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The Lonely Century: Coming Together in a World that's Pulling Apart

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From an economist hailed as "one of the world's leading thinkers" (The Observer), an eye-opening exploration of the most urgent social issue of our time. "Noreena Hertz delivers a compelling vision for how we can bridge our many divides at this time of great change and disruption."--Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global Even before a global pandemic introduced From an economist hailed as "one of the world's leading thinkers" (The Observer), an eye-opening exploration of the most urgent social issue of our time. "Noreena Hertz delivers a compelling vision for how we can bridge our many divides at this time of great change and disruption."--Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global Even before a global pandemic introduced us to terms like "social distancing," loneliness was well on its way to becoming the defining condition of the twenty-first century. All around us, the fabric of community is unraveling and our personal relationships are under threat. And technology isn't the sole culprit. Equally to blame are the dismantling of civic institutions, the radical reorganization of the workplace, the mass migration to cities, and decades of neoliberal policies that have placed self-interest above the collective good. This is not merely a mental health crisis. Loneliness increases our risk of heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Statistically, it's as bad for our health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. It's also an economic crisis, costing us billions annually. And it's a political crisis, as feelings of marginalization fuel divisiveness and extremism around the world. But it's also a crisis we have the power to solve. Combining a decade of research with firsthand reporting, Noreena Hertz takes us from a "how to read a face" class at an Ivy League university to isolated remote workers in London during lockdown, from "renting a friend" in Manhattan to nursing home residents knitting bonnets for their robot caregivers in Japan. Offering bold solutions ranging from compassionate AI to innovative models for urban living to new ways of reinvigorating our neighborhoods and reconciling our differences, The Lonely Century offers a hopeful and empowering vision for how to heal our fractured communities and restore connection in our lives.


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From an economist hailed as "one of the world's leading thinkers" (The Observer), an eye-opening exploration of the most urgent social issue of our time. "Noreena Hertz delivers a compelling vision for how we can bridge our many divides at this time of great change and disruption."--Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global Even before a global pandemic introduced From an economist hailed as "one of the world's leading thinkers" (The Observer), an eye-opening exploration of the most urgent social issue of our time. "Noreena Hertz delivers a compelling vision for how we can bridge our many divides at this time of great change and disruption."--Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global Even before a global pandemic introduced us to terms like "social distancing," loneliness was well on its way to becoming the defining condition of the twenty-first century. All around us, the fabric of community is unraveling and our personal relationships are under threat. And technology isn't the sole culprit. Equally to blame are the dismantling of civic institutions, the radical reorganization of the workplace, the mass migration to cities, and decades of neoliberal policies that have placed self-interest above the collective good. This is not merely a mental health crisis. Loneliness increases our risk of heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Statistically, it's as bad for our health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. It's also an economic crisis, costing us billions annually. And it's a political crisis, as feelings of marginalization fuel divisiveness and extremism around the world. But it's also a crisis we have the power to solve. Combining a decade of research with firsthand reporting, Noreena Hertz takes us from a "how to read a face" class at an Ivy League university to isolated remote workers in London during lockdown, from "renting a friend" in Manhattan to nursing home residents knitting bonnets for their robot caregivers in Japan. Offering bold solutions ranging from compassionate AI to innovative models for urban living to new ways of reinvigorating our neighborhoods and reconciling our differences, The Lonely Century offers a hopeful and empowering vision for how to heal our fractured communities and restore connection in our lives.

30 review for The Lonely Century: Coming Together in a World that's Pulling Apart

