Editorial: Does Technology Make us More Alone?

January 13, 2016

Editorial%3A+Does+Technology+Make+us+More+Alone%3F

Jason Howie on Flickr

I am only one of over 15 million people who had seen the video by Charlene deGuzman titled, “I Forgot My Phone.” This is a video that ultimately criticizes the overuse and addiction to technology that we have in the modern world. Ironically, I viewed it while lost in the vast space that is known as YouTube. As I watched, I realized–however satirical and over-emphasized as the video seemed–that perhaps the video was not, in fact, overdramatic.

The problem that we face in the 21st century is that we spend way too much time on our cell phones. We have been convinced that connectivity is at our finger tips, that our friends are only a tap away. Is it all a clever excuse for admitting that we are in fact lonelier because of it?

Consider all of the times that you carry your phone with you, even for the short trip to the restroom or the journey downstairs for a bag of chips. We simply can not go anywhere without our cell phones. The notification of someone’s latest relationship status update or their 100th selfie post to Instagram can not possibly wait a couple minutes while we satisfy our stomach.

We can not possibly go out for a run through the park any more without having our phone; as it is after all, the only way that we can track our running time and our source of music while we go for a jog. No, rather we must bring it along, as if it is some proof of physical effort or bragging rights to our buddies and ourselves of how physically active we are, as if we are fooling them with notions of running for an hour a day when everyone knows that the other four hours you could have spent going for a run, were instead spent binge-watching Netflix.

Even as I write this, I am listening to music on the same device, typing, referring to articles on Safari and checking my text messages. If I was paying attention to the rest of the world, I would probably be occupying myself with spending time with my family or reading a book.

Lillian Hellman once said, “Lonely people, in talking to each other, can make each other lonelier.” I find that this best summarizes the effects that cell phones have on our lives. Instead of actually going to the mall with our friends, we create a group chat and are content to believe that this counts as “hanging out.”

The concept of loneliness is considered as a matter of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. We feel lonely because we desire more social interaction, whether we receive more than others or not. We have been convinced that social media quenches such desires. However, even when we Facebook message or Snapchat our buddies, we may still feel loneliness. In the end, you are still in bed, probably in your pajamas and lonely. Its what psychologists have called “communication on demand,” an action that we all do without realizing that we do it.

Imagine being on Facebook, and you begin chatting with someone from school that you know a little about, but have not really talked to. The conversation goes well, until an uncomfortable topic comes up, and suddenly you don’t want to speak to them any more. So, what do you do? You leave the chat and avoid them at school at all costs.

Imagine the same interaction in person. You cannot as easily leave the conversation in this instance, without coming off as rude, so you pursue it. In person, you both can react to facial expressions and body language, a feature that cell phones lack, and conversations can be controlled. So, perhaps uncomfortable situations can be avoided all together. This interaction causes bonds, which satisfies our loneliness much better than social media can.

In this way, our loneliness is a reaction to be sad or disappointed by the amount of interaction we expect to get, compared to what we actually get. Social media makes us think we get that interaction, however makes us lonely in the long run because we do not receive the amount of interaction that we desire.

I can honestly say that I live a life without social media. That is not to say I did not have social media at one point, but I have since deleted almost all of my apps and profiles. The challenge that I propose for you is to live a day without your cell phone. It sounds feasible, maybe, but take note of how many times you reach for your cell phone to even check the time. You may be surprised how difficult it could be.

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