Social Interactions in "Walden" and Social Networking Today

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Kayla Lanker
Word Count: 1100

“Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that old musty cheese that we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable and that we need not come to open war. We meet at the post-office, and at the sociable, and about the fireside every night; we live thick and are in each other's way, and stumble over one another, and I think that we thus lose some respect for one another. Certainly less frequency would suffice for all important and hearty communications. Consider the girls in a factory — never alone, hardly in their dreams. It would be better if there were but one inhabitant to a square mile, as where I live. The value of a man is not in his skin, that we should touch him.” (181-182 Walden)

Social Interactions in Walden and Social Networking Today

In “Solitude”, the fifth chapter of Walden, Henry David Thoreau talks about the importance of solitude. He lambastes that society lacks the necessary space and time, to engage in meaningful discussions. Thoreau uses powerful metaphors, and a condescending tone to criticize the high frequency, lack of depth and general propriety of the social interactions in his society; in today’s world of Facebook and Twitter, he would do five summersaults with double-twists if he saw how we communicate every minute of every day.

At the beginning of the passage, Thoreau uses a scornful tone and a vivid metaphor to show that he despises the all too frequent and shallow interactions between members of his society. He starts off by describing his society as being “commonly too cheap”. Thoreau uses the word “cheap” to portray a society that doesn’t put enough effort into “acquir[ing] any new value for each other”. By using “commonly”, we can infer that Thoreau...
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