Technology, Solitude, and Loneliness

Technology has become something that is essential to many as technology is used in almost every aspect of our lives. It’s the cars we drive; the cellphones we use; the oven we cook with; the fridge we keep things in; the cameras we use; the laptops we use; the television we watch; the video games we play. It has come to a point where technology is everywhere in our lives. With such technological advances comes many amazing benefits to humanity as well as many consequences. One of the major drawbacks of the use of technology is not only the lack of solitude, but the increase in loneliness of many in society. Solitude and loneliness are regarded as two completely separate things, however, the question lies as to whether the two could be connected in any way, shape, or form. Truth is, I firmly believe that although solitude and loneliness are two separate entities they share a connection through technology. Technology has been developed to connect ourselves to the world, making maintaining friendships that much easier as they are just a click away, however, in some ways technology has actually brought us further apart from each other. Although technology has brought a lack of solitude to some, it has given some too much alone time thereby, causing an increase in loneliness for some. The following will be about the development of technology, the loss of solitude the increase in loneliness and what we can do to give ourselves solitude while avoiding loneliness.

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Photo credit to The New York Times

To start off:

What is Solitude?

Solitude is, “the state of being solitary or secluded” (“Solitude”, 2014).

To the world, solitude is the ability to be content being alone. For some people that involves travelling alone, going to see a movie, going shopping, or doing anything that gives you alone time. For others, being alone is a scary thing for various reasons such as being viewed as a “loner” or perhaps when alone your mind wanders off and thinks too much about things causing further issues. Solitude can mean many different things to many people but essentially it is the sense of being alone. Sometimes individuals need that time to be alone; they need a time where technology can be eliminated and a person can rid themselves of all connections to the world and just relax. Solitude is a positive state of mind that involves being alone without the lingering feelings of loneliness.  Solitude is significant as it provides an individual with time to contemplate life, reflect, inner searching, and the development of our identity.  It is the ability to enjoy the quiet and being able to find enjoyment in your own company. Solitude is a choice. Solitude is significant for all, however, everyone differs in the amount of solitude needed. 

 

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Photo credit to E.M.E Physique

How is Solitude Relevant in the Technological World?

As society continues to become technologically advanced we have become even further connected to others in the world. With such connectivity, we sometimes forget that time to ourselves is significant as well. We sometimes forget to shut off our technological devices to relax and enjoy the world as it is. Individuals are beginning to talk less and text more. For instance, there are teenagers who send about 100 texts per day adding up to about 3,000 a month which means that some individuals spend no more than 10 minutes alone per day. Individuals are almost always connected and thus miss out on opportunities to be alone.  

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Photo Credit to Singhc123 blog

What is Loneliness?

Loneliness is, “affected with, characterized by, or causing a depressing feeling of being alone; lonesome”.

Loneliness can be viewed as a negative state of mind as the individual begins to feel disconnected and isolated from others and longs for a sense of reconnection. An individual can feel lonely while being surrounded by many individuals at once. Loneliness can be detrimental to your health.  In fact chronic loneliness can contribute to health issues such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, increased stress levels, depression, high blood pressure and anxiety. Loneliness unlike solitude, is something at is imposed on us due to the loss of connection to others. As much as we want a connection and contact with others we are unable to obtain it and as a result feel as though something is missing.

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Photo credit to Guiding Positive Change

How is Loneliness Relevant to the Technological World?

We use social media in order to stay connected to individuals; however, does social networking really keep us together? Although social networking sites such as Facebook, and Twitter attempt to keep us together, people have become overly reliant on such programs to the point where they replace a lot of their face-to-face friendships with these online ones. By stating such a thing I do not mean that individuals threw away their strong ties with people for weaker ones, but instead, individuals have begun to rely on Facebook, and Twitter as the primary source of contact with people. Rather than spending time face-to-face with people, they instead just remain connected online. Such strong ties end up becoming weak ones as contact is lost. Although people are always “connected” to others through the internet, thereby losing our solitude, do we really get the connection to other individuals that we need? The truth is we do not. Although constantly connected through social media, individuals under 35 years old have reported feeling lonelier than ever. Nearly 50% of individuals feel that they only have on person they can confide in as opposed to the three individuals people had 25 years ago. Even though you are connecting to the people you are closest with online, it is always through distance and is thus, less satisfying and more difficult to feel like you are able to open up to others. Social networking provides individuals with the illusion that their friendships are significant and real, but in reality they are shallow, superficial and unable to meet the typical demands and pressures that exist in a true relationship. The internet can hide a lot of things about people that face-to-face contact cannot hide. So upon meeting individuals you feel you can connect to online, there are many things you may discover about that person you could not possible learn through social networking. You begin to face hardships with that person that you would not know of through internet relationships and you begin to discover more about this so called “friendship” finding out you truly knew nothing about the person. It is through these hardships that individual’s friendships grow stronger or may crumble. The internet cannot provide these, therefore, leaving you to never truly know the person you are communicating with in a deeper sense.

