Loneliness: the 21st century epidemic

I was listening to the radio this morning when the commentator – talking about violinist Nigel Kennedy – said that the latter despite having a vibrant career in classical music and being the first violinist to acquire almost popstar status – had no computer, didn’t own one and was reported to have said that he saw no benefit from them to people’s lives.

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What do others think of this?  I am inclined to agree in some ways.  How have computers helped us with all the profound problems that humanity faces. Despite our reliance on them – have they really made a single thing better?  Is researching a book on the internet better than having to go to a library? Almost certainly not yet I suspect many of us now work that way.    Do computers help us as mental health sufferers or make everything worse?      Do they even partially cause some of the problems from which we suffer?

We are all (hopefully) gathered here today on this blogpost that I am writing and you are reading, and another tomorrow that you will be writing and I will be reading, and that itself is a huge benefit.  It’s good to share as someone said once on some ad.   But there were support groups long before the internet.  They tended to be local which is a good thing too for people feeling isolated.    Feeling isolated is a symptom of depression anyway but do we treat our computers as comfort blankets when the connections they appear to offer are illusory?  Or are these connections merely digitised versions of what we used to call ‘pen pals’.

Interestingly I tried to write a letter – I mean a proper handwritten one – the other day and struggled with it.  I found I had to compose a draft of the letter on screen and then write it out by hand. Yet when I first started using a computer back in the 80s it was completely the other way around.  I had to compose by hand and then type up the result. This shows the extent of brain rewiring that has gone on in a short space of time.  What else is there that we do not know about?  In the tiny space of thirty years or so computers and the net have come to dominate every aspect of our lives and yet research on how they have affected us physically and mentally is very much in its infancy.

Loneliness is becoming a 21stcentury epidemic.  How big a part does the internet and social media in this?  Also it could be said that the use to which people put technology is down to us.  Technology is neutral.  It cannot think or feel the way that humans can.  Algorithms know millions of things but they will only know millions of things based on mathematical probability.   Deep Blue may have beaten Gary Kasparov years back, but it couldn’t respond to a sunset.   Technology has no philosophy and no sentience.   It is deeply and implacably dangerous in the wrong hands.

I don’t really have any answers but would be interested to hear what others think.

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5 Replies to “Loneliness: the 21st century epidemic”

  1. Very interesting topic, I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. The internet can be great in connecting people but is also sometimes the cause of people being unable to have face to face conversations and helping people withdraw from society. I know for me the standards portrayed on the internet can sometimes make me feel inadequate and like I don’t belong. Great thought, thanks for highlighting it

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  2. I have always thought of technology as something whose use depends completely on the user. For me,personally, Internet has cured my loneliness. I have never had any close friends because of the vast difference in my personality and those of others. At home also, I spent my time alone and dejected. Internet has opened the door to meeting people who are like me. There are no geographical boundaries. I can talk to a person who is thousands of miles away but is the same as me I can talk to people who understand what I have to say instead of the unfeeling comments I get from my peers. That doesn’t mean I am incapable of social interactions;it’s just that now I have a place where I may think of belonging. So much information,such good content in terms of books,movies has opened up. Forums such as these have helped me out in very tough times. The things I am writing here are something I cannot share elsewhere because people do not understand;or they simply don’t care. Internet,for me is full of opportunities waiting to be discovered.

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