Aprils 18, 2007

Professor isolates roots of some violence

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University communication expert says incivility is on the rise because people are lonely from lacking the basic relationships and friendships that are essential to human beings.

Following Monday's (April 16) massacre at Virginia Tech in which 33 people were killed, including the alleged gunman, the shooter is being identified as a loner.

"Many of us admit to having few close friends," says Glenn Sparks, professor of communication who studies the effects of mass media. "We easily recognize the living rooms and kitchens of sitcom characters but have never seen the inside of the home of the family living next door. We are increasingly isolated. A society that persists in creating a culture of isolation and disconnection may find itself in a very scary place. In extreme cases, people may lash out and hurt others.

"It is time to recognize that we are all in this together. We need each other."

Sparks says that this disconnection may be partially the result of people being distracted by technology, such as television, video games or the Internet. He recommends that people turn off the television during the evening and go for a walk to meet neighbors, or meet people through volunteering or other activities.

"A society that helps to facilitate closer connection and works against isolation cannot only do more to identify potential perpetrators before they act, it can even prevent them from developing in the first place," he says.

Sparks wrote the book "Media Effects Research" and is co-author of "Refrigerator Rights," a book that deals with the loss of close interpersonal relationships in America.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Glenn Sparks, (765) 494-3316, sparks@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

To the News Service home page

Newsroom Search Newsroom home Newsroom Archive