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Photo credit to 99 HD Wallpaper

I could go on and on about how technology actually increases our loneliness, however, I feel that this video may be a more effective method for individuals to see the true way social networking can lead us to feel more and more alone.

Video credited to Shimi Cohen.

Is This Issue World-wide?

Another thing that must be considered is whether this increase in loneliness due to technological innovation exists in other cultures or whether it is just individualistic cultures dealing with this change. It has actually been found that collectivist cultures struggle less with the aspect of loneliness because of technology. In fact, in an experiment conducted by Jackson and Wang, Chinese participants not only spent less time on social networking sites than individuals from the United to states but they also valued it significantly less (Jackson & Wang, 2013). The reason behind this is because collectivist cultures stress the importance of family and overall connectedness. Where individualistic cultures promote the value of individuality and ourselves, collectivists stress the interacting and caring of friends, families, and groups over the value of themselves (Jackson & Wang, 2013). This can easily be reflected through social networking sites as site such as Facebook are focused on self-promoting with new photos, as well as status’s updates about yourself. The Chinese would have no need for such when they stress importance of others over themselves. Parents are also more strict, and therefore, observe their children’s activities far more than parents from individualistic cultures who promote autonomy (Jackson & Wang, 2013). Essentially, this current battle between loneliness and technological use is only between the more individualistic cultures than the collectivist cultures.

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Photo credit to Re-thinking life… blog

What Can We do About All of This?

The first thing someone can do in order to eliminate this reliance of technology and connectedness is to allow yourself some solitude. Give yourself some time alone every now and then. Turn off your phone, disconnect yourself from the internet and enjoy time to yourself. It does not have to be anything big; it could be just sketching in your room, or going for a walk. However, it is important to note this is just a suggestion as being alone is not for everyone as some people find it unsettling. So when it comes to finding time alone, only do it if it is something you find relaxing and enjoy. An approach to ridding yourself of loneliness may be approached in a similar manner to solitude. The first step to conquering loneliness is to spend more time offline than online. Rather than establishing the basis of your friendship through social networking, take the time to meet your friends, or new people face-to-face. Although it may be a scary thing because you are unable to edit your thoughts before saying them, you will build a much stronger relationship with people through real life contact and it will be more enjoyable. Although time is what most struggle with these days, finding the time to spend with friends is significant to your overall health and well-being which should be put before many of the other mundane activities we perform a day. You can moreover, rid yourself of loneliness by engaging in your community. If you volunteer or even join a club in your community, you will not only find yourself keeping busy but also interacting and meeting new people! This is beneficial as it will aid you in feeling more connected with your society along with the possibility of making you feel better as a person for doing something good for your community or even just for yourself. The internet has taught us to promote ourselves. When getting out into society, be sure to listen. Through the internet we are always self-promoting ourselves and talking about ourselves, this time listen to what others may have to stay. Although we are unable to edit our conversations in real life, we are able to connect to others through our vulnerabilities. When meeting new people, also find people who are rather similar to  you. No one will be completely like you, but you should find someone you can bond over similar interests or perhaps just opinions. Lastly, be sure to reconnect with others and take the initiative to start events. People can be intimated with the thought of inviting people over or going out with people in the fear of messing up, however, it is the perfect chance to reconnect with people who were once close.

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Photo Credit to Everyday Theology

 References:

Jackson, L., & Wang, J. (2013). Cultural differences in social networking site use: A comparative
     study of china and the united states. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 910-921. doi:
     http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.11.024