In 2018, communication has become the easiest it has ever been which has fueled our dependence on technology. For the first time ever, the mediums in which we communicate on are constantly connected to us. Because of high-speed internet, different social networking platforms and messaging technologies, we can contact someone on the other side of the globe at incredible speeds. But even with this instantaneous connection, some people are still becoming increasingly isolated from one another.
Even though we can connect instantly we have seen a loss of connection in the physical world. The majority of discourse on some of the most important topics is being done digitally, what is the result of these new forms of communication? Just because we are saying words to one another does not necessarily mean that we are fully experiencing human connection, this affects our mental health along with how we feel about ourselves and about what is going on around us.
With mass information, communication and conversation, we find ourselves in a time of increasing mental health issues. There appears to be a direct correlation with this rise in technological advancement/communication and mental health issues amongst the general population. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine “It turns out that the people who reported spending the most time on social media — more than two hours a day — had twice the odds of perceived social isolation than those who said they spent a half hour per day or less on those sites. People who visited social media platforms most frequently, 58 visits per week or more, had more than three times the odds of perceived social isolation than those who visited fewer than nine times per week”.
A filtered reality
One of the main aspects of modern technology is the rise of social media. Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter, a prominent factor of all these platforms is filtered reality. When someone posts to social networks, we very rarely see things for what they are, but in reality see a carefully curated collection of what the user wants us to see. All we are seeing is the best of our peers, and because of this, we start to see our own lives as inadequate.
As a result of the altered reality in which we are viewing the world, petty anxieties begin to creep into our own lives, even when we know it is ridiculous as they only exist in these digital platforms. Subconsciously, we get hit with the “keeping up with the Joneses” effect. For some, thoughts of what will people think? What will people say? How can I live up to the image I’ve created for myself are everyday concerns. For others, the fear of missing out (FOMO) is enough to bother them and without proper understanding and analysis of these social media platforms and what how they can affect us, can lead to misconceptions of one’s self and their role in the world, causing a deeper dependence on technology.
The medium in which most social media is consumed is through mobile phones. The ability to have access to mass information at any place or anytime really is a miracle of modern technology. But we have to ask ourselves what are the consequences of being constantly in contact with high definition cameras, high-speed internet connection, and information sharing platforms?
We’re never really alone
A consequence of the mass use of mobile technology is a lack of privacy. Most of the privacy issues stem from the cameras we carry around with us and with the instantaneous ability to share photos with large numbers of people. Today, the average person has to deal with the fear of being photographed without their consent. All over social media, there are videos and images of people in embarrassing situations broadcast for the world to see without any say in the process. Going unintentionally viral is a real possibility for anyone, and whether we admit it or not, this is a major cause of social anxiety. It’s seen with people working out incorrectly at the gym, falling, arguing, drunk at a bar, in most social settings any possible misstep or blunder can lead to you being streamed across the web. It creates a culture of uncertainty, and uncertainty is a leading cause of anxiety.
It was only until 2015 that certain governments started passing legislation protecting people from these types of issues. In 2015 the Canadian government made it illegal to share intimate images without the other person’s consent. “The Criminal Code defines an intimate image as being one in which the subject is nude, partially nude, or engaged in an explicit sexual activity— the consent of the person in the photo or video. Determining such a thing is difficult, and is something that will be determined by the courts on an individual basis” (CBC).
The “Fishbowl Effect”
One way this mass surveillance of one another can contribute to loneliness and anxiety is the “fishbowl effect”. We are constantly watching and being watched and it has become difficult to let loose and enjoy yourself without someone Snapchatting you or adding the night’s events to their Instagram story.
With the mass surveillance of one another, we also see a rise in self-indulgence. Because of our increased connection to everything and everyone, we have become increasingly interested in ourselves, resulting in an isolation from one another and an increased sense of loneliness.
We have to disconnect in order to connect
The more into ourselves we become, the more we lose empathy for one another, which results in people becoming disassociated from others around them. This cultivates the feeling of loneliness while being surrounded by others, which can be the worst type.
Because of the over-consumption of media, photos, videos, and other forms of content, we can experience an information overload. We experience so much negative and positive content coming at us at the same time that eventually, all these stories begin to lose meaning making us numb to even the most shocking information. Our thought process becomes spoiled with static, unnecessary information and too much to think about. Some time ago, life revolved around work family and friends, but today there is so much going on at all times, we have lost clarity and our ability to decipher what is happening around us.
Using technology to better ourselves
Although there are some negative aspects of modern technology, it is important to remember that these are all growing pains and we are still trying to figure out how to manage ourselves as human beings in these rapidly changing times. For some, technology can cause loneliness or isolation, but for others, it can lead to insight and positive growth. This is evident in growing literacy rates as more people gain access to technology, “younger generations are more likely to be literate than older generations around the world. And in some countries the gaps are dramatic. Algeria, for example, the literacy rate among the youth (15-24 years) is close to 97%; while it is 28% among the older population (65+ years)” (Our World in Data).
Because of mass connection, we have seen positive social movements like Me Too, Black Lives Matter and various LGBTQ causes. We have been able to utilize technology to make each other aware of issues going on around us. And although at times we can find ourselves lost in our own concerns, there are moments where we manage to get together to set a new standard of behavior within our communities. Because of being able to observe others behavior, we can call each other out when people are acting wrongly.
For others, technology is used to break away from generic patterns of life and discover new places to visit and new activities to partake in. This concept even applies to meet new people with the rise of apps like Tinder and Bumble, giving us the opportunity with making connections with the use of technology.
But most of all, if used properly, we can use these tools to educate ourselves and make the world around us better. Never before have we been able to have access information at our fingertips, with more people being informed. With any new technology, it is not a question of whether it is good or bad, but it is a matter of how we treat it, understand it and learn from it. As all these tools are still new, we have a lot to learn in managing these rapid changes in our world.