I’m sure by now you’ve seen the headlines all over the place. I’m only going to link one:
We have, in the last 150 or so years, (Since the invention of the telephone), come up with countless ways to communicate directly, and immediately, with each other. From those early telephones, to ham radio, to pagers, to mobile phones, to early BBS systems, the web, USENET, IRC chat rooms, texts, blogs, forums, and now whole platforms like Facebook and Twitter we have reached a point where we have the technical ability to reach out and communicate with just about anyone at any time.
And yet, somehow, we’ve reached a point where we are much MORE likely to be lonely. To feel disconnected from other people. How can that be?
Now some will blame the technology. Saying things like before everyone had their head down looking at their phone they actually talked to one another. Personally, I don’t think it’s that simple. Yes, there’s a smidgen of truth to that, but it’s not the fact that we have smartphones, nor is it the fact that we have Instagram, keeping us from actually talking to one another. I think it’s something much more insidious, and it comes from within.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost what these tools are for. We’ve turned something like Instagram, which is a tool for sharing photos with your friends as they happen, into a carefully curated brand.
In short, we took person to person, or person to group, communication tools, and we used them like television, we aren’t sharing and connecting as much as we are broadcasting. We are playing to an audience. Somewhere the idea of being human, of being authentic, got lost in favor of being “on brand”. That’s no way to connect.
Don’t get me wrong. As many of you are probably thinking, yes, as a blogger, I “broadcast” quite a bit. I’m sharing my thoughts and ideas, trying to help educate other people, and build an audience for that. I also, obviously, believe in being responsible with what you share, and how you share it, being careful not to ruin your professional reputation. But that’s not connecting. Connecting requires something more, something that has nothing to do with whether you use technology to communicate or talk to someone in person for hours, or even write letters. It’s something all of us, myself included, lose sight of. It’s internal.
As the article linked to above simply states:
The hopeful news in this study is that there is an inverse relationship between loneliness and wisdom.
Wisdom doesn’t come from having an on-point Facebook profile picture, or the most diverse twitter stream, or even the most-read blog posts.Wisdom is internal. It comes from our own sense of self, our understanding of life and the world, our emotional management, our ability to feel empathy and compassion. Without it, we are constantly in search of “something” external that will validate us, that never really can. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others, most easily by finding their faults and pointing them out. trying to see some value in our own lives, instead of understanding the intrinsic value of every life.
The reason we see so much loneliness has nothing to do with the technology. Looked at from a detached point of view, the technology should help, not hinder, connection. No, the real reason is a lack of wisdom, and a lack of true understanding. Amidst all the broadcasting that we do, we’ve forgotten to stop and listen to each other. We’ve forgotten that individual human beings have value, and deserve to be heard and seen. When we are all battling for who can be seen the most, there can be no connection.
And without connection, there is no trust. There is no shared humanity.
That lack is why we are where we are, and that’s not the fault of the tech companies. They just gave us what we wanted.