The Innovation of Loneliness
Certain parts of the video made me realize how much technology impacts our lives without us knowing it. While we are somewhat aware that we are on our phones and computers too often, we never think about the smaller ways in which we are affected. For example, Cohen claims that humans are incapable of having intimate relationships with more than 150 people. Despite this, we don’t think to narrow down our friends list on Facebook to hundreds of people. In fact, we have thousands of friends, some of whom we have met once or never even met at all. When Cohen said that it is natural to have relationships with only 150 people I began to wonder why I have thousands of friends on social media and hundreds of contacts in my phone book. I think we need to step back from technology and try to re-understand its purpose. It allows us to communicate with one another on a broader scale, yet it exposes us to people we do not need to know and allows other people to see details about our lives that would otherwise we private. We have built superficial friendships online that create the illusion that we have relationships with thousands of people, while in fact we are actually plagued by loneliness. Intimacy and friendship have been replaced by online conversation and the exchange/”tagging” of photos.
The video made me curious about whether or not I actually know the people around me as well as I should. Conversation takes place in real time and it cannot be filtered as well as online exchange. So, words I receive via text or email are not the same as what I would hear in person. Online, we present ourselves to our friends and even family the way that we want to be seen. Everything is edited, as Cohen says, and there is almost no realness left.
There is obviously an irony in the development of technology; the video focuses more on how it actually does the opposite of what it was intended for. Even though it seems like communication has become easier over time, this has made our social lives more demanding than ever before. Social media and technology have made us obsessed with personal promotion; so while we think we are exposing ourselves to meeting new people and making new friends, yet it is really more of a selfish act than anything else.
I think that this video is incredibly accurate in explaining our current society and the way we use technology for both personal and public satisfaction. Most people my age seem afraid to be alone, whether they are walking to class, going to get food, or simply in the library studying. When they can’t actually be with someone physically, they often feel insecure or vulnerable. Thus, they turn to their phones, computers, iPads, etc. These digital devices allow them to be surrounded by everyone, to have “conversations”, to feel comfortable again, secure. This distraction, however, only leads to a deeper loneliness and a main reason for this, ironically enough, is the social network itself. As Shimi Cohen says, “we are collecting friends like stamps, not distincting quantity versus quality and converting the deep meaning and intimacy of friendship with exchanging photos and chat conversations. By doing so, we are sacrificing conversation for mere connection”. Thus, we have hundreds of “friends” with no real depth or understanding to any relationship. We invest hours-on-end pursuing our personal profile and those of others. The idea, as Cohen states, that technology prevents loneliness is only a disguise in which enhances the fear of being alone. If one can’t be alone and comfortable with the feelings it brings, it will inevitably lead to feeling even more lonely. Technology is a medium that “connects” us, often times, in a shallow way. It is a filler for genuine conversation and interaction and a distraction for feelings of loneliness or boredom. By avoiding these seemingly scary or uncomfortable feelings that are attributed to being alone, we only further ourselves from real experiences and people, and feel more lonely.