“Join or Die.” It’s the urgent title of a new documentary about “America’s civic unraveling,” as the filmmakers describe it, arguing that the country’s long decline in community connections is undermining America's democracy.

The film centers around the research of Robert Putnam, the retired Harvard social scientist, whose book “ Bowling Alone: the Collapse and Revival of American Communities,” arguably changed America's understanding of the importance of community.

"There are two different kinds of consequences of our social connections, or of the absence of social connections. One set has to do with how being a loner affects us personally," said Robert Putnam. "The title of the film 'Join or Die,' refers to that set of consequences, because it's quite clear. And I made this [point] originally in 'Bowling Alone' while I was writing it 25 years ago. But it's now become even clearer. Your chances of dying over the next year are cut in half by joining one group, cut in three quarters by joining two groups. In other words, there are major physical and many other effects on you personally, if you become isolated."

Now, decades since "Bowling Alone" was published filmmakers take another look at the decline in social connections and how a loneliness epidemic has contributed to the decline.

"It was an opportunity to zoom out a little bit, and not just cover the symptoms, but really look at what are these root causes," said Rebecca Davis, co-director and co-producer of "Join or Die."

"I also felt in the news, we were doing a lot of stories about 'this is bad, this is bad,' but not nearly enough about what can we do and where we can look for hope."


Robert D. Putnam, former Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, author of 15 books including "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community", and "The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again"

Rebecca Davis, co-director and co-producer of " Join or Die"