So, why are we going mad? There are a few theories.
First, I think that, from a 12 Step perspective, the heart of our modern madness lies in the elimination of God from the modern mind. In the West, God has been driven out of philosophy and the social sciences as far back as the French Revolution. The 18th century started this gradual path, in part because of the sheer madness of Western Christianity from the time of the Schism in 1054 until the insanity of the Reformation (the Reformation was undoubtedly a time of madness, and even the most committed Protestant will agree that most of what came out of it he rejects, since no one person could follow all the various streams of Protestant thought at once).
The frustration of so many conflicting theological paths led men to seen 'alternatives' to the unity that Christianity in the West once offered. Nationalism, Masonry, and eventually Science came to be seen as common ground. Now, it is Money. Each stage represented a more and more materialistic approach, since the assumption is that it is easier to come to agreement over physical, visible things than it is to come to agreement over invisible, sublime things.
Yet, materialism is failing miserably. It does not feed the deeper yearnings of man for something profound, nor does it offer reliable salvation. Right now, the American people are in turmoil because they are clamoring for 'salvation' from Money through government and business. God is an 'option' and more like a distraction on Sundays... perhaps a quick 'fix' of something vaguely spiritual just to take the edge off of our deeper desires that never seem to get met.
The second source of madness is availability of distractions. Rather than having the pain of our madness drive us to real change and a return to sanity, we now have millions of distractions... literally at our fingertips. Here's an example:
Now, I'm a bit old and the idea of getting more than a few texts in a week seems overwhelming, but I have camped a keyboard waiting for an email more than once. There is a sense of immediacy in this age which often destroys our ability to prioritize and focus. We are losing the ability to be patient, because there is so little need to be patient in the microwave era.
We wait for nothing. And so, we lose the ability to be patient. Life takes on a maddening pace that overwhelms while it exhilarates. The only consolation is the arrival of our desired object, be it the consoling text of a friend, a new jacket, or sexual climax.
In fact, we are clamoring for things even while getting what we want. The point of the article about cell phones is that people are interrupting the gratification of relationships with more more relationships than a single moment can hold. What is thrilling at first, however, soon becomes exhausting. Suddenly, we are juggling too much. We become exhausted with all these people are their various needs and demands.
We retreat into loneliness.
This solitude is not really a recuperative one. It is more like a defeated retreat, where we leave the scene without what we really want: a sense of being valued. We want to feel desired, but no one else can hold still long enough to value us (likewise, we are not holding still either... and we know it). Because no one values, we feel that we are not valued, and so we fall for the next available 'coping' skill... self-arousal.
This leads to our third contributing factor: we are also now in a time where people are physically isolating from one another. Internet porn, as well as prostitution and promiscuity, require the ability to isolate and be alone. If it acceptable for a young lady or man to roam the streets by his or herself, then you are setting the stage for the 'sins of darkness.'
Sitting in a room by yourself with a computer is a dangerous thing for someone who is lonely.
The idea of every child having his own room is a revolutionary. In most of human history, families shared every space in the home. You had to really work at finding a 'private place' to be alone. The default position was communal. Now, our default position is privacy, yet humans have not changed in their need for community. We are busy trying to 'construct communities' because TV and internet have come to replace that communal sense, but in an incomplete way. Problems around us don't get met because we are too busy watching video streams of other peoples' crises.
This isolation leaves us desperate for some sense of fellowship and value. Porn and promiscuity are easy fixes in the Age of Isolation. But, the despair they leave behind only makes the problem spin out of control.
The solution? I'm not sure we've really hit bottom yet. Some part of me thinks that the lights will really have to go out for the long haul before we will wake up to what we are doing to ourselves.
Perhaps I sound like a crank, but I don't see the way things are going as the right direction.