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Monroe

    Far too many of us have experience of working in a toxic workplace. For me, that was an Israeli (later Australian-owned) social games company called Plarium Global. I worked at Plarium's studio in Kharkiv, Ukraine (East Ukraine, about an hour's drive from the Russian border) for four very long years and hated every second of it. Why did I stay? Why does anyone stay in a job they hate? You get used to the standard of living a certain salary can provide and you're afraid that if you leave, you won' Far too many of us have experience of working in a toxic workplace. For me, that was an Israeli (later Australian-owned) social games company called Plarium Global. I worked at Plarium's studio in Kharkiv, Ukraine (East Ukraine, about an hour's drive from the Russian border) for four very long years and hated every second of it. Why did I stay? Why does anyone stay in a job they hate? You get used to the standard of living a certain salary can provide and you're afraid that if you leave, you won't find anything else. But the primary reason I stayed was because I was dating a Ukrainian and, for visa reasons, there was nowhere I could live where she could also live so, as a result, it was best to just stay in Ukraine with my work visa and see where the future would take us. Plarium was modeled off of one of these Silicon Valley tech companies like Google or Facebook. LOTS of emphasis on the various amenities they offered — a ping pong table! a gym! a game room! The point is, the entire studio was designed on making the company's workers stay at work longer. It's a clever tool of modern capitalism, getting you to stay in the office longer by making you think that you like the office. And many of them did, I don't want to take anything away from the fact that many of those who worked and still work there did so happily and willingly. It's a sort of capitalistic Stockholm Syndrome, you fall in love with a system that will dispose of you the second you cease to be useful to its bottom line. If you come in an hour early, we'll give you free breakfast! If you stay a couple hours late, we're putting on a free concert! Game tournament tonight with the team leads! Don't forget, Friday night's movie night! But behind this whole fun, social facade lay a cruel reality. Most people stayed to themselves. Yes, they'd show up to get breakfast an hour early, but rather than eat in the common room with someone new, they'd all-too-often take a plate of food back to their desk and sit alone. Cliques developed, an insider-outsider vibe that permeated throughout the entire company, from management on down. And the benefits? Yes, our studio has a slide connecting two floors, in case you ever tire of taking the stairs or elevator, but don't expect to be given health care! A retirement plan? What's that? And within each department, even crueler realities awaited. In my former department — which was, naturally, the English Creative Department — employees were heavily pressured to contribute to the company's various charitable functions. The company participated in a Christmas drive for area orphanages, and if you failed to "adopt an orphan" you would be hounded, given the silent treatment, and basically treated like a terrible person. It wasn't enough to just give money either, you had to go to the store and actually buy something, which then had to be approved by your coworkers. In 2018, shortly before I left, there was a charity drive to send a local Ukrainian boy who'd received some fame on TV as a chess prodigy of sorts to Spain so he could compete in a tournament. Those in my department were heavily pressured to participate, and when I expressed some hesitation about doing so, it was remarked that I was "cheap" and not a "team player." In addition, anyone who left right when the clock sounded to go home was spoken of as being insufficiently dedicated to the company. A colleague at the time actually came down with health problems as a result of the constant guilt she was made to feel for not attending after work functions. On a number of occasions over the four years that I worked there I was told by my team lead that something I had worked on was "shit" and verbally berated by him and others in the department if I failed to think of a decent concept for a holiday theme or something else. And the list goes on. Finally, I'd had enough. I put in my notice to leave after three months (in order for the department to find a suitable replacement) and, less than a month later, I found myself called into my boss' office. The weekend before, I'd written a blog post about leaving Denmark (where I had spent a week vacationing) to travel back to Ukraine. I called it "Leaving Civilization" and throughout used a somewhat ironic tone, contrasting Denmark with Ukraine and remaking wryly that the many Ukrainians who had left to find work in Western Europe might be onto something. Nowhere did I mention the company or any people I knew or worked with. But, nevertheless, I had insulted the country and amidst the atmosphere of heightened, faux nationalism that had raged in Ukraine following Russia's seizure of the Crimean peninsula, I had shown myself to be insufficiently loyal to the country. It was reported to me that many on the Ukrainian localization team that we worked with refused to work with me any longer, and my coworkers, who were already miffed that I was refusing to donate to send the chess prodigy to Spain, were all too eager to see me off as well. So I was dismissed, in no uncertain terms, a bit over a month before I was originally due to leave, in good standing, with promised references to boot, only to now be sent off with nary a smile. I wasn't even allowed to take the slide on my way out. In the two and a half years that have since passed, I have come to be thankful for how things ended, the bridges that needed to be burned between myself and an absolutely toxic work environment. It was only while reading Noreena Hertz's fascinating account of work in the 21st century that I was reminded once again of the entire experience. This is a book that cuts to the quick of what ails the world, particularly the western world, today. In a society so focused on increasing profits, it seems we are isolating ourselves from our common man. I'm one of those "digital nomads" now, having shirked the office life well before the pandemic made doing so a necessity. I work from home, often writing book reviews when I'm not working. There's no slide, no ping pong table, but — with friends and family closer at hand — I find the environment to be much less toxic. Even now, working from home in the midst of a pandemic, I find my isolation and anxiety to have been significantly lessened.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Megan Ferguson

    I picked up this book (free from Netgalley, so take comments with the appropriate grain of salt) because the increased loneliness I’ve seen over the last few months or, lets be honest, decades has been a concern. I’ve seen it in the desperation for human contact shown by the elderly from work, church, and the community. I’ve seen it in the lack of social skills and ability to appropriately interact with the world and the people in it shown by the teens in my community. I’ve seen it in preschoole I picked up this book (free from Netgalley, so take comments with the appropriate grain of salt) because the increased loneliness I’ve seen over the last few months or, lets be honest, decades has been a concern. I’ve seen it in the desperation for human contact shown by the elderly from work, church, and the community. I’ve seen it in the lack of social skills and ability to appropriately interact with the world and the people in it shown by the teens in my community. I’ve seen it in preschoolers begging for attention as their parents stare at their phones in increased obsession…so, does this book solve this problem? I will admit, I just asked an unfair question, the chances of one book solving the habits of decades are so infinitesimally small that they are laughable. However, it is a social ill that author Noreena Hertz attempts to alleviate. Does she always succeed? No, of course not. Does she present her arguments in a cohesive and bipartisan manner? Not always, but the attempt at fairness is there and, as one of the few books I’ve read that faces this problem head on, I do tip my hat to her courage and consideration. Definitely a book to read if you wish to understand more about the loneliness crisis and what the average citizen can do to alleviate it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Bayer

    This is an excellent book that not only goes into the depths of our loneliness but its many causes and ramifications. It's in-depth and fascinating, and it also offers a host of excellent solutions at the individual, community, workplace and national levels. I read hundreds of books in an average year and there are always a handful that stick with me. This is one that I know will stand out for this year. Highly recommended. I read a digital ARC of this book via NetGalley. This is an excellent book that not only goes into the depths of our loneliness but its many causes and ramifications. It's in-depth and fascinating, and it also offers a host of excellent solutions at the individual, community, workplace and national levels. I read hundreds of books in an average year and there are always a handful that stick with me. This is one that I know will stand out for this year. Highly recommended. I read a digital ARC of this book via NetGalley.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Esmeralda

    This is one of those brilliant books that everyone should read, no matter who you are. Humanity was already so disconnected before covid and even more so now. This book delves into this topic and explores solutions that we can all take part in implementing

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matty

    This book feels so perfectly timed, particularly during a global pandemic! A call to arms to stop being so insular & self-serving and think more about our connections to community & society. This book was really thought-provoking & filled with loads of really interesting stories & case studies to help the author make her overall point. Definitely made me think about how lonely we are all making ourselves in this modern age!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Max Bridger

