Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lonely enough to face Facebook?

           The Atlantic is worried. In their May, 2012 issue, the magazine asked, "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?"

           The article by Stephen Marche says that we never have been lonelier or more narcissistic. "This loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill." He calls it an epidemic.

           Marche's condemnation is flat out. "We live in an accelerating contradiction: the more connected we become, the lonelier we are. We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information."

          He admits that while solitude can be lovely, crowded parties can be agony. "Loneliness is not a matter of external conditions; it is a psychological state," he says. 

          The article quotes the UCLA Loneliness Scale, which shows loneliness rising drastically over a very short period recently. Is social media to blame, even partly?

          Research shows that today we meet fewer people in person, as we increase our "friendships" in social media dramatically. To discuss our real problems, we hire 77,000 clinical psychologists, 30,000 social workers, 400,000 non-clinical social workers, 50,000 marriage and family therapists, 105,000 mental-health counsellors, 220,000 substance abuse counsellors, 17,000 nurse-therapists, and 30,000 life coaches.

          And being lonely is bad for our health. Marche says technology is enabling our tendancy for isolation. Here are some things to think about:

          1. Does Facebook encourage more contacts outside of family, at the expense of family contacts?

          2. Do lonely people spend more and more time on Facebook? Is it a substitute for personal relationships?

          3. Does "Liking" substitute for expressing yourself fully?

          4. Is wandering through Facebook a lonely task or a social task for you?

          The article concludes that loneliness is not something that social media is doing to us. It's something we're doing to ourselves.

          Whatever is going to become of solitude?

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