I read the works of psychologist Erich Fromm (1900-1980) voraciously when I was younger. His wrote about how humans suffered from a sense of alienation due to their estrangement with nature and with other people, and that this was a source of many mental problems and destructive behavior because they sought to fill that need by various means that did not address the fundamental problem of alienation. In his writings he suggested alternative ways of achieving fulfillment by connecting people with one another in deep and meaningful ways.
I am not sure what Fromm would have thought of the current social networking phenomenon with its seeming compulsion to be in constant contact with others via cell phones, text messaging, Facebook, and the like. I am guessing that he would have seen this as a manifestation of the basic human need to connect with others but that it would not satisfy it because of its superficiality.
Fromm was a social psychologist in addition to being an individual psychologist and thus also explored what kinds of societies helped people reduce their sense of alienation. Fromm wrote a lot of books, Escape From Freedom, The Sane Society, and The Art of Loving being the better known ones. Although he was secular in his thinking, he was born and raised in the Orthodox Jewish tradition and drew extensively upon his studies of the Torah for his insights.
I loved Fromm’s humane attitude and approach to life and it is a pity that he is not better known and read these days. Hence I was delighted to hear that one of the regular commenters here (Salty Current) is writing a series about him and his work. The first post is here and I look forward to reading the subsequent ones.