Neil Postman has written several brilliant essays on how material goods and technology replace the very thing that can drive a sustained happiness: healthy interpersonal relationships. Postman has argued that people use cars instead of relationships as the item to depend on and seek comfort from: a car doesn't have the potential of letting you down in the same catastrophic way a friend might. He argues that Las Vegas became the new cultural mecca with its lights and flashiness and extravagance: to use my words, the ultimate gilded facade. Yet he recognized that "new technology cannot substitute for human values."
His insights occurred before the more recent influx of technological advances. Telling of the impact of information technology is the fact that IT clues are included in Will Shortz crosswords (e.g., LAN, unix, opensource). People communicate without face to face contact; children are now raised in this new world of social media. There is a changed etiquette: people text others while walking together, people post that they are at lunch rather than being in the moment with the food and the company, and people engage in personal conversations in public on their cell phones. The technology that is supposed to allow you to access the whole world often puts constraints on our very interaction with others and events. This is especially underscored by the new phenomenon of "instagram envy," mentioned just today in the business section of the New York Times. It makes sense that people selectively choose moments from their lives to place on Facebook and other forms of social media. These media, such as instagram, have tools that further idealize the images. The consequence is that viewers often come to question their own lives and it has been found to increase depression.
Robert Putman, in Bowling Alone, posits that there is a sociological shift in human connection. People don't play bridge with each other any more. People don't get to know their neighbors. Being a part of an organization commonly means payment of annual dues rather than active participation.
Instead we have the seeming safety of our trend-setting clothes, cars, and houses. This gilded facade will crack. A return to interpersonal values and connection, on a societal level, is of vital need.