    I really enjoyed this book as I have an interest in both my local community, and older peoples' want for the past and specifically the 'good old days'. The Lonely Century is full of amazing, shocking and sometimes unbelievable facts, and due to this just under half the book is references! But the content is still plentiful and more than sufficient to detail the ways in which community has been eroded Worldwide in the last 50 years, and the issues this is presenting for us all. Noreena also details I really enjoyed this book as I have an interest in both my local community, and older peoples' want for the past and specifically the 'good old days'. The Lonely Century is full of amazing, shocking and sometimes unbelievable facts, and due to this just under half the book is references! But the content is still plentiful and more than sufficient to detail the ways in which community has been eroded Worldwide in the last 50 years, and the issues this is presenting for us all. Noreena also details ways she feels would be fitting to combat this pandemic of isolation, as well as highlighting successful efforts from people, governments and some businesses (like Cisco) to revitalise community spirit and genuine interactions. So although some of the reading is quite depressing, it also serves as a manual of ideas to help us come back together, in an age where social media and neoliberal policies have been increasingly pulling us apart.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dramatika

    A fine start but such a horrible finish! Mandatory civil participation? Really? My parents actually went theough such horrors in Soviet times, never again! I vaccinated for all such forced cheerfullness of mandatory collective for my life! The author might benefit from learning a few facts of how such mandatory staff works.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rosie Evans

    Some astute and prescient points about loneliness and austerity, automation and neoliberalism fall flat with a lack lustre conclusion that asserts we just need to 'make capitalism nicer'... Not convinced Some astute and prescient points about loneliness and austerity, automation and neoliberalism fall flat with a lack lustre conclusion that asserts we just need to 'make capitalism nicer'... Not convinced

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stef

    I loved this book. Thought provoking and interesting the whole way through. Reading this book has led me to put my phone down more and connect with those around me. Would definitely recommend.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Delphine

    Thought-provoking, cleverly illustrated book about the defining condition of the 21st century: loneliness. Loneliness is largely defined: it covers more than just individual loneliness, it's also about not feeling supported by your employers, fellow citizens and the government. Hertz distinguishes three causes: the introduction of smartphones and social media, discrimination, and the demise of the number of community places. Ultimately, the real scapegoat is (/are the excesses of) neoliberalism, Thought-provoking, cleverly illustrated book about the defining condition of the 21st century: loneliness. Loneliness is largely defined: it covers more than just individual loneliness, it's also about not feeling supported by your employers, fellow citizens and the government. Hertz distinguishes three causes: the introduction of smartphones and social media, discrimination, and the demise of the number of community places. Ultimately, the real scapegoat is (/are the excesses of) neoliberalism, introduced in the 1980s. Hertz emphasizes the mental consequences of loneliness (often ending in suicide), but also the physical ones: the fight-or flight reflex and high levels of cortisol, the cuddle hormone we release when we help someone without expecting anything in return (the so-called helper's high). She links loneliness to increased feelings of hostility towards others, resulting in populism (Hannah Arendt is mentioned). She further addresses loneliness in big cities, and the need for social robots to counterbalance our loneliness. This book contained so many unpleasant surprises for me: from the creation of deliberately 'hostile' architecture (uncomfortable benches to chase away the homeless or youngsters), to job interviews performed by algorithms and screen-free schools in Silicon Valley (!). However, The lonely century is a hopeful book, addressing possible solutions. Capitalism should be reconnected to care and empathy (legislation could play an important part here), people must feel more seen and heard (citizen councils could be an idea), and the number of community spaces in neighbourhoods should be increased instead of reduced. Obviously, we as individuals also have a task at hand: 'we need to rush less and stop and talk more, whether it's to the neighbour we often pass but never speak to, a stranger who has lost their way, or someone who's visibly feeling lonely - even when we're feeling overloaded and beasy. (...) We need to show more gratitude to those who care for others in society, and more generally say thank you more- whether it's to our partner, our colleagues at work or even to our new AI helpers'.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Myles

