Issues

Social Isolation in a Digitally Connected World

By March 15, 2019 March 19th, 2019 No Comments
Social Isolation in a Digitally Connected World

Imagine being in a living room, witnessing a family spending some time together. It’s a spacious, well-lit room-sofa set, side tables, coffee tables, rugs and throws, and all the luxurious comforts of the modern living. You would imagine they are catching up, possibly having a few drinks together, or perhaps playing a game of cards. No, they are not. You can’t hear a word, even though they are all there. Phone, earphones, tabs, laptops- everyone has their own choice of gadget, shooting down any possibility of real conversation.

Does this look and feel familiar to you? Have you ever gone to a restaurant and been taken in by the urge to share some selfies on snapchat? Or mid-conversation, has Instagram ever lured you to take a plunge for a few seemingly brief moments (which were probably extremely long for the person waiting for you to come back to the conversation). Perhaps you were the person waiting for a friend to come back to your conversation.

Gadgets and gadgets with wifi are the new basic needs. We just cannot do without them and we are addicted to them. Here is the proof. Detox apps on your phones, to keep you away from your phone is a new irony nowadays. The message is clear- the one who oppresses us holds the power and means to free us, thereby still oppressing us. We are not enough for ourselves!

social media

They generally have a quintessential tree graphic or something ‘soothing’ as its cover picture. It compels us to think about what we are buying into, as consumers, and what is the kind of world that we are constructing for ourselves. We want to access a meditative space in ourselves, using an application on our phone as the ‘environment’.

We also live in an economy, where retreats are the new consumables. There are more and more retreats and workshops coming up which cater to the needs of ‘being with yourself’ and ‘being with nature’. We are invited into ‘other worlds’, where our mundane, fast-paced, stressful, clamorous and noisy world can’t get to us. What is it that we are running away from?

Two opposing, contradictory worlds are being created by us. And we want to be part of both. Oscillating between different time-scales.

I then ask you, what makes our digital media so indispensable? When did the need for our gadgets arise? What do they fulfill for us in our personal lives? For some of us, they have always been part of our lives, however, some of us have acquired the taste, and now become completely or partially dependent. They are the new normal because they make entertainment easy, they make time move faster. They make passing time easy for us because now we are not required to engage with material inside of us, we are not required to make our real selves visible to real people outside of our phones. We can continue to portray a fragment of ourselves, choose for how long, and in what proportion we would do so. We are also not required to say something of our own since memes offer easy grounds for momentary interactions and small-time laughs. In short, they hide our vulnerabilities from the world, neatly packaging us into individuals we would like to be at a given point in time.

Thus, even though it looks like we are closer to each other, and social media no doubt provides a means, what is happening is quite the opposite- we are not in touch with ourselves, and we are not in touch with the real feelings of people around us. What we are then becoming is a set of isolated people, who are yearning for meaningful bonds, sometimes feeling satiated, yet sometimes missing them, going haywire in our efforts, and constantly chasing them.

Social media gadgets

The possible truth is, we are disconnected from each other. Social isolation is the absence of a network of positive social relationships. The consequent feeling is loneliness- where the quality of our relationships and the lack of connection makes us feel like something is amiss, something is lacking, and the void that stares at us, reminds us, that we are disconnected from people in our lives.

Social isolation is a state- you could think of it as a description or a header to what might be going on, but loneliness is the consequent feeling. It is the experience of feeling isolated. Loneliness is a risk factor for depression, which provides humans an impetus to go and rekindle the social relationship.

Social isolation is a state- you could think of it as a description or a header to what might be going on, but loneliness is the consequent feeling. It is the experience of feeling isolated. Loneliness is a risk factor for depression, which provides humans an impetus to go and rekindle the social relationship.

Loneliness has detrimental effects on our health and well-being, it is a cause of suicidal ideation and action, high mortality rates and substance abuse. (Hawkley and Cacioppo, 2010). So here is what you can do-

  • One, tell yourself that you are going to be away from your gadgets for the stipulated amount of time in your day. You need to find your own balance between your own time, and your time for your friends and loved ones.
  • Two, when you set aside detox time, stick to it. Make realistic goals, start small, and push yourself to a realistic limit. Try not to fall back on your targets.
  • Three, start noticing how many times you use social media for mindless scrolling. Don’t judge yourself but just watch yourself. Some instances, you would maybe start seeing that some thought made you uncomfortable, maybe you thought of an upsetting memory, or you wanted to distract yourself from something which is burdening you in some way.
  • Fourth, trust yourself. Find your own goals, strategies, and find out what you gravitate towards.

It must be noted that not all use of gadgets isolates us. It has shortened distances. We can connect with our friends, and family anywhere in the world. We can ask our groceries to be delivered to our doorstep, we can communicate faster (while we keep getting more and more impatient). But, as we go on with our daily lives, we must take account of our feelings, habits, thoughts and emotional highs and lows, so that their reasons can be examined.

Conclusively, carrying the burdening feeling of isolation and loneliness is different from solitude. Solitude has known to be an enriching time for ourselves, where we can heal, take care of ourselves, allow our minds to meander, even safely let ourselves drift into boredom, which can provide stimuli for creativity and reflection. Therefore, not all appearances of loneliness are necessarily grim, some are there to take care of ourselves.

In the digital age, we must also not be naive enough to think we want to create a world where gadgets and advances in technology don’t exist. Watching objects go obsolete perhaps threatens the human mind at a fundamental level, but the pace of the world is a reality we must accept.

It’s only human to look for, and ready ourselves for meaningful and supportive relationships. So, when you feel that thud in your stomach, and you feel anxious and alone, look up and strike a conversation!

About the author

Ayushi Madan is a trainee psychoanalytic psychotherapist, with an interest in contemporary discourse. She is also a trained in Odissi dancer and juggles between the two. In her free time, she gobbles books and explores Hindi poetry.

Ayushi Madan

About Ayushi Madan

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