Public Events

Loneliness in the Digital Age


Loneliness may be one of the most urgent issues facing American society. In this 2-part forum, we attempt to unravel some of the causes of this pernicious condition and consider the ways to ward off, or at least alleviate, the curse of loneliness.


More than 1 out of every 3 Americans today report themselves to be chronically lonely.  This growing epidemic persists in a digital age, when we are purportedly more “connected” than ever.  But what does it mean to have lots of Facebook friends, yet no one to talk to?

Recorded December 7, 2016

With the help of four great minds from different disciplines, all of whom have written extensively on the theme of friendship or loneliness, we consider why loneliness is a such a growing sociological phenomenon in our hi-tech, super-wired world. Neuroscientific research seems to suggest that our brains are indeed wired to connect, but they prefer human rather than digital interaction.  So what constitutes true friendship and can a device ever substitute for the power of human touch?

Our panel consists of Dr. Terry Freiberg, a social psychologist and author of Four Seasons of Loneliness; Dr. Amy Banks, a psychiatrist at Wellesley Centers for Women and author of  Wired to Connect: The Surprising Link between Brain Science and Strong, Healthy Relationships; Professor Alex Pentland, who directs the MIT Connection Science and Human Dynamics Labs and co-author of a recent study in the journal PLOS , Are you Your Friends’ Friend? Poor Perception of Friendship Ties; and Professor Alexander Nehamas, Princeton philosopher and author of the book On Friendship.

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