    In her recent new book on the epidemic of loneliness afflicting society in the 21st century, “The Lonely Century: How to Restore Human Connection in a World that’s Falling Apart” scholar and commentator Noreen Hertz surveys the trends that alienate us from our neighbours and loved ones. They include: - The pace of modern urban life - Convenience and contactless shopping - Screen addiction, more specifically the screens of our cellphones - Trends in work environment - The gig economy - Automated assista In her recent new book on the epidemic of loneliness afflicting society in the 21st century, “The Lonely Century: How to Restore Human Connection in a World that’s Falling Apart” scholar and commentator Noreen Hertz surveys the trends that alienate us from our neighbours and loved ones. They include: - The pace of modern urban life - Convenience and contactless shopping - Screen addiction, more specifically the screens of our cellphones - Trends in work environment - The gig economy - Automated assistants, robots, and sex appliances - The rapid decline of neighbourhood stores and social clubs Little of this I hadn’t read elsewhere, but some of these subjects I continue to give some thought to, particularly the closing of independent retailers along the main streets of city neighbourhoods. I think about it because I own businesses on main streets in city neighbourhoods. Here is how Hertz sees it: “If we are to feel part of a community rather than simply live in isolated bubbles we must appreciate the role local entrepreneurs play in binding us together.” What exactly is the role entrepreneurs — and by this I think she means independent retail operators — play in binding us together that local schools, churches, parks, street festivals, local elections, charity events, sports clubs, and the bus stop don’t already accomplish? What I see is that local business complements things that are already happening: - We congregate at the local grocery store, the hair salon, the yoga studio, the veterinarian, and the dentists’ offices much as we do at the schoolyard or hockey arena. - We run for expertise to the local hardware store, the computer store, the local bank branch, and the shoe repair centre. - We get away from ourselves at the fashion store, the furniture outlet, and the private gym. Many of these goods and services can be filled by franchises of national or international brands like Starbucks. It looks like they will be part of neighbourhoods for the foreseeable future. The kinds of businesses Hertz idealizes are the neighbourhood restaurants, the old fashioned shoe shops, clothing stores, and ice cream parlours. We know from our experience that high commercial rents, property taxes, competition from online retailers, suburban malls and supercentre outlets, and the aging of our population all contribute to the decline of commerce on our main streets. Now, here are some of the trends I see that you, perhaps, don’t: - The sky-high expectations of consumers. Big box has taught consumers to expect perfect satisfaction, open-ended timelines and conditions for returning unsatisfactory merchandise, and open-ended customer service to explain, dissect, and support customer choice. - The proliferation of communications media. Today business is bombarded not only by the demands of customers in person or over the telephone, but through texting, e-mail, facebook, instagram, google, and innumerable other communications media. Keeping up with these media is costly and not always resulting in a net contribution to the business. - The expectations of employees. Especially young employees see the dollar wage as the be all and end-all of their compensation. Many businesses — the gig economy businesses excepted — pay up to six or eight government mandated benefits to their employees that nobody counts. People have a right to expect a liveable wage, but what constitutes a liveable wage may not jibe with what is probable in the real world of competition, and the pressure of overheads in the urban retail environment. - The pressure on prices of online merchants worldwide and the pressure of infinite choice that no local merchant can possibly replicate. - Brand loyalty. The preference consumers give to accepted international brands over niche or local brands. By and large customers have little time to make a purchase decision in the midst of wide choice, limited resources, and limited attention span. The decision which requires the least energy and evaluation is often the handiest. No merchant can be ignorant of the pull of brands. The other side of this formula is that along with the huge pull of the brand comes the public information about how much those products should cost, a price widely known and immoveable in the customer’s eye. Independent merchants are flirting with disaster if the public perceives him/her to be above Internet pricing. - Financial service charges. Credit card companies have brainwashed customers into believing there is a game to be won with credit card points, cards that cost merchants anywhere from 2% to 6% of the gross value of receipts. Take that off the top of 95% of the merchant sales. - Rationalization of logistics and the supply chain. Premium products simply do not appear in the marketplace unless mass merchants will it to be there. Much as independents complain of the pull of the national merchants, many of the products they would like to sell wouldn’t appear in their regional market unless the large merchants order pallets of those products. The manufacturers don’t like to ship less than pallets and the distributors don’t like to break open pallets. And neither want to see returns of defectives or open packages. In this system it is brutally difficult for independents to consistently stock products people actually want to buy. The manufacturers know this. They prefer the largest dealers not necessarily because they sell more (per sq.ft. of retail space) but because the larger dealers share the warehousing costs and financing of products that will ultimately be discounted. Or, worse, sent to landfill. - Constraints of working capital. In an ideal world, merchants earn enough profit on goods and services and don’t make costly mistakes. They know what the customer wants and sells it to them. Goods sell and the cash available to the merchant grows consistently and predictably. But in the real world, we make mistakes. We pay too much for rent, or we buy stuff people don’t want, or a competitor comes along and discounts our most profitable item. Losses eat away at our working capital. - Gentrification. Rising housing costs and the loss of affordable rentals make it difficult for all businesses to hire people who live near their place of work. The fewer locals there are who work in these stores, the less accountable these stores are to their neighbours. And where do you go when working capital shrinks? When I ran a very small business it was relatively easy to hide minor mistakes by using a credit card to fill a hole in cash flow. You can’t do this for very long if you have a larger business with many employees, leases, and taxes to pay. There is less and less slack in the system to make up when things go sour. Independents with no personal capital or resources — such as equity in a home — have almost nowhere to go. With all respect to people who want independent business to survive, they must understand that these are factors upon which independents have no control. Let me say this again, only more clearly: THE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT IS SAVAGE, UNFORGIVING, AND LARGELY OUTSIDE OF ANYBODY’S CONTROL. And not all entrepreneurs are on the main streets. People run boutique businesses from their homes and use the big subsidy of low residential taxes and “contractors” to make a go of it. Add on top of this the conditions of a pandemic and you have a recipe of disaster for most independent businesses. Will tax subsidies fix this? I’m not convinced. Employment programs? Too short term. Will local residents vote in town councillors who will raise taxes high enough to reduce the tax burden on independent business? Not in my lifetime. Some of the measures I think could help independents in the medium term: - Credit merchants for merchant fees paid on value added taxes. - Encourage big business to patronize local independents - Educate parents on what it means when they prey on local businesses to subsidize boutique charities like school fundraisers. I have heard some parents go so far as to blacklist uncooperative local businesses. - Reward customers for good behaviour not for purchasing behaviour - Charge online buyers for the additional overhead on those extra courier trips on our public streets - Make all employers pay employment taxes or none of us, but don’t penalize merchants who under tax law must define employees as such - Increase neighbourhood security and make it safer for our people to work in stores - Re-educate employees on the meaning of their pay packages All of this should not minimize the fact that not everybody who considers them self an entrepreneur is really cut out for it. Success in business is a fleeting thing. There never has nor ever will be a guarantee of success. It takes knowledge, skill, daring, perseverance, working capital, and a willingness to lose. Then more than a little good fortune. Lastly, good businesses have found ways to routinize winning transactions, not the one offs, not the home runs, but many boring transactions over the long term. There is a role for independent retailer in the neighbourhood landscape, but it will never succeed without the cooperation of the transnationals, not in this environment. We need the cooperation of big businesses to make little business survive in this environment. This combination of market forces will if not rejuvenate neighbourhoods, help keep them going.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    Would it be strange to say that I fail to connect with this book although I'm genuinely curious about its premises and conception during the pandemic? Categorically speaking, I'm not a lonely person according to the UCLA Loneliness Scale. This affirming note only sways me slightly from a general cynicism towards any point-based system. While an attempt is made to steer the conversation towards a single thread of loneliness, its origin, and its manifestation in modern society, the book can be awf Would it be strange to say that I fail to connect with this book although I'm genuinely curious about its premises and conception during the pandemic? Categorically speaking, I'm not a lonely person according to the UCLA Loneliness Scale. This affirming note only sways me slightly from a general cynicism towards any point-based system. While an attempt is made to steer the conversation towards a single thread of loneliness, its origin, and its manifestation in modern society, the book can be awfully meandering at times. A quarter of the book is reserved for citations but I can't shake off the feeling of reading a lengthy, watered-down article without much originality and depth. I would have used the antonym of "coherent" but according to Seth Godin, ascribing such quality to the book may end up putting it in the league of "interesting" which is unfortunately not the profound effect I experience. Having said that, I do find some interesting concepts and share the same sentiments around hostile architecture, incentivizing kindness at work, engagement in the community, and AI encroachment on almost every decision making which also conjures up an image of a black box in the making with its powerful deep learning capabilities.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Regis Neilson

