The Lonely Epidemic

Loneliness has become the most common ailment of the modern world

The cause? Online social networking, of course. At least that is one theory being proposed. The effects of the Internet, mobile devices, and social networking can hardly be scientifically proven at this point, but its clear that many people are already starting to take notice of our changing social landscape. How might Facebook, Twitter, email, and texting be changing the way we feel about our friends, family, and even ourselves? 

Before you make your own judgment, watch this four and a half minute video that explains this theory. It may even change the way you think about your online relationships.

In a world where more and more followers and “friends” is the norm, how do we maintain and build strong relationship when our lives are becoming increasingly demanding. Research has indicated that humans only have the capacity to maintain 150 relationships before needing to reduce or separate. We simply don’t have the ability to maintain that many intimate relationships. When you think of the word relationship, is it not quality that is more important than quantity? 

Sacrificing conversation for connection

We may not all fall victim to connection obsession, but I would wager that many of you have, at one point in time, strived for digital significance. Every “like” adds to our online ego and every friend or follower makes us feel even that much more meaningful and accepted. The feeling of “virtual empathy” that fills our bodies when others agree and acknowledge us is discussed by Psychology Today. What are the physical affects of online social networking?

We are tempted to think that our little ‘sips’ of online connection add up to a big pile of real conversation. But connecting in sips doesn’t work as well when it comes to understanding and knowing one another.
— Dr. Turkle

Perhaps the most impactful idea from The Innovation of Loneliness is our ability to present the self as we want. Unlike offline conversations, texting, emailing, and posting is all thought through to present ourselves the way we wish to be, instead of the way we actually are. We get to edit. With photoshop being such a controversial topic today, people, especially ladies, need to be conscious of how they act and accept other’s online behavior. People aren't perfect, physically or psychologically, and the Internet gives us this barrier to hide behind. We only reveal those parts of ourselves we and society deem acceptable. 

Three important things are happening to us:

  1. We can put our attention anywhere we want it to be. How many times have you walked into a room, only to find every single person on their smartphone? We’re becoming more efficient, able to do work and entertainment everywhere, but we are losing the ability to focus on what and who are around us. 
  2. We will always be heard. As Elite Daily points out, we are often tempted to twist stories to promote ourselves online (even in small ways). 
  3. We will never have to be alone. We can’t substitute our real lives for online followers.

I share, therefore I am

I am, as you know, a huge fan of the Internet and social media. I think that it's increasingly popular for people, especially older generations, to look down on this newly emerging culture. Things are changing and change is often perceived as bad. However, I can’t deny some of these claims. I believe that 2014 in particular will be the beginning of a new era of the online self. Social networking is increasingly focused on private interactions and moving away from superficial Likes and Follows. The Internet and social networking are still young, and the way people use these tools will continue to change. It’s unclear what kinds of affects will result, but I’m hopeful.

What are you thoughts on our changing social lives? Do you agree with this theory?