Maybe the most prominent and seductive modern-day myth is the assumption that we have an unlimited amount of attention. Technology affords us the opportunity to become involved in multiple communities—based on hobbies, personal struggles, political views, social cause, or stage of life. Twitter hashtags, shareable content, and Facebook groups with a feeling of exclusivity create an illusion of infinite belonging and opportunity for cooperation.

These communities are self-selected, usually based on clearly spelled-out shared values or affinities, and they make it easy for one to opt-in and opt-out at any point.

The results can be powerful. It is no small thing to experience connection with mothers who have the same struggles, or with those who share a passion for the same oft-disregarded hobby or unusual social cause. Those wounded by the church often live in mental isolation until they discover someone who has also been wounded. These groups reflect a powerful truth in a world that often is shaped by a lack of understanding: You are not alone.

In fact, our sense of loneliness, especially in the presence of others, is often due to ignorance. We struggle to invest in the kind of face-to-face conversations that can help us truly know each other. Such conversations require time and psychological effort, and entail not a little discomfort. Our technology appears to solve these “problems.” In her book Reclaiming Conversation, Sherry Turkle refers to the “seven-minute rule,” one teenager’s approach to conversation. After seven minutes, if the conversation isn’t engaging, the teenager will abandon the interaction and migrate to her phone to find something more interesting—even if what ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.