    The Lonely Century does a thorough job of exploring the realities of the rampant loneliness of the modern world and may be accurate in identifying some of the consequences, including ill health and political populism, but my main problem with the book is that Hertz lays most of the blame for loneliness at the feet of neoliberalism, which she characterizes as a brutal, heartless pursuit of personal wealth regardless of the consequences to others. However, some of the book’s most striking examples The Lonely Century does a thorough job of exploring the realities of the rampant loneliness of the modern world and may be accurate in identifying some of the consequences, including ill health and political populism, but my main problem with the book is that Hertz lays most of the blame for loneliness at the feet of neoliberalism, which she characterizes as a brutal, heartless pursuit of personal wealth regardless of the consequences to others. However, some of the book’s most striking examples of modern loneliness (e.g., elderly Japanese people who commit petty crimes so they can go to prison for care and companionship) come from countries where governments have far too much economic control to be considered remotely neoliberal. I think Hertz makes a good point that mistrust of government/leadership is one aspect of modern loneliness, but the problem of modern loneliness runs deeper than socialism could ever hope to reach.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen Shilvock-Cinefro

    The pandemic is addressed and has added to our loneliness but we have become a lonely society long before the isolation of the pandemic. Loneliness brings up not only the feeling on being uncared for, but also the feeling of being invisible. As the author states “part of the solution to this century’s loneliness crisis must therefore be to ensure that people are seen and heard.” While I do not agreed with all of the authors suggestions, people need people and our screens cannot replace human car The pandemic is addressed and has added to our loneliness but we have become a lonely society long before the isolation of the pandemic. Loneliness brings up not only the feeling on being uncared for, but also the feeling of being invisible. As the author states “part of the solution to this century’s loneliness crisis must therefore be to ensure that people are seen and heard.” While I do not agreed with all of the authors suggestions, people need people and our screens cannot replace human caring and contact.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    A lot of the examples of how the world has become more lonely are interesting but largely ignores disabled people and her solution is capitalism with "care and compassion at its heart." A lot of the examples of how the world has become more lonely are interesting but largely ignores disabled people and her solution is capitalism with "care and compassion at its heart."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Much more focused on work and capitalism than I anticipated.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Sottoriva

    Book built on an interesting topic: our society is becoming more and more solitary. After a good start the book becomes too statistics oriented therefore boring

