It’s been over a week since I saw The Innovation of Loneliness and its message hasn’t left my head – am I really lonely? This video reminded me of a discussion I had had with my sister a couple of weeks ago. I had told her I wanted to delete a bunch of people from Facebook because I never talked to them and just saw those people once a year, and her response was, “what on earth is wrong with you?! You can’t delete those people you know them!”. Just because I “know” someone doesn’t mean he/she is my friend, but clearly deleting people I know and never talk to on Facebook is a mortal sin. This video brought back to my head the issues I’ve always had with social media, but the one thing that I had never thought about was how lonely social networks like Facebook and Twitter actually make us feel.
As a 90’s kid, I remember growing up in a world were technology made its greatest innovations. I remember recording my favorite TV shows in my VCR player and then a couple of years later buying a DVD to replace it. I remember my elementary teacher teaching my class how to save files on floppy disks and then a year or two afterwards he was teaching us how to save files in a disk and a year later in a USB. All of these changes were incredible! Technology never ceased to amaze the world!
And, yet one day it started happening, the Internet was now a way to be able to instantly talk to your friends through MSN! You didn’t have to call your friend’s house and wait for them to pick up the phone so you two could talk; instead, you could just talk to that friend immediately, and not just with that friend, you could also talk to others at the same time. I had just become part of this new world of multitaskers that I could be “fully” engaged in 5 different conversations and also be doing my homework at the same time. Paradise? Not all. Not long after discovering this amazing new world, I started seeing it’s danger. Everything that I wrote to my friends was permanent. I couldn’t take anything back. There would always be evidence of everything I told my friends. Normally that is not a bad thing but when you are growing up and start entering your teen years, things can get pretty intense. It stopped being “he said, she said”, it was more like “She said this and look I have the conversation!”. Seeing these events and how dangerous conversations gotten out of context could harm you, I quickly learned to think twice before I wrote anything to anyone. I had to keep my “reputation” safe.
Then, Facebook came along. You could post on people’s walls, play games, post photo albums, comment on the events of the night before, share what you were thinking and have everyone you’ve ever known as your “friend”. Facebook became the new popularity measurement. All the friends you had and constant posts that appeared on your wall showed everyone else how popular you were. Everything about Facebook was about showing the world who you were and what kind of lifestyle you had. Quickly Facebook became the way people interacted. You met someone once and quickly looked him or her up on Facebook and from there you two could strengthen the “friendship” even though you might never see each other again.
But the technological world wasn’t satisfied with all these innovations, they needed and wanted more. Everyone demanded faster and more instant communications. So, smartphones came along. Although we lived in a world were smartphones didn’t exist, the thought of not having one is terrifying. We slowly became slaves of technology. Our lifestyles changed. We no longer want to have real face-to-face conversations; time has become precious and the more we can maximize out of it the better. So, why would I call someone if I can just text them and do other things at the same time?
We have traded real human interaction for efficiency, speed, and the idea of popularity. We have given up and tried to trick one of our basic human needs – interaction. We have tried to trick ourselves that by having more Facebook friends, more text conversations open, and uploading pictures of events in our lives we have become extremely popular and more connected than before. But, how many of these “friends” do you actually know, how many of these “friends” will help you when you really need help, and how many of these “friends” can you actually spend more than an hour with talking and not checking your phone?
We live in a world in which people are always connected but we are unable to have a meaningful interaction with another person without also doing something else. The value of human interaction has been downgraded to a degree that probably in the near future we won’t be able to hold a normal conversation with anyone.