to be seen is if these horses really want to drink.