To the average person, loneliness usually has a negative connotation, as it represents a status of deep malaise and isolation that each of us has experienced at some point or another in our lives. But what happens when we choose to isolate ourselves?
The world has been saturated with network connections for years, which makes it almost absurd to think that deep-seated loneliness could exist, and yet, for more than five years, the trend has been steadily growing. This increase in loneliness is due to the hyper-connectedness that has not only not helped “sensitive” people to come out of their shells, but rather has given birth to a new malaise of our times: digital loneliness.
It is rather strange to think about the paradox that has arisen in the last two decades; we are in the age of communication, and yet, we find ourselves talking about loneliness? How is this possible?
Alone, but connected!
Raise your hand if you have recently been to some kind of social gathering (dinner out or family dinner, afternoon tea, a walk in the park with friends, etc.) in which one or more present weren’t, at some point, sucked in by the need to check their phone, whether to reply to a message or to scroll through Facebook or Instagram aimlessly, paradoxically disconnecting from others present. This happens because today we aren’t so much interested in what information we are consuming, but rather just going through the automatic motion of scrolling.Digital Information World conducted a survey on the lifestyle of Americans and how they tend to spend their time, based on this concept of voluntarily isolation. Unfortunately, the results are not reassuring.
The report shows that people in their 20s spend almost 4.5 hours a day alone. People over 30 spend about the same amount of time per day in complete solitude, devoting about 6 hours to colleagues and work, and the remaining time with their children and/or partner. People over 40 spend slightly more than 3 hours a day with their children and partner, devoting the rest of their time to everything else. The equation tends to change considerably for people over 55 since, at that age threshold, people tend to spend most of their time alone or with their partner, taking it for granted that, with their children now grown, their habits are totally different from previous generations.
From the study summarized above, the most concerning fact of all is the amount of time we each “devote” to solitude. It is clear that people prefer being alone than having to socialize without the use of modern digital platforms.
The recent pandemic has shown how technology can be a formidable tool. Just think of how the various web-meeting platforms and social networks have allowed everyone in lockdown to: remain anchored to stable, unfortunately distant affections; find entertainment on days that seemed to be routine and interminable; connect with others and foster mutual support aimed at overcoming that difficult time. Unfortunately, however, digital evolution is also a harbinger of bad teachings and trends that are progressively leading current and future generations to adopt a lifestyle centered on the need to escape and not accept a real world by virtue of a secondary world, shared and accessible to all; in short, a private life that is shared online (sharing of personal reflections and fears, and moments in daily and family life), which is thus diminishing the need to create, instead, real interactions between users. Some initial food for thought might come from an honest self-assessment of how our lives are affected by the inordinate use of modern technological platforms and how, lately, digital society is opening the door to a “multiverse” – a copy of the real world where everyone can create a model of himself, customizable in all its parts both physical and mental. Experts say that the future multiverse could require a digital helmet/goggles and a high-speed connection to access it. But is this really our future? Should we accept virtual likes/hearts with artificial feelings in the place of real ones? Man, with his doubts, his fears, but also with his dreams, must return to the center of everything so that technology is not the end but the means.