Oates Institute

Loneliness in a Digital Age


Digital media allow us to be connected with people all of the time and all over the world. Has the possibility of constant connection led to an increased sense of personal belonging or loneliness? One current measure of loneliness in the United States suggests that 44 million Americans are chronically lonely, potentially a public health crisis. As MIT’s Sherry Turkle said in Together Alone, “our devices and online personas are redefining human connection and communication.” We’ll examine these topics in this class and also consider the kinds of positive human connection we seek to foster as pastoral caregivers in a digital age.

Learning outcomes:

1. To identify how digital devices and online personas redefine human connection and communication.
2. To identify positive aspects of human connection and communication made possible through digital devices.
3. To identify negative aspects of human connection and communication, particularly loneliness, made possible through digital devices.
4. To identify strategies for pastoral caregivers to foster positive human connection and mitigate loneliness in the digital age.

Class Resources:

“Connected Alone–Sherry Turkle” a 2013 TED Talk.

“Freedom & Loneliness: Are Digital Companions the Future or the Problem? 2017 Cambridge Forum (YouTube)

Loneliness Scales:

a. Campaign to End Loneliness Scale (British)
b. De Jong Gierveld Scale
c. The UCLA Loneliness Scale

Additional Recommended Resources:

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

James, Carrie. Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap. Cambridge: MIT Press.

The 2010 AARP Loneliness Survey of Adults 45+



You may participate in this seminar from wherever you are. All you need is your tablet or computer and access to the Internet. You may also participate according to your schedule. By spreading the discussion out over several weeks using a discussion forum, you may read others posts and submit your own to the conversation at times that are convenient to you.

This seminar will use the Oates Institute’s Connected Learning approach, which invites participants to reflect on their experience in light of the assigned readings and share the insights of that reflection with the group. This allows us to more fully engage with what the author and seminar facilitator share and we discover new insights about ourselves in light of our experience. Often we discover that we know more than we thought we did. Sharing our insights helps us go deeper and to also learn from one another’s experience. One of the exciting aspects of online seminars is that the participants are from so many other places providing us with the opportunities for learn from other regions and cultures.

Continuing Education Requirements:

As a participant in this online seminar you may earn 12 contact hours of continuing education credit by reading the resource and other presentations and participating in the discussion. Those seeking continuing education credits must contribute at least two posts per week to the discussion — one reflecting on the presentations or case studies in light of personal experience and context and a second responding to someone else’s reflection or inquiry. The evaluation form submitted at the end of the seminar serves as the CEU application. Following your submission of this form you will receive your CEU certificate.


As with all Oates Seminars, registration for this seminar is simple. Members may register for free by simply applying for the course in the upper right corner of this page. Non-members may participate by also applying for the course where you will be taken to a payment page. Select the $95 non-member seminar registration choice, pay and you’ll be registered. If you have any difficulties at all, please email us at registration@oates.org.

For non-members, you can save money over the long-term by becoming a member, too! A one-year clinical membership is just a few dollars more than paying for two seminars as a non-member. So BECOME A MEMBER and save!


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