You do not even feel like needing a lighting supply to see the screen better in the darkness of your room at the dead of night. The computer screen is enough to still illuminate your room without being too bright. Only you and the device are awake in your neighborhood.
You are browsing forums, social media and chats at your pleasure. There are many or at least a few people discussing random subjects, updating live statuses and talking or arguing with each other. Yet among this vast online human presence, you still feel alone. Talking to your online friends doesn’t seem to remedy it as it may used to.
You must have likely felt this way before. In a sense, behind the computer and in the dark room, you are alone.
In today’s world where the advances of technology allows us to communicate with each other at any time, place and at greater distances, it is ironic that it makes some people lonelier than they were before. Now why does this lonely feeling persist even if you have online friends?
The “Official” Explanation
The quarantine period during the COVID pandemic was a universal isolation to many people. Not even the constant talks through apps such as Zoom and Google Meets feel similar to talking in person. Researchers say that technology can help establish meaningful connections, but can never replace loneliness.
A big debate surrounding this issue is the question of whether technology can actually cure loneliness or it is nothing but a trojan horse to exacerbate it. In a 2017 NPR article by Katherine Hobson, the main subjects of the study, the young, claimed that it felt more lonely the longer the duration and frequency of social media use. Conversely, Google, Whatsapp and Zoom teaches the elderly to connect and socialize conveniently.
According to an expert, young people feel lonelier with social media because at the expense of real, meaningful relationships, online connections are made. As a result, the others that they know are close to are ignored while they chase to catch up with their online peers.
People are aware that dealing with isolation is not something they are looking forward to. As a result, the social media world is riddled with constant attention and popularity factors, so they feel that they have to adapt to a different, more interesting online persona to join the wagon.
History professor, Susan Matt, said that today’s culture expects success to be achieved through big connections or networks. Because of this huge expectation, it makes the feeling of loneliness greater.
Matt, along with computing professor Luke Fernandez, also stated that even though the social media-free ancestors also feel alone, their expectations of friendships are modest, and that it shouldn’t exceed. They also know that loneliness is an imminent part of humanity, and it is best to learn to cope with it.
Numerous studies have found out that social media causes depression and isolation largely due to FOMO (fear of missing out) and the comparison between their own lives and their online friends’, which are carefully fabricated to paint a wholesome or exciting imagery. The sense of abandonment or neglect is felt when something is happening and they weren’t a part of it. FOMO also makes their anxieties all the more obvious.
Though technology may seem to be the cause of intensified loneliness, it is never to blame. Outside, real life factors such as the loss of a loved one or a misfortune plays a big part in this.
The Writer’s Opinion
Now that the explanations are out of the way, let me express my own thoughts about this sad phenomena.
We are sociable beings, and the mere concept of socializing itself is vital in our survival. It is how we thrive and keep going throughout our history, even in the darkest of days. We make connections, friendships, comradery, and help or endure together to go through our own lives.
Being sociable is not only beneficial to certain stages in your life, such as looking for a future job, but it is also healthy. Loneliness can bring certain negative medical effects including heart diseases, dementia and weakened immune systems. For example, if it is so severe that you do not have the heart to eat, you may start to suffer from malnutrition if you keep this up for too long.
Still, it probably does not register to some people. As previously mentioned, outside factors leave a huge impact. You may be too preoccupied or stressed about it. Every grief is personal, but it is no news that at that period, you may feel lost. Using technology to socialize will never brush the grief away. It will remain the same or grow worse to the person.
Besides, I also think we are getting lonelier the more we cling onto our technologies because of the so-called promises to connect wider. Faster. Make more friends than you could online. Be the person you want to be in real life but do not have the spirit or bravery to do so.
Socializing is part of humanity’s survival, thus we are craving to remedy the lack of it through technology. It might work for a lot of people, especially when they are sociable. Not everybody can achieve that.
In my experience, even when some are in the same room with a few other people, there are times when only little or none initiate a conversation. Even when they are not seeing the people face to face, they still feel reluctant to speak up, and so do a few others in the room.
Hopes and expectations were high when they badly needed someone to talk to. They expected to be approached first. For the “promise” to lead them all the way to an active conversation they can automatically join and go on a breeze from there.
Unfortunately it doesn’t always work this way. Instead, they may feel betrayed by technology’s solution to remedy loneliness. Even when they actually talk to each other, it is up to them as to how they are able to move beyond acquaintances and make friends.
There are always people to talk to on social media. Just one click away and a few words of greeting to kick off a connection. So close, yet so far. They still remember the “promise”, but now as nothing more than a dream to themselves. It is a sad thought.