Glass has many uses, most of them morally neutral. It helps us let in sunlight, sharpen our eyesight, see our reflections, and sip our beverages, among other commonplace conveniences. But glass has also enabled a series of social and technological revolutions that fuel increasing isolation from our neighbors and physical surroundings. Eric Jacobsen, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, Washington, takes stock of these transformations in Three Pieces of Glass: Why We Feel Lonely in a World Mediated by Screens. Writer Ashley Hales, author of Finding Holy in the Suburbs, spoke with Jacobsen about regaining a sense of place and rebuilding habits of embodied interaction—even during the present pandemic.

Can you describe the three “pieces of glass” and how they have contributed to isolating us from people and places?

Let me start with what I would have said before the onset of the pandemic.

I think we’re all fairly aware of the way that smartphones have changed our social interactions and trained us to look at our screens rather than each other’s faces. What I’m trying to do with this book is trace that pattern back to a couple earlier cultural developments that encouraged screen-mediated interaction above face-to-face interaction.

The first of these occurred around 70 years ago, not with the invention of the automobile but with the rise of a culture and an infrastructure in which you really needed to have an automobile to get from place to place. We treat each other differently when we’re driving our cars. You see another driver not as a human being but as a competitor. So the car windshield is the first piece of glass.

This led fairly quickly to the second piece of glass—the ...

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Three Pieces of Glass: Why We Feel Lonely in a World Mediated by Screens
Three Pieces of Glass: Why We Feel Lonely in a World Mediated by Screens
Brazos Press
2020-05-05
288 pp., 7.8
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