Does technology make us more alone or does it keep us connected? That is the number one question of all times. “Get connected” is a phrase that we have grown accustomed to hearing and seeing in the 21st century. With technology developing faster than ever, the digital world is (literally) at our fingertips. Some might say that the introduction of social networking has helped to bring people closer together. I am going to point out some of these, though the online communities may have a likeness to real-life societies, they are in fact nothing but numb conceptions of our day to day lives fueled by self-pride and egoism. With our reliance on social media sites such as Facebook actually cutting us from real-life society, it’s a sad truth that mankind is looking at a very forlorn future.
By definition, the term digital’ represents “values of a physical quantity” expressed as a series of digits: 0 and 1. So on the opposite end of the spectrum, humans are identified as having character, weaknesses, imperfections, and fragility – attributes that characterize us as a species like no other on this planet. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer that words, speech and song can convey a range of human emotions but, in my opinion, doing so eloquently requires aptitude. In spite of this, you will see a number people popping up on social media sites documenting their lives and feelings as though they were a best friend or their private diary.
Nowadays, we’re less likely to hear someone say: “I can’t wait to tell my friends”, and more likely to hear: “I can’t wait to put this on Facebook”. So why has Facebook suddenly become everyone’s best friend? The younger generation of today perceives Facebook as being a part of everyday life and has become addicted to consulting news feeds and notifications. In this day and age, technology seems to get in the way of flourishing friendships. The days are gone from the days when one could spend time chatting and getting to know a friend; all it takes is to have your friend request approved and then you can find out almost anything about that person (where they live, whether they are in a relationship, where they work, and what their favorite quote is, and so on.) Not only is it affecting the nature of human interaction, our heavy dependence on social media sites has also been proven to result in children and adults alike doing fewer outdoor activities as well as studying and working less. People are feeling more connected online, but very alone in real life.
Society is becoming obsessed and is sharing too much information on the internet and spending pointless hours on it when they should be spending time on more important things. Despite the fact that technology now allows a person to communicate with lots of people all over the world, in reality, no matter how many “friends” you have on social networks like “Facebook”, they still result in the same thing; a technological bubble which keeps you isolated from real human contact and real human interaction. These virtual friends cannot adequately satisfy your needs, wants and desires in the long-term. Technology has the potential to connect friends and family. Unfortunately, it can also cause us to miss out on opportunities and experiences that would make our lives richer and more meaningful.
Addictive by nature, social media sites are impacting negatively on our societies. This can be seen every day on the news with increasing cases of cyber-bullying, harassment, theft and sexual crimes, meaning that our community is not as together’ as we like to think it is. It is a scary fact that numerous teens with Facebook accounts don’t fully understand the implications of having a public profile thus making themselves vulnerable to danger. To them, each of their Facebook friends is someone to be trusted and perhaps have some fun chatting to; however, the frightening truth is that they could really be talking to anyone. With the number of hacking incidents also on the up, can we ever be confident that our friends are who they say they are? It’s horrifying to see that so many people check in’ on Facebook too, freely announcing to a long list of acquaintances their whereabouts. In 2014 a question was asked, “What has the Internet done for mankind?” Patrick Donoghue, a lover of research, responded to the post, writing, “The day is fast coming when the sum total of human knowledge will be available at the fingertips of the common person.” He also says, In the past, I would have spent quite a bit of time in the university library. Today, I get better information in minutes versus hours.” (P. Donoghue, Quora, 2014) People now ask sociable networks to tell and find them someone who they are compatible with instead of going out and finding someone. Young children and teens don’t know what it is to interact and play with other children. People in general are simply getting sucked into the cyber world and not even realizing they are.
Modern life is making us lonelier, and recent research indicates that this may be the next biggest public health issue on par with obesity and substance abuse. A recent review of studies indicates that social isolation increases mortality risk by 26%. As social media reshapes how we connect, we have to rethink what we need to feel in fulfilling our relationships, and realize that no number of tweets, texts or Facebook status updates can provide it. While social networking is a great tool, there’s a profound difference between an online social network and a real one. Yes, we are living in a technological world where families and friend sometime depend on these social networks to keep in touch with their family, but should we forget about the ones that are close to us. I would say no but we tend to lean more on social technology then we realize.
Numerous users being generous with their personal information, they are also quite liberal with who they consider their friends’. After all, it is a formal definition of “a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection” and not “a person that one said hi’ to in the breakroom at work”. We are all guilty of this, though. Not only that, we all feel bad turning down friend requests and removing friends from our contacts which is why the numbers are misleading and have a tendency to spiral out of control. A recent study showed that Facebook users are seen as more attractive as they near 300 friends, but that this magnetism weakens if they exceed this by too many. I’d be willing to bet that most users only talk to around 10%of this total on a regular basis and could count no more than five (excluding family) as true close friends.
Studies suggest that our newfound love for Facebook is due to the reward center in our brain triggering pleasurable feelings with each Like’ or positive comment we receive. But by putting some of our most intimate life events in the public domain, we are encouraging as much negativity as positivity, inviting others to pass comments and judge us. Whether premeditated or not, the decision to post a photo, status update or to share a link, could be a simple cry for attention. No longer satisfied with human relations, we are psychologically (and egoistically) building our own modified, digital representation of ourselves in a fantasy world. Yet, with social media references all around us, it is impossible to escape the grip that technology has on today’s society.
Our generation is overdosing on digital media. Members of the community are lacking from everything that makes them human – weaknesses, imperfections, fragility all that we see are the manipulated, faultless versions of people online. I can’t help but think that, in this new technologically advanced era, we are more alone than ever.There’s no doubt that technology can bring positives to our relationships. Just think about how many people today meet their partners online. But are these relationships as real as finding someone at a local supermarket and taking the time to explore each person’s likes and dislikes. Than a match making system spitting them out for you on a screen. People are genetically designed to gain satisfaction from meaningful relationships with real people, and as a result, receive many benefits from doing so. Even from birth human contact is essential for normal growth and development. There is something about real human interaction that completes us, as without it, our body and life slowly starts to break down and becomes less sociable. So, to answer the question “Does technology make us more alone or keep us more connected?” In my opinion, I’d have to say that it depends on how you use it.
Patrick Donoghue (Qoura question and statement, 2014)
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