  18. 4 out of 5

    dani

    Rating: 4.5⭐ out of 5 "Coming Together in a World that's Pulling Apart"—there's something inherently intriguing to this one statement that really drew me to read this book. That, and the title itself is a big, fat hook for the whole book. But maybe, it was really because just seeing the title resonated with me in a very subconscious way. Early on in the book, Hertz presents the UCLA Loneliness Scale as an objective measure of whether you are indeed lonely or not. I was genuinely shocked to see my Rating: 4.5⭐ out of 5 "Coming Together in a World that's Pulling Apart"—there's something inherently intriguing to this one statement that really drew me to read this book. That, and the title itself is a big, fat hook for the whole book. But maybe, it was really because just seeing the title resonated with me in a very subconscious way. Early on in the book, Hertz presents the UCLA Loneliness Scale as an objective measure of whether you are indeed lonely or not. I was genuinely shocked to see my score go two points over the baseline score to be considered lonely. Maybe I was just in denial. Then again, maybe all of us are in denial. Hertz explains that her definition of loneliness is "not only as feeling bereft of love, company or intimacy. Nor is it just about feeling ignored, unseen or uncared for by those with whom we interact on a regular basis...It's also about feeling unsupported and uncared for by our fellow citizens, employers, our community, our government." To sum it up, she says that "it's about not only lacking support in a social or familial context, but feeling politically and economically excluded as well." Well. The book presents a thorough picture of how loneliness affects this current society and generation, how we are all disconnected from each other more than ever despite the several mechanisms already in place for us to "connect." Overall, the problem lies in the system that we are all subjected to and how it turns us into kind and caring people, to selfish and rude individuals. To paint a picture: you can't really blame that person who shouldered past you rudely for not apologizing if you knew that they were a caregiver who was late for work because they had to bring their kid to a school that was on the other side of town because they lived in social housing that was purposely separated from regular housing and if they were late, they wouldn't be paid their almost minimum wage salary. It pushes the point that you can't afford to be kind and caring if the system does not allow you to be kind and caring by default. Published in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the book is a timely picture of how we, as a lonely generation, have been affected greatly by these mechanisms over the years and how they will be amplified with our forced social isolation. But by the end, Hertz offers possible solutions that range from the individual level to the industry level, up to the government, and then society as a whole. Humans are naturally social beings. After the pandemic, we will always find ways to come together. But for now, it doesn't take too much to be a bit kinder every day. And if you read this book, you'll know why something as simple as looking up from your phone, smiling at a neighbor, and greeting them "good morning" can help transform a lonely society for the better.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘We are in the midst of a global loneliness crisis. None of us, anywhere, is immune.’ Here we, living on a planet crowded with humanity. There are people everywhere. How can we have a ‘global loneliness crisis’? Is it simply a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring us to ‘socially distance’? In this book, Ms Hertz writes of several different factors that have led to social isolation. These factors include the impact of (some) technology as face-to-face interactions are replaced by online ‘We are in the midst of a global loneliness crisis. None of us, anywhere, is immune.’ Here we, living on a planet crowded with humanity. There are people everywhere. How can we have a ‘global loneliness crisis’? Is it simply a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring us to ‘socially distance’? In this book, Ms Hertz writes of several different factors that have led to social isolation. These factors include the impact of (some) technology as face-to-face interactions are replaced by online transactions; changing workplaces; the continuing drift of people from rural communities to the anonymity of cities; the notion of collective good being lost to self-interest. On top of that, and appropriately for now, the COVID-19 pandemic has made distance a virtue. Why does loneliness matter? Ms Hertz writes that loneliness damages our happiness, health, and wealth. Is it also threatening democratic institutions? Given recent events, including the continuing rise of right-wing extremism it is difficult to disagree. ‘This is the Lonely Century, but it doesn’t need to be. The future is in our hands.’ How can we change? ‘Us’ versus ‘them’ politics cannot help, neither can withdrawal. Most days when I walk, I see people so absorbed in their own devices that they do not see to be at all aware of the world around them. And yet, most people will respond to a greeting. Ms Hertz writes of people ‘renting a friend’, of people interacting by text message (when they could speak in person). She describes a world that is both recognisable and alien to me. Can we change it? Do we want to? It is easier to be angry if you feel alienated. ‘You can’t buy community. You have to prioritise it.’ This is one of the most thought-provoking and interesting books I have read this year. I have seen (and been part of) some fledgling community developments in my own neighbourhood: neighbours looking out for each other; people interacting with each other, gifting time and knowledge. Small community steps. I have also seen the disruption caused when essential services such as bank branches close. Not everyone is comfortable with online transactions and not everyone has online access. And the same with various government service providers. Yes, it may be more ‘cost-effective’ to provide services this way, but it does not take the varying needs of people into account. Sigh. What are we going to do, if we want to change this? How (and what) will we change? ‘The future is in our hands.’ Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hemant Bohra

    7 ½ learnings from The Lonely Century I picked this book because deep down I started feeling lonely once I moved to a new country. Then the pandemic struck and suddenly there was a lot of chatter around this feeling. We all know that smartphones and social media are pulling us apart but after reading this book I explored more to loneliness that just a feeling. 1. The pandemic made us realise what loneliness can do to us, but this is not the beginning rather a wake-up call. The causes of today’s 7 ½ learnings from The Lonely Century I picked this book because deep down I started feeling lonely once I moved to a new country. Then the pandemic struck and suddenly there was a lot of chatter around this feeling. We all know that smartphones and social media are pulling us apart but after reading this book I explored more to loneliness that just a feeling. 1. The pandemic made us realise what loneliness can do to us, but this is not the beginning rather a wake-up call. The causes of today’s loneliness crisis are numerous and diverse, and the author delves into each of them to help us acknowledge their importance 2. Lack of social contact can result in serious health conditions individually and snowball into a crisis collectively....and it already has 3. In fact, for democracies to function well it is essential for the state to connect with citizens and for citizens to connect with each other. No wonder that the pandemic affected not only our health but also the health of democracies world over 4. Social media is addictive pretty much like tobacco and alcohol. Is it time for Governments to tackle this addiction as well? After all, these interventions are aimed at largely protecting the young who in the case of social media are facing tremendous pressures to prove themselves. Parents are already fighting this menace but we need to do more 5. As we get vaccinated, more and more corporates will back the corporate chief who said, “If you can go into a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office”. However, we need to tackle the loneliness that will be further exacerbated by all the social distancing norms put in place for return to work. The author explains many terms and concepts in a simple and relatable way throughout the book so you don’t forget them, but I would not like to remember a Japanese term for death by work – karoshi 6. “The Digital Whip is getting longer, and no one will be spared.” I think in bits and pieces we all know this but the way the author connects the dots on automation, robots, surveillance, and artificial intelligence takes the conversation beyond loss of jobs and freedom 7. Finally, the nail in the coffin is The Loneliness Economy. My personal favourite - the emergence of a business model that seeks to commoditise community rather than nurturing existing communities or forging new ones As for the half…do you remember Morpheus explaining The Matrix. Now, I don’t mean that we are Neo. Rather, you will suddenly relate everything in the book with your own experiences on relationships, work, empathy, trust and finally purpose.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rhea

