Sunday, February 18, 2024

Is Technology Really Making You Lonely?


I've been thinking: perhaps we are too quick to blame technology and social media for the exacerbation of our loneliness epidemic...

The iPhone seems like low-hanging fruit. 

Yes, I agree that there is something inherently anti-social about most new technology, but, ultimately, we are the users. So, if we are accruing 6 hours of screen time a day, it is because we are allowing the devices to control our behavior. 

Pro-gun advocates religiously echo the platitude that "Guns don't kill people; people kill people." In that same vein, I'd like to proclaim that "devices don't control people; people allow devices to control people." 

Social media, in particular, is often made out to be the culprit when examining the loneliness epidemic. From what I've observed, though, social media can serve as an essential facilitator to social connectedness. The Bumble BFF app, for instance, has facilitated many a platonic relationship. And Facebook groups often don't live exclusively online. These digital communities frequently come together to organize in-person meet-ups. 

To be sure, remote work has generated a lot of remoteness in society. It is, after all, called remote work. 

But there are hopeful indicators that social media, while initially blamed for igniting remoteness, can actually assuage it. 

Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert, writing for Business Insider, reports on a new app start-up called Groove that may help "de-remote" remote work: 

Groove, a digital coworking app that recently completed its public launch, offers structured hourlong meeting times for business owners and entrepreneurs to connect while working remotely. 

The small-scale chats, with just four users each, have five-minute intro and debriefing meetings, bookending a 50-minute window for workers to conduct their businesses. During the chat sessions, users are encouraged to describe their work, share their wins and struggles, and build business connections with others working solo.

This is a sanguine sign that the market can engender creative new ways to combat loneliness. Groove and other new apps are responses to increasing social atomization, perhaps made worse by the proliferation of new technologies. 

We ought to applaud these developments. 

I would like to reiterate, per my last post, that people have always been lonely, to some degree. This is, unfortunately, a human condition. Please read Alan Ehrenhalt's latest article for Governing, which prompted my blog post. 

But, while this condition of loneliness definitely isn't new, I will of course acknowledge that the modern age - characterized by Uber Eats deliveries, Netflix, and TikTok - has further complicated things. Our response, though, should not take the form of a sort of neo-luddism, wherein we shun technology. Rather, we ought to use this medium to our advantage.  



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