Have you ever thought that modern technology not only allows us to communicate more and more, overcoming the boundaries and prohibitions of the self-isolation regime during the coronavirus pandemic, but also vice versa, makes us feel more and more alone? Now I'm not talking about the fact that we are immersed in a smartphone and a monitor screen, forgetting that there is real life around us. I mean, even extroverts feel more and more lonely. There is a logical explanation for this and scientists have given it. Let's take a look at how it works and how technology affects us and our lives.
Smartphones have changed our lives, but our psyche has not yet had time to rebuild.
What you read below will be a slightly lighter version of what I was trying to write. The fact is that initially it turned out to be too complex and detailed. As a result, I wanted to make it simpler and write shorter about what modern technologies are from the point of view of our psychology, which does not have time to adapt to them.
How smartphones affect feelings of loneliness
We are talking about smartphones primarily due to the fact that they now represent all our communication. We consume content, communicate and store “our whole life” inside a smartphone. This is even proven by a recent study we wrote about a couple of days ago.
Scientists from all over the world are trying to understand how the emergence of virtual communication and the increased incidence of loneliness, which often even leads to mental disorders, is related. It has not yet been established what was the cause and what was the effect, but the connection is more than strong.
Loneliness has been at all times. Moreover, when people lived in small groups, it could be felt even more acutely than now. At least it should have felt that way, but even the generation of our grandparents did not experience what modern people on Earth experience. The novelist Thomas Wolfe wrote about this: “Loneliness is now and has always been the central and inevitable feeling of every person.”
That is, the feeling of loneliness for the human psyche is absolutely normal. With this sorted out. But how does the fact that there are so many means of communication around him, and we get “access to friends” in just a couple of seconds, wherever they are.
There are many messengers, but they do not provide the kind of communication that human habits, developed over millennia, require.
What affects feelings of loneliness
In fact, the feeling of loneliness, which is sometimes even difficult to formulate and call this word, is influenced by many factors: moving, a new job, a new school, and even just excessive self-criticism, which at first prevents you from starting to communicate with people, and when you have already started, it makes you feel unnecessary in this company. Here the principle is simple – “I'm not like them, and they are not interested in me.” Although in reality these people may need a person more than he needs them.
Technology only amplifies this effect by creating the illusion of connection. The seemingly endless possibilities of communication, on the contrary, take it away and reduce the tolerance and acceptance of loneliness by a person, in which there is nothing terrible if it is temporary.
“Our culture places such expectations on us that we need a tremendous amount of contact to be successful,” says Susan Matt, professor of history at State University. Weber in Ogden, Utah. The average user Facebook has 338 friends and, of course, we need to understand that we have more and more of them. But how many of these friends will we call at night with the words “no time to explain, throw out all their trunk, take a shovel and come to me”? Each person will have a maximum of ten close friends, but our expectations are very inflated.
Remember what happened 15 years ago, when we did not have so many communications. Let's say it's your birthday and 5-10 people called you (except for duty congratulations at work, at school, and so on). Were you happy? I think yes. It was valuable. Things are different now. If fewer than 30 people out of 500 friends on the Web congratulate you, it will be almost an insult, although they only remembered you because of a notification on the social network. The closest ones added the date to the smartphone calendar. But we are waiting for more, but we just don't get it.
Each person has a means of communication, but they must be able to use them.
How social networks affect a person
This is just an example of how social media and a wide range of opportunities for communication inflate our expectations of our importance to someone. 50 years ago, people did not have Facebook and VK, and they communicated with several friends, but at that time the problem of feeling alone was not so acute. Now it is even suggested to be recognized as a serious mental illness.
The picture is complemented by licked photos of others on social networks. “I'm on vacation”, “I have a new car”, “oh, how tired I am to change iPhone every year” and so on. But at this vanity fair, everyone just throws dust in their eyes, realizing even more against the background of their photographs that they are not like that. And this resonates with viewing other people's photos, in which people believe, although there is about the same story behind them. Therefore, many people love simpler people who post real life. Children, animals, rest several times a year, “how I cook dinner” and the like, and not photographs in order to show off in front of someone.
Of course, I am with two hands for instant messengers, video communication and social networks, but as a phenomenon, they really affect our lives. Especially when a person goes deep into them. Many people constantly check all the feeds, sit in groups with friends, scroll through the feed Instagram, but do not notice that the day is passing by. Moreover, here they are, always at hand and in a smartphone. Then they tell everyone that they are doing well and full of friends, but this makes them feel even worse.
This is all against the background of the fact that loneliness is actually wonderful in itself, when it dilutes good communication. Just sitting alone and digging from boredom inside yourself is very cool and useful, but living this way is extremely harmful, and psychologists agree with this.
At least several generations must change for a person to adapt to a new style of communication.
What loneliness leads to
Research has proven time and again that chronic feelings of loneliness lead to heart disease, diabetes, dementia and a weakened immune system. That is, to everything that contributes to early death.
“The eternal desire of the individual is to destroy his own loneliness,” wrote the journalist and writer Norman Cousins. We are social creatures by nature, and anthropologists say our social interactions have played an important role in our evolution as a species.
Dan Shawbel, director of research at Future Workplace and author of Back to Human, believes corporations are feeding us social media like a drug that drives us to use it more and more. One can agree with this or not, but in one thing he is right – it is our choice and we decide whether to use them or not. Most importantly, we decide how often to use these benefits.
This makes communication much more fun than exchanging generic messages.
Do not think that only now we have begun to change our worldview. In fact, it all started back in the 19th century, when people were able to afford to buy mirrors en masse and understand how they look in the eyes of others. Then there were photographs. Now social media. Thus, technology was shaping emotions and habits long before likes in Facebook and retweets in Twitter appeared.
For many years, people lived together, communicated and in such a dense, albeit not very large society, it was difficult to feel lonely. And so the intolerance of this phenomenon appeared. By the way, this is largely why bloggers and just YouTube are so popular now. People kind of “invite” a simple guy to their home, just like themselves, to just chat at home. Unlike a news announcer or actor, you can write him a comment, and he will most likely even respond.
As poet Calla Quinn wrote: “Nothing makes a room feel more empty than the desire of someone in it.” This is true and technology only contributes to this. Especially a smartphone that is always at hand.
The emptiness around is always caused by human sensations.
If all the research we do helps to understand that happiness lies in relationships, then perhaps we will understand that technology is deceiving us. We need them, but we should not exaggerate their importance and completely go into them.
And I still don't know about you, but personally, I realized one thing during the pandemic. Despite the possibility of constantly being in touch with someone, I even more wanted to communicate with people in person. Most of all, I lost interest in chats with friends. Always in touch and everything is discussed in the format ”-How do you like it? -Norm! ”. As a result, live communication fades into the background, and without it it is boring. You especially understand this not when there is no live communication, but when it, on the contrary, is.