    After I heard Noreena speak about loneliness and what she calls the 'lonely economy' on a podcast I wanted to know more. So I picked up this book. It isn't the regular non-fiction fare I tend to gravitate towards. This one touched on multifarious subjects- sociology, capitalism, health, democracy, and the role of businesses and big tech. I've lived by myself away from family and friends in a new country for over two years now and more than one year was in the pandemic. While starting a new life After I heard Noreena speak about loneliness and what she calls the 'lonely economy' on a podcast I wanted to know more. So I picked up this book. It isn't the regular non-fiction fare I tend to gravitate towards. This one touched on multifarious subjects- sociology, capitalism, health, democracy, and the role of businesses and big tech. I've lived by myself away from family and friends in a new country for over two years now and more than one year was in the pandemic. While starting a new life in a new place is daunting enough the pandemic exacerbated certain challenges for me personally. Noreena's book was enlightening- it helped me feel a tad less lonely, reason with my emotions as well as understand a broader take on loneliness. Noreena argues that loneliness is not just a subjective individual feeling it is also a collective state of being that costs us billions of dollars, poses a threat to democracy, and results in millions of deaths annually. She expands the traditionally narrow definition of loneliness- the feeling of isolation and abandonment- to include feeling invisible- by your neighbors, government, and employer. Her book is replete with examples of precedents set by organizations and governments across the world to tackle the loneliness epidemic. She also captures stories of people all across society reeling from the effects of loneliness in one form or another. It is a thoroughly researched book packed with actionable insights whether you want to affect change at an individual level or at one with far-reaching consequences for society. This is an important book to understand how we can shape the world that is reeling from the challenges that covid-19 exacerbated.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    I really enjoyed this book that examines the ways that we as a society have been moving away from caring and connection over the last several decades, a problem that has only been further exacerbated during the recent COVID pandemic. She warns that the long-term implications of forced isolation on people's mental health may be long lasting and we need to see the corona virus as an opportunity to develop new structures and ways of behavior that will enable us to help create a cultural shift that I really enjoyed this book that examines the ways that we as a society have been moving away from caring and connection over the last several decades, a problem that has only been further exacerbated during the recent COVID pandemic. She warns that the long-term implications of forced isolation on people's mental health may be long lasting and we need to see the corona virus as an opportunity to develop new structures and ways of behavior that will enable us to help create a cultural shift that values greater care, kindness and compassion. My favorite chapter was on being alone at the office and how there has been a growing feeling of loneliness and discontent among workers as workplaces shift towards more remote work, with less and less in-person interactions - something that has only been furthered during the pandemic as so many have pivoted to working from home and Zoom meetings. According to Hertz: "Loneliness is not just a subjective state of mind. It is also a collective state of being that's taking a huge toll on us as individuals and on society as a whole, contributing to the death of millions of people annually, costing the global economy billions and posing a potent threat to tolerant inclusive democracy." The book does end on a hopeful note, with suggestions for both governments and individuals as well as examples of what some countries and people are already doing to try to create stronger communities and greater connections (the major thing we as individuals need to grapple with being our obsession with devices and finding ways to limit screen time in favor of greater actual human connections). Highly recommend this book for anyone feeling alone or searching for great connection in our increasingly digital world!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    What an eye-opening book that went into a lot of detail about how and why our world is pulling apart. This book was recommended to me by a close friend after discussing my observations about people living in a superficial world who are displaying narcissistic-type attitudes and behaviours. Then I had the pleasure of listening to Noreena Hertz at the Adelaide writers festival albeit virtually. I found it unbelievable and quite disturbing that singles eat their meals while watching someone eat (on What an eye-opening book that went into a lot of detail about how and why our world is pulling apart. This book was recommended to me by a close friend after discussing my observations about people living in a superficial world who are displaying narcissistic-type attitudes and behaviours. Then I had the pleasure of listening to Noreena Hertz at the Adelaide writers festival albeit virtually. I found it unbelievable and quite disturbing that singles eat their meals while watching someone eat (online) and pay for the privilege and machines are interviewing people for jobs. Sadly, not surprising was the devastating effects open-plan offices have as open-plan classrooms have been used, discarded and now brought back again (WTH!) to our schools.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ethan Kadet

    It was shorter than I expected, and I didn't really learn anything that I hadn't seen in articles online. Still an interesting perspective on the importance of public community spaces where people can share ideas and opinions with each other. She wrote about the impact of "micro interactions" where the quick conversations people have with others (often service workers) can positively impact well being. I think about this a lot while I am working at the desk at the gym. Always trying to smile and It was shorter than I expected, and I didn't really learn anything that I hadn't seen in articles online. Still an interesting perspective on the importance of public community spaces where people can share ideas and opinions with each other. She wrote about the impact of "micro interactions" where the quick conversations people have with others (often service workers) can positively impact well being. I think about this a lot while I am working at the desk at the gym. Always trying to smile and be nice to people, according to the book it can be helpful even if its fake, or "performative friendliness"!!! I like making conversations with random people who I interact with at work, makes me happier and I think they like it too (hopefully). Toward the end of the book, she wrote about how community takes hard work and social buy in. A strong community cannot just have spaces, it needs people to show up and participate. This made me think about the community we built with the frisbee team this year. Even though it has been hard work to go to every practice and organize social events, the tight knit community we created proves that participating and showing up really does work. I also thought her story about the health paradox of the orthodox community was interesting. Even though they don't do a lot of health promoting behaviors, this community is very healthy because of the social support they provide each other. Made me think about how I will try to connect with communities, Jewish but not orthodox, when I move to new cities.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Pascalle

    She did an amazing job by writhing this book. I never thought feeling lonely was such a broad concept/issue. But I really think she is right. It's definitely a book everybody should read an at least think about. And hopefully also pay a little attention too (from the policitian, the employers, ourself etc.). She did an amazing job by writhing this book. I never thought feeling lonely was such a broad concept/issue. But I really think she is right. It's definitely a book everybody should read an at least think about. And hopefully also pay a little attention too (from the policitian, the employers, ourself etc.).

