Pre-industrial societies dealt with their own set of fears. Plague, disease, and war all clouded their horizon, only they did not have to hear about it on 24-hour cable news networks, on the internet or through email forwards. However, the pre-industrial man would see these impending disasters as the hand of Providence, and mostly outside of his control. What could a colonial settler do against a hurricane coming up the Atlantic coast? How could a medieval peasant ward off the Black Death? I am sure they did not accept their fate passively, but there was an understanding of their finitude in relation to the rest of the universe. Death was out there, a threatening menace and an enemy to be avoided, but not with the hysterical, Chicken Little mentality common today.
Perhaps our fascination with social networking comes from a desire to revolt against these constant reminders of our own mortality. When we let everyone in our online reality know where we are, what we are doing, seeing, tasting, experiencing, etc.... then we are declaring "I am alive"- just look at this proof. When we do this in the context of a massive electronic pseudo-community, then we are able to be part of something larger than ourselves and declare that we matter. We do not have the tight-knit local community that was common in pre-industrial societies. A town, village, or hamlet could band together to fight off invaders, rebuild after a major storm, or take care of the sick together. How can we deal this impending doom today? Maybe these status updates, tweets, and even blog posts are no more than screams out into the digital void to prove we are alive, and we are all in this together.