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Why social media is making us lonely.

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In 2010, at a cost of $300 million, 800 miles of fibre-optic cable was laid between the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange to shave three milliseconds off trading times. Yet within this world of instant and absolute communication, unbounded by limits of time or space, we suffer from unprecedented alienation. 


We tirelessly tweet and update alone from our bedrooms and offices whilst feeling that we are acting in an accessible and sociable manner. Our connections are growing broader but shallower. I for one often choose to first broadcast a snippet of news, experience or emotion before I pick up the phone and call one friend and talk to them about it. Pleas for help are often posted up on Facebook and when they fall on hundreds of deaf ears, the rejection seems all the more bitter. 


Our ancestors could never have comprehended such a thing. It is becoming increasingly possible to experience the whole world, and most people in it, without having to leave your computer chair. In the future will there be any need or travel or to have real time friends? According to an article on theatlantic.com - we were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information.
During the film 'The Social Network' , the final, silent shot is of Mark Zuckerberg sending out a friend request to his ex-girlfriend, then waiting and clicking and waiting and clicking—a moment of super-connected loneliness. We have all been in that scene: transfixed by the glow of a screen, hungering for a response.


Facebook is of course the worst culprit for internet hermiting, one of my friends posted the other day "'if i don't post about what I've been doing in my life on Facebook, did it really happen?' Facebook's total value has now overtaken that of the global coffee industry, it would seem that one addiction is starting to take over another.


According to Facebook I have over 500 friends but if I were to have a big party or get married, i'd probably invite 50 of them at best. On a weekly basis I probably regularly speak to about 5 and count 3 as best friends. However when I think about the time I spent scrolling through my news feed and absorbing posts, pictures and videos from what can only be describes as acquaintance's lives I do wonder if my actual real life friendships would benefit more from this time and attention. So many times I have dreamt of setting myself free from the shackles of Facebook but how would I know who had just got engaged? What people's wedding dress looked like? When the next party is? What about pictures of parties i've been at that I might be tagged in? Facebook has me firmly in it's deathly clutch. The reality is that Facebook often just makes you feel like everyone is having an amazing time all the time apart from little sad you. For example during GLASTONBURY where the 98% of people who didn't go were indadvertedly made to feel rubbish by the 2% who did and indeed gloated pre, during and post festival, even though the reality contains a lot more queuing, dirty toilets and sunstroke than FB would have you believe.


Feeling like you're missing out turns on the pressure to present the best representation of your life to everyone on your friends list as is humanly possible. You de-tag yourself from any photos go yourself which don't show your best side, you take endless selfies at gigs to prove how popular and cultured you are and you let your dinner get cold whilst sharing it's beauty and symmetry with everyone on instagram. When Andy Murray addressed his fans after winning Wimbledon, most of them witnessed the moment through the screen on their phone instead of through their eyes so worried were they that they couldn't have a little on-line brag about 'meeting' the man himself.


There is an epidemic of loneliness occurring worldwide, 60 million Americans are lonely and more people live alone than ever before. While FB can prove useful in increasing face-to-face contact and decreasing loneliness (for example arranging a game of football via Facebook) if it is being used instead of face-to-face contact (abandoning the game of football and catching up with your friends via instant messaging instead) then the loneliness will only increase. 


It seems that as we evolve and progress, loneliness becomes a symptom of modern life. Take for instance the trend to move out of a city and into the suburbs, the aspiration to be alone in a car instead of taking public transport, the tendency to choose a robot checkout supervisor at the supermarket instead of a human one. It would seem as if we are becoming more allergic to real-life interaction as we engross ourselves more and more in the virtual. We shy from awkward social scenarios, from not knowing what to say, from meeting someone weird and from giving the wrong impression. FB appears to remove all this, it's a world where you don't have to run into anyone you don't want to when you don't have your makeup on and all your responses and communications can be well-thought out and grammatically correct.


The Australian study “Who Uses Facebook?” found a significant correlation between Facebook use and narcissism: “Facebook users have higher levels of total narcissism, exhibitionism, and leadership than Facebook nonusers,” the study’s authors wrote. “In fact, it could be argued that Facebook specifically gratifies the narcissistic individual’s need to engage in self-promoting and superficial behaviour.”


So there you have it - excessive Facebook use will only end in misery and grief, it is a tool to be used moderately, to compliment your social life instead of replacing it. This is advice which I personally need to take as much as anyone else and I am currently considering deleting my Facebook app as a step towards recovering my real world identity.


Thankyou and goodbye for now.

 

 

 

 

 

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