Musings on life, love, hope and just about everything!
Technology propels Loneliness. Is it true?
Firstly, we are living in an age of social networks. We are certainly living in interesting times. Everyone is connected to everyone. To such an extent that new research sponsored by Facebook out of a Milan computer science university shows that the old adage of there being six degrees of separation is no longer accurate. Today there exists only 4.7 degrees of separation instead. As an observer and an eternal student of culture, I’ve noticed that one of the biggest shifts happening right now is that we don’t make friends anymore – we ‘friend’ people. Its quite different if you analyze carefully. To ‘friend’ someone means that we try to create a connection with them and them to our social sphere even if we might not know them personally. We add them to our social graph purely on the basis of (a) the knowledge that he/she might be a friend of a friend OR (b) we might have briefly interacted with them online / offline OR (c) we simply like the information that is accessible to us on their profile page which includes – name, photograph, interests, likes, etc and would like to associate ourselves with them. The fact is that the more people lead digital lives – we take pictures, we tweet, we write a blog post, we update status messages – the more the simple act of ‘friending’ becomes closer to offering a subscription to all the content created by us. This leads to an interesting aspect – even the word ‘friend’ is changing. It is fast becoming less of a noun and more of a verb! And when this happens it gives us a delusion that we have a lot of ‘friends’. That is precisely why you would find that people have 2500 friends on Facebook but lead very lonely lives personally. In such a situation the scope to engage in meaningful conversation might exist, but even loneliness exists. Thus we can say that in a socially networked world – loneliness is the opposite of connection.
Secondly – we live amidst a lot of personal devices and gadgets. We are living at an age where there has been a surge in the number of personal devices. To the point that, according to a study, half of consumers surveyed (48 percent), “feel high-tech manufacturers bring new products to market faster than people need them.” This means that we can access any content, on any device at any time and in any place! Its crazy! It means that our experience of reality will only vary in terms of what we are currently doing on the screens that are available us (iPod screen, mobile screen, iPad screen). Traditionally products were designed and packaged for specific uses in certain places. Movies were viewed only in cinema halls while VCDs and DVDs were meant of consumption at home. But now, access to content is more fluid – thanks to the rise of devices and technological integration. Thus, linked by our personal devices to global server farms – we tend to have continous access to personalized world of the web – as a result, we tend to spend a lot of time… really a lot of time.. with our devices. And that makes us more lonely because we are constantly hooked to our devices and may not find ourselves having a meaningful conversation with people. There is just so much of news, status updates, photographs, videos, movies and other entertainment related programs and packages vying for our attention. With so much to do and so little time, do we end up giving priority to our gadgets and the endless world of information links and bytes over real people and real relationships?
Based on the two points shared above, can we conclude that maybe the abundance of communication media does spurn loneliness and at some level it stops us from having meaningful conversations with our immediate real world? What do you think?