America: Land of Loners
America: Land of Loners is a book written by Daniel Akst. It discusses the worsening of relationships between people in the U.S., precisely friendship. The author cites three categories of friendship highlighted by Aristotle, a Greek philosopher. Akst highlights how online friendship has ruined interactions in the real world. The author also points to the results of research that has shown that the true meaning of friendship is diminishing. He also discusses the research on loneliness.
Solaria is a fictional planet that was a home to twenty thousand people who lived completely apart and met only under the most unusual circumstances. Although, the Earth has not completely gone the Solaria’s way, there are some parallels that can be drawn. The author categorically discusses the effects of abandoning the interpersonal friendship and leaning more to the online social networks as alternatives. For instance, the average Facebook user has at least 130 “friends.” This has led to friendship becoming more and more diluted. Thus, the essential meaning of the real friendship is lost. Friendship is viewed as a quite important component of human flourishing. Unfortunately, friendship, sex and kinship are not viewed as important in the modern society compared to the past. People have many contacts and pretend friends, yet they have turned their lives into the vast voids that can only be filled by friendship. Friendship is vital as people need help and support from others. However, we live in the world where one can do without friends.
Daniel Akst states that the current form of friendship makes people lose what is supposed to be the fundamental gifts of true and genuine friendship. Friendship has literally been classified in different forms. The most important friends are in the form of contacts, and the others are for pleasure. The true friendship usually binds people through their various interests and preferences, but not because of natural bonds. The author claims that in the modern life friends are dispensable. However, the fact that many people, especially in the United States, are either unmarried or live alone does not necessarily mean that friends are dispensable. Without friends one’s life is empty and sad. Every person needs to stay around the closest people, namely friends. It is true to say that life is becoming more private, but the society is coming up with ways to make people meet and socialize. For example, there are clubs, parks, and restaurants that hold parties and cultural events.
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A recent survey showed that most people have at least three confidants. It was not common for people who lived two decades earlier. This shows that people have come to appreciate the value of true friendship, thus abandoning that family cocoon. The surprising power of our social networks, according to the book by Nicholas and James, shows that people got used to trust and spend free time together with their friends and not with their family members. Although the survey indicates that half of them are not solely friends, its shows the level of interaction in the modern world. Thus, it can be said that friendship is still held in high esteem despite the advancement in technology.
It is a brutal truth to say that friendship has suffered a big blow due to our longstanding reverence of self-sufficiency. It is a claim that the author deliberately brings forth. The popular essay “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo gives an insightful view on how people love keeping distance and discussing their problems within. This is further triggered by the fact that not all friends make people’s lives better. Daniel Akst’s thought that friends are not vitamins seems to show a little bit of smugness. If friends do not make one’s life better, they will not be prized. In the past, friendship was more valued, and people went to the extent of pledging in bonding rituals. Moreover, people cared more about the rest in the community. Nowadays, people tend to take care of only the people they are blood related. The fact that people in the past lived together made it easier to bond. Friendship more often than not causes rifts among the society, because people have different interests. The fact that people move in search of greener pastures has led to the dissidences among the family members. The consequences of cultural revolution have also made relationship less irrelevant. In fact, people can afford literally everything they need, for instance, any kind of information, without consulting anyone. Therefore, it becomes more difficult to make friends.
Even if technology advancement has led to friendship holding little meaning, it is inadmissible to let it take friendship in an absolutely different level. Actually, technology has made many people lead a life that lacks live human communication and interaction. Facebook, for instance, makes people spend hours online and interact with others with minimum fuss. People from the same family keep in touch with each other through the Internet. Thus, they still keeping mutual friendship they enjoyed in the past. Friendship is still valued nowadays as it was in the past, because it is still not possible to live without friends. Friendship is the key to making a healthy society, where the citizens care for each other. People need to have friends whom they may always trust and who make life more satisfying and more complete. Friendship was, is, and will always be relevant. It is something created by God himself and something that cannot just vanish from peoples’ lives.
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