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A bipartisan odd couple takes on hefty problems: Division and loneliness

WASHINGTON — The Senate floor is typically the setting for speeches on foreign policy or spending battles or the occasional vote. But on a summer Thursday last year, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut went to the floor to discuss a rarer topic for the room.

“I’m here to talk about loneliness,” Murphy said.

Murphy had been grappling with why Americans felt so divided at a time when technology has humans more connected than ever. His focus on the U.S. “epidemic of loneliness” led him down a path with many questions, few answers — and now, a Republican ally in the fight.

“How can we feel lonelier in a world where connection to other human beings now requires only a click of a button? How can we feel isolated when linkage to the outside world is delivered via nonstop handheld stimulus?” Murphy asked in a piece he wrote for The Bulwark in December 2022.

Those questions led Murphy to Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican who himself was trying to find solutions to reconnect the disconnected. The duo is currently holding roundtable discussions with experts and everyday Americans to understand the problems more deeply before plotting the solutions.

“I’ve been an admirer of the governor’s work for years,” Murphy shared in an interview with NBC News on Thursday, “especially when it comes to his work to try to draw our kids away from this culture of withdrawal that has been created by the smartphone technology and the apps that have become so addictive to our kids.”

Murphy said he reached out to Cox during a June phone call last year to “try to figure out why Utah is a place with really high social capital, with people who feel maybe a little bit more connected to the community than in other parts of the country and see if there was

Read more on nbcnews.com