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Geisler

    Still feel lonely, maybe even more so.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Prakhar Ganesh

    [4] Noreena Hertz defines loneliness as the feeling of not being heard. While most of us consider this only in context of not being heard by friends, family and people around us, the author takes it a step further and connects loneliness to the feeling of not being heard by the community, by our employer, by our leaders, by our government, etc. Once you start viewing loneliness under this wider umbrella, certain pattern start emerging. Noreena Hertz explores the inherent loneliness in the societal [4] Noreena Hertz defines loneliness as the feeling of not being heard. While most of us consider this only in context of not being heard by friends, family and people around us, the author takes it a step further and connects loneliness to the feeling of not being heard by the community, by our employer, by our leaders, by our government, etc. Once you start viewing loneliness under this wider umbrella, certain pattern start emerging. Noreena Hertz explores the inherent loneliness in the societal structures of the 21st century, the usual culprits, and its adverse effects. The author talks about how inherently flawed our 'city' is and how it contributes to our loneliness. She discusses the new patterns emerging in office spaces, the advancements in tech which have made us all crawl further back inside our shells, and the so-called loneliness economy which benefits from it all. The author doesn't just make empty claims, but instead cites a large number of studies, real life examples, interviews and experiences to convince us of the dire state of the world. Almost every chapter in the book, as well as the whole book itself, ends in a positive note, with the author guiding us towards possible solutions which will require, as she puts it, both bottoms-up and top-down solutions working in unison. We as individuals need to understand the importance of community and unglue our eyes from our phones, while the government needs to put in regulatory laws in practice to incentivize companies to take care of their employees instead of focusing on short term profits. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to truly understand the impact of the fast paced changes in our life today.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Max

    A great book! I really liked the different perspectives on the issue of loneliness: radicalization, technology, AI, work, etc. It's really interesting that a lot of people view social interactions as transactions. Trying to bring enough to the table to make it worth someone else's while but also wanting and taking something from them. This framing is of course very problematic if you don't want to feel lonely. A great book! I really liked the different perspectives on the issue of loneliness: radicalization, technology, AI, work, etc. It's really interesting that a lot of people view social interactions as transactions. Trying to bring enough to the table to make it worth someone else's while but also wanting and taking something from them. This framing is of course very problematic if you don't want to feel lonely.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Chris Boutté

    Before I dive into the review, I think it's important that I qualify myself. I'm an introverted millennial, and had it not been for technology like AOL Instant Messenger and social media apps in the following years, I wouldn't have nearly as many connections as I have now. The ability to connect through technology was huge in my life, so I'm always skeptical about books like this that discuss the loneliness epidemic. But as a mental health advocate and recovering drug addict, I know that we have Before I dive into the review, I think it's important that I qualify myself. I'm an introverted millennial, and had it not been for technology like AOL Instant Messenger and social media apps in the following years, I wouldn't have nearly as many connections as I have now. The ability to connect through technology was huge in my life, so I'm always skeptical about books like this that discuss the loneliness epidemic. But as a mental health advocate and recovering drug addict, I know that we have a mental health crisis, and deaths of despair are on the rise. As I talk with people, I see that loneliness is a major source of our problems, so I try to keep an open mind going into books like this one from Noreena Hertz.  With that being said, this book from Noreena Hertz was absolutely phenomenal. I'm always concerned that authors of these books are going to demonize technology, but Hertz didn't do that. Throughout the book, Hertz did an excellent job backing her arguments with research and empathy while also pointing out the issues we face as a society. Aside from discussing some of the problems with technology, she dove into topics such as political polarization and the rise of AI, and I learned a ton. Best of all, her closing chapter provides a wide range of solutions. Although I definitely agree with her solutions, I can see how some would disagree with that type of government paternalism. But as someone who loves the work of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, I think these solutions could work. So definitely grab a copy of this book, and I'd love to know your thoughts.

  30. 4 out of 5

    SuzAnne King

    This was an eye-opener. Not having experienced much loneliness on a personal, work or community level, I wasn't sure of what people were getting at when saying we are more disconnected than ever in this century. However, the last third of the book contains her footnotes and there is certainly enough research out there to support the premise. A couple of chapters are really interesting: "Alone at the Office" is not an issue I've dealt with (indeed, I spend most of my day talking to people: client This was an eye-opener. Not having experienced much loneliness on a personal, work or community level, I wasn't sure of what people were getting at when saying we are more disconnected than ever in this century. However, the last third of the book contains her footnotes and there is certainly enough research out there to support the premise. A couple of chapters are really interesting: "Alone at the Office" is not an issue I've dealt with (indeed, I spend most of my day talking to people: clients; colleagues, support networks and managers so a day "alone at the office" appeals greatly), however Hertz uncovers how hot-desking, remote working and the lack of "water cooler conversations" has led to a huge disconnect between co-workers who are in each others presence every day but prefer to email rather than talk face-to-face. The saddest sentence of all was about a guy who was very ill and absent from his open-plan office yet no one even noticed he wasn't there. "Sex, Love and Robots" was all about a world of the future, one which already exists for some of us. She opens the chapter with an anecdote about a lonely city dweller who prefers paid services like "rent a friend" rather then taking a chance on a real relationship via online dating. Hertz goes on to explain how current users of robots are already prone to anthropomorphizing the devices, perhaps, she indirectly suggests, in an effort to add a human dimension. Apparently elderly Japanese women knit little bonnets for their robot caregivers, and families often given their remote vacuum a name. You might say that's nothing new: many of us have named some inanimate object in our lives for fun, but Hertz shows how attached people are becoming to some devices and she provides an instance where consumers would rather wait for their existing (and named) Roomba to be repaired than have it replaced immediately by an entirely new cleaner. All this got me thinking about C3PO and Eleanor Rigby. Where do "All the Lonely People" come from? It seems they are coming from everywhere. Hertz does conclude with suggestions to fix the dilemma we face but I'm not entirely convinced they'll take. 4/5 stars

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