Is Facebook tearing us apart? Now there’s a loaded question. Say yes, and, on top of sounding like a Luddite or an insufferable contrarian, you’ll have insulted millions of people. Say no, waving away all qualms, and you risk aligning yourself with an equally lazy camp: those who think that because all novelty is initially resisted, all resistance to novelty will seem laughable in time. Roger Scruton, in The Uses of Pessimism, notes that John Ruskin objected to railroads as “an assault on rural tranquility,” a position we moderns are sure to regard as “quaint.” To take from this example that objections to Facebook will one day sound similarly quaint is to put one’s judgment on autopilot—another invention that must have been terrifying before being indispensable and, finally, a matter of indifference.

The British novelist Jonathan Coe’s Terrible Privacy of...

 

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