Sunday, July 22, 2018
The Scourge of Internet-Induced Loneliness
As I worked on it today, I came across this entry I wrote on January 13, 1994 when I was 19 years old:
"Yesterday I got an idea for a story that would show people the error of their ways in advocating for the information superhighway. It's going to be the breakdown of society but no one sees it. People are going to stop needing people."
Reading these words stopped me in my tracks. I certainly didn't remember writing them and I never did write that story. Back in 1994, the internet was barely a thing. I remember sending my first emails in 1995. At that point, we couldn't even imagine the ways the internet would change our lives. Yet, this quote seems oddly prophetic.
The internet has brought much good to the world. On a personal level, I'm thankful for the opportunities it has given me to work and the ease with which we can communicate with other people all around the world. But, there is no denying there have been downsides; one of those is the increase in loneliness.
People haven't stopped needing people. In fact, we probably communicate with more people on a daily basis than we ever did. But, is it meaningful communication? Instead of calling or writing to a particular person with our news, we put a post on social media and wait to see if anyone responds. We communicate in general instead of one-on-one, and while some real communication can take place via these conversations and prayers can be offered for those who ask for them, that personal touch is generally missing. There is no one to sit and truly listen. Even in our families, everyone is involved with their devices and not paying attention to the person sitting in front of them.
While loneliness has always existed, it has now become an epidemic. We are all alone in the crowded world. Everyone is so busy, and often that busyness involves the internet. It has made it so that we can work all the time and connect with people all the time and yet has led to the breakdown of many of our social groups and outings. Why do we need to meet with people in person when it is easier to post online? But the internet can't look into your eyes, give you flowers, or wrap its arms around you in a hug.
I have no answer to this problem other than to encourage people to put the smartphones down and actually interact with the people in their lives. My protests usually fall on deaf ears. But my 19 year old self was on to something. I wish I had been wrong.
P.S. I know I have terrible handwriting, but I saw a meme recently that made me feel better about that: "I don't have bad handwriting; I have my own font!"