Today we live in a world where we are seemingly more connected than ever before. This may be on a personal computer, tablets, phones or even your watch. Not only does our personal life depend on modern technology and the communication it brings, these devices also connect us to every facet of our modern world. Yet we claim that we are lonely!
Maybe it is time to ask, and answer the question, “Is the Internet the answer to loneliness?”
If we are more connected through technology then ever before then why, as a society, are we feeling lonelier than ever before?
A study by the University of Tasmania surveyed the question “How often do you personally experience loneliness in your life?” In 2007, 23 per cent of women and 21 per cent of men aged 25 to 44 claimed to be lonely once a week or more often.
The study also asked the participants whether they agreed with the following statement “Loneliness has been a serious problem for me at times”. In 2007, 34% of women and 33% of men aged 25-44 agreed with this. (1)
These statistics are frightening when we know that loneliness can be a forerunner to suicide. When a third of men and women experience significant loneliness, in supposedly their prime years of life, isn’t it time we assess and re-evaluate how, when and why we use the internet?’
Even while we can ‘shout to the hilltops’ that the world is a much smaller place to what it was 50 years ago, our connections and overall sense of belonging seem to be quite low. Although we are able to flick an email over to the Netherlands and receive a response in seconds, does this mean we are developing meaningful connection with each other?
Through countless social media platforms from around the world, our accessibility to one another is at its highest point ever in our history; however, has the intimate connection between human beings actually improved or have we actually lost our true connections with others?
Do we mistake easy accessibility of communication as being more connected?
Social Media plays a huge role in our being seemingly more connected and less isolated, as we are now able to see live updates of our friends around the clock, get invitations to parties and receive messages from around the world. This isn’t to say these features aren’t great or very useful, however one only needs to take a quick glance to discover most content on the internet is solely created to give stimulation or a bit of excitement.
The lack of intimacy and connection is highlighted through many teenagers and adults using social media as an avenue to vent and display their frustrations with the world. In my experience of being an avid user of social media, many people use it to vent or fill a void in one way or another. It has become a contest of who has the most friends, likes or shares.
What is this telling us and what exactly is the culture of expressing online?
Have likes and shares become the new tangible way to assess our social success?
Has it become a place of reassurance to relieve the tension of everyday life?
Do we falsely seek the intimacy, which has otherwise become void in our daily lives?
Even with all the communication capabilities we have today we seem to be more lonely than ever before.
Are we really lonely because we don’t have enough people around us, or are we lonely because no one truly stops to connect in a meaningful and loving way?
What if we focused on the qualities and values of our relationships instead of our Facebook friend count? Opening ourselves up to truly being with another, and relating to another, by conveying more than a few words on social media, we may see a change to the loneliness statistics. We are designed to constantly love and be interactive with each other – anything less will leave a feeling of incompleteness, isolation and loneliness.
By Luke Yokota, Student, Gold Coast
(1) Franklin, A., & Tranter, B. (2008). Loneliness in Australia. Research Paper 14, Housing and Community Research Unit. Hobart, Tasmania. University of Tasmania