Disconnected in a connected world

by: Keerthana

“Technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities. ”

In this day and age, technology is indispensable and even considered a basic necessity for business, social connectivity, and even education. It has made us “connected” to one another and has been integrated into our lives more than ever before. According to reports from Statistica, there are around 4.66 billion users that are actively using the Internet.

The 21st century has been termed the “Digital Era”. Technology has beneficially influenced every aspect of our lives. We are able to gain access to information from every corner of the world, chat and interact with friends and family from wherever we are, and even improve the lives of the disabled. With the current situation of the global pandemic, it has helped enhance the educational sector by enabling remote learning and has also supported online medical consultation.

However, as technology keeps on expanding there is an increased feeling of loneliness amongst users. Along with feeling alone, reports of anxiety and depression have surged. Social media applications like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp have made it possible for us to talk to people from different parts of the world. Half a billion users have joined social media in 2020 alone. 

So if we are able to connect with more people online, why is there an increase in the feeling of isolation over the years?

Psychologically what is happening is that people are becoming more dependent on virtual connections than real-life networks. Many find it easier to interact virtually than in real life. It leads to an endless cycle, where a person uses their phone because they feel lonely and then after using it they feel even worse. To make up for that, they start using their phones again. This ultimately leads to an increased amount of screen time, which over the years has increased to 11 hours per day. 

Social media exposure has contributed to loneliness. A report found that social media users were three times more likely to feel socially isolated than casual users. Social media conveys this idealized expectation of life and friends which only leads to more social comparisons. 

A professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University found that loneliness and social isolation are twice as dangerous as obesity. Loneliness adversely affects mental wellbeing as it leads to feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, reduced confidence, and motivation. A decrease in concentration and energy can be detrimental to work life. It may result in some people relying on alcohol and drugs for comfort. Prolonged loneliness can even alter brain functionality and bring about diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

Social connections are a primal human need. For that reason, we have to discuss ways to decrease the feeling of disconnection and promote “healthy connections”.  One could replace screen time with meeting friends or even going out with family. Physical activities like cycling, doing some yoga, or going for a walk can help improve your mood, energize and promote a better quality of sleep. Putting devices away, 30 minutes before you go to bed, can effectively help in preventing disruption in the circadian rhythm. It’ll boost melatonin levels which can help you to start your day better. 

We, humans, are hardwired to interact and connect with more people. On the way to forming “social connections” through technology, our “real” connection with friends, family, and ourselves get disconnected. Only by being aware of the detrimental impact that technology has, can we achieve a perfect balance of real and virtual connections. Only then can we get rid of this loneliness epidemic and be more humanely connected than ever before.

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