The Social Isolation Crisis in America: An In-Depth Look at Join or Die Documentary

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In a time where social isolation and community disconnection are becoming increasingly prevalent in America, the documentary “Join or Die” shines a light on the loneliness epidemic and its impact on civic engagement. Directed by Rebecca and Pete Davis, this film delves into the research of social scientist Robert Putnam and his groundbreaking work on the decline of American community life.

Robert Putnam, a Harvard professor and renowned political scientist, gained national fame in the late 1990s with his research on American community connections. His work, particularly the “Bowling Alone” study, revealed a significant decline in civic engagement over the past half-century. Putnam’s insightful analyses earned him the nickname “poet laureate of civil society” and recognition from influential figures such as President Obama.

“Join or Die” updates Putnam’s research findings from two decades ago to showcase the continued deterioration of community life in America. The documentary highlights alarming statistics, such as a 35% decline in religious congregation membership and a 66% decline in union membership from the 1960s to the 2020s. Moreover, a recent Pew Research Center poll revealed that 43% of Americans do not belong to any community groups, emphasizing the extent of social disconnection in society.

The consequences of diminishing community engagement are profound, with the film pointing out that joining just one group can halve your chance of dying in the next year. As Americans withdraw from public and communal life, the health effects are becoming increasingly apparent. “Join or Die” underscores the critical link between personal well-being and participation in community activities.

Role of “Join or Die” in Today’s Society

As America grapples with a social isolation crisis, “Join or Die” comes at a crucial time, coinciding with an election year where civic engagement is in the spotlight. Abramorama’s acquisition of the documentary for North American distribution reflects the growing interest in revisiting Putnam’s work and addressing the challenges of community disconnection. The filmmakers, Rebecca and Pete Davis, stress the importance of the film’s message in emphasizing the vital role of public and communal involvement in maintaining personal and civic health.

“Join or Die” offers a poignant exploration of the loneliness epidemic and its implications for American society. Through the lens of Robert Putnam’s research, the documentary reveals the stark reality of community decline and underscores the critical need for reengagement in public life. As audiences across North America are introduced to this thought-provoking film, the conversation surrounding social isolation and civic participation is reignited, prompting reflection on the impact of our individual and collective actions on the well-being of society.


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