Thursday, April 17, 2014

Networking straight into isolation

“Loneliness has become the most common ailment of the modern world.”

This quote, taken from recently popular social media star Shimi Cohen, is a curious statement to be sure. After all, we are living in the 21st century. Surely, now more than ever before, we are connected, united, sociable. Can loneliness really be a word in our high-speed vocabularies?

In his video “The Innovation of Loneliness,” Cohen sets out to prove that technology is responsible for the overwhelming feeling of depression that is increasingly plaguing the Western world.

(ANTI)social media — Sites that are meant for amusement are leading to loneliness instead.

(ANTI)social media — Sites that are meant for amusement are leading to loneliness instead.

Though social media does indeed have users abuzz in a flurry of surface level interactions, below the surface of increased communication lies a raw nerve which, though painful, needs exposing.

“The social networks aren’t just changing what we’re doing, but also who we are,” Cohen said in his video. “Technology appeals to us most when we are most vulnerable. And we are vulnerable.”

In a study conducted by the University of Michigan, new research revealed that Facebook users feel worse about themselves in just two weeks, with time spent browsing the social medium acting as a direct correlation to individuals’ darkening moods. Ethan Kross, a social psychologist, was the lead author of the study.

“We were able to show on a moment-to-moment basis throughout the day how people’s mood fluctuated depending on their Facebook usage,” Kross said. “The more you used Facebook, the more your mood dropped.”

Sound counterintuitive for a social site? Perhaps. But as Cohen would contest, an ever-growing number of friends inevitably results in a loss of distinction between quantity and quality. The deep meaning of intimacy and friendship has become nothing more than abbreviated chat conversations and photo exchanges.

The result? We have sacrificed conversation for connection. We are expecting more from technology and less from each other, creating a paradoxical situation in which we claim to have abundant friends while actually feeling lonely.

If this sounds familiar, you may be one of the millions who, perhaps unintentionally, have fallen into the world of what Cohen labels in his video as “endless personal promotion.”

“Instead of building true friendships, we’re obsessed with endless personal promotion, investing hours on end building our profile, pursuing the optimal order of words in our next message, choosing the pictures in which we look our best,” Cohen said. “We get to edit, and that means we get to delete.”

I told you exposing the raw nerve would be painful.

But Cohen is right. Slowly, technology begins to define us, until suddenly, who we are in real time simply cannot keep up with our more desirable, idealistically perfected online images. As a result, the world is becoming filled with savvy profiles and empty people.

What a powerful message. A message that, ironically, I viewed on my mobile phone via Twitter.

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