"All these things are a lot like TV." Well, yes and no. The damage done by TV was rather total. The older neighborhoods of Rockford have many front porches; very few of them are ever used today, even on evenings that are as beautiful as today's is likely to be. Instead of enjoying conversation while watching the sunset and the slow fade of dusk into twilight, most families in Rockford tonight will be gathering round an oddly flickering blue light—or, more likely, not gathering but dispersing, each parent and child drawn like a moth to his own blue flame.
Facebook and other social media can lead to that same sort of fragmentation and dispersion as well—only a fool would deny that. But unlike TV or radio, Facebook can be used to draw people together—by which I don't mean in "virtual reality," but in the real world. As I mentioned, my 25-year high-school reunion was planned on Facebook, and some classmates who had disappeared after graduation and thus had never learned of previous reunions were found through Facebook and made it to this one. My cousins and I are planning my grandmother's 100th birthday party the same way. With scores of people involved, Facebook has actually made it easier to pick a date that will work for most and to coordinate plans than more traditional means of communication would have.
These are things—indeed, I'll go so far as to say good things—that TV and radio simply cannot facilitate.
Is it "touchy-feely sentimentalism" to "invest much in communication with distant friends and relations"? Perhaps. But I think an argument can be made that it is a half-step back toward the reality that has been shattered by TV and radio.
Scott P. Richert is editor at large for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and Publisher for Our Sunday Visitor. He holds an M.A. in political theory from the Catholic University of America. He has been published in, among others, The Family in America, This World, and Humanitas. He is the Catholicism Expert for About.com.