Charles, I think this essay is dead on and as you point out, a large portion of this has to also do with the affluence of wealth and comfort in our society which has and isolating and anesthetizing effect. This is more aptly known as the Easterlin Paradox.

In the 1970s, Richard Easterlin provided research showing that although successive generations are usually more affluent and wealthy than that of their parents or grandparents, people seemed to be no happier with their lives. As countries got richer, they didn’t get happier. We live in a society that empowers us to be more comfortable and independent than ever. I can order food from my phone and have it delivered to my house. Unlike the citizens in many Third World countries, I don’t have to go to a well to drink water. I turn on a faucet (but let’s be honest, I drink the filtered stuff and not the tap, just like you). I can sit on my couch all day and remain entertained by video games and Netflix. So yes, it makes 100% sense that we’re more self-obssessed and depressed than before.

As you point out, the community aspect is massively missing and—in a twist of irony—it turns out that tragedies (which disrupt our comfort) seem to play a role in both making us feel better and helping us combat isolation and anxiety. After 9/11 the suicide rate, violent crime rate, and murder rate in New York City went down and during the Blitz in London during WWII admissions to psychiatric clinics went down.

When we become less focused on comfort and experience adversity and community together we become less anxious and depressed. I guess the question now is how do we get people to embrace the suck vs. the comfort?

Storyteller | Combat wounded veteran | Metalhead | Designer | Bleeding on a page just makes it more authentic:

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