But as the Internet grew rapidly when Putnam wrote Bowling Alone, the tools we know today as “social media” did not yet exist. Internet 2000 did not have Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or LinkedIn. There were listservs and message boards, emails, and instant messages, but it was more or less communication between groups of people.
The problem identified by Putnam contained the seeds of his own solution. Humans are social animals. We are connected to communicate and connect. When new technology enters our quest to share our thoughts, we will find a way to adapt it to our social needs.
Instead of separating us, the Internet brought us together in large and small forms, too numerous to count. As a child, computers were tools for working. From our smartphones to our e-book readers, tablets, and laptops, computers have become tools for life.
Resolving the issues
This is an example. My cousins are spread across the country. I have relatives that I have not seen in many years because we are out of contact and people who live far away.
A few months ago, one of my cousins started a MyWegmansConnect Facebook group and some of us joined. He was not happy with simple online conversations or some shared photos. I recently took my mother to Florida for a visit and, through the group, a Georgia cousin saw that we would be there at the same time. We quickly deal with MyWegmansConnect dinner. It was the first time since the 1970s that my mother had the opportunity to sit down with this father.
On websites like Facebook, my generation can find people we lose over time by changing jobs, changing long distances, or simply changing. For younger people, it helps them lose control of people. I think my children will cultivate their youthful friendships much better than I do with the best tools of their generation.