It seems we might never know any more about Adam Lanza’s motivations for the murders in Newtown than we know now.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from looking closely at the sad, isolated life that he lived.
So if you’re interested in such things, I highly recommend this piece by Michael S. Rosenwald in the Washington Post: Why do we still know so little about Adam Lanza? Because he lived in the cloud.
The only person who recalled dealing with him was the town hairstylist, who had trimmed Lanza’s hair. Think about that: Except for using the bathroom and eating his meals, getting a haircut was just about the only thing Lanza couldn’t do online. All the things he apparently enjoyed were accessible to him without leaving his room. He could find community among gamers. He could order computer parts. He could buy books without ever visiting a bookstore. That he smashed his hard drive before the shooting spree was telling — a digital suicide preceding his physical one.
Police have yet to give a full report on Lanza and the shootings. There is more to be learned, more lessons to be drawn, more proposals that will be delivered beyond the ones Obama issued Wednesday, which include an assault-weapons ban and expanded background checks before gun purchases. But this case should also force us to confront yet again the ways in which ever more of our lives are lived on a screen, in the cloud, via our computers and phones and tablets, and soon, if Google has its way, through our glasses. Our lives are becoming more transmitted than lived.
But this is not your typical Luddite’s bashing of the internet or technology or social media, which Lanza appears to have used only in gaming circles. Rosenwald even cites studies that have shown more real world social connections among those who interact the most with others online.
Still, it’s an interesting meditation on how, at least for some isolated people, the illusion of community online can lead to even more isolation.
And I’d like to add another thought — one that I might flesh out more later.
Adam Lanza seems also to have been somewhat isolated because of his family’s — and, by the end, just his mother’s — affluence. The size of the house, the physical distance of that house from others, the free time that made his mother opt for homeschooling, the money to pay for apparently sophisticated technology for her son, a wealth that would have not made it a necessity for Adam to find work — there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these things, but they all seem to have contributed to, or at minimum facilitated, a sad young man’s further withdrawal from the world.
Adam Lanza may have lived in the cloud, but he also lived in a bubble of affluence.
I don’t know what to make about the statements by surviving Lanza family members that Nancy ascribed to some survivalist ideas — ones that appear to have led her to buy some powerful weapons and to have possibly impacted her interactions with her son. Perhaps we’ll learn more about that in the future.
It will be interesting to see how the investigation plays out from here, especially on these issues of social and digital isolation.