Loneliness In The Social Network Era

[Reading time: 3 minutes]

From the moment of birth, humans unwittingly develop a fear of ‘losses’. Think of children who won’t let go of their mother’s hand when accompanied to school, of adolescents peer-pressured into smoking, or the fear of betrayal in love relationships. People spend enormous amounts of physical and emotional energy in attempting to avoid losses. As Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahnemann put it: “The concept of loss aversion is certainly the most significant contribution of psychology to behavioural economics.”

The development of ICT, resulting in the ‘death of distance’, has undoubtedly contributed to relieve many people’s fears of exclusion. Never before has it been simpler to share information and make new acquaintances, yet the extent to which this has proved functional to social relationships is questionable.

In many cases social networks appear to have created a reality of their own. From my experience, the way in which people portray themselves and their lives often has little to do with who they really are. This may result in disillusionment when the ‘virtual’ relationships are transposed to the physical world, or alternatively may refrain such a transition in the first place.

The danger of ICT (and technology in general) is the common misconception regarding its function, which must be merely integrative, not substitutive, to our physical life. Yet this is not always the case, in fact the impact of social media constantly influences our thoughts and feelings. A blatant example is the role played by ‘fake news’ in the recent American election, but we could also think of the feeling of loneliness as we look at our devices’ screens, filled with pictures of other people (apparently) having fun. As a result of this ‘social’ pressure we feel compelled to publicise our experiences, devaluing their importance to our inner self. We become unable to truly embody our emotions, therefore making it harder to unravel the roots of our thoughts and feelings. Put simply, we are terrified of being left alone with ourselves.

The irony is that we cannot build healthy relationships without a solid understanding of who we are and how we function. Our constant exposure to information makes it harder to maintain a clear mind, making us unable to live in the present moment.

Other than a more conscious use of technology, I believe that a structural solution to the problem of mindfulness would be the inclusion of meditation practices in national education curricula. We spend a large portion of our lives on our own (whether working, travelling or simply relaxing), making it essential to be able to embrace our thoughts and emotions without being carried away.


If you liked this article, feel free to share your thoughts: e-mail me at giovanni.facchini@studenti.luiss.it and I will get back to you soon.






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