The progress behind digital loneliness


I just read something that feels like “everything today’s tech is doing wrong, in ONE SENTENCE”. Then I realized another way to look at it.

The progress behind digital loneliness /img/tech-4-loneliness.jpg

The “One SENTENCE” I’m talking about is “Technology is making it easier for people to enjoy being alone”. That statement immediately brought back to my mind these other three on the same general theme:

#1 (by me): “People marrying themselves” is now a thing (facilitated by male-dominated tech???)

#2, from Eliminating the Human: “much recent tech development and innovation over the last decade or so has had an unspoken overarching agenda - it has been about facilitating the need for LESS human interaction.”

#3, from Silicon Valley is Lying to You: “The real undercurrent of start-up strategizing isn’t socialization—rather, it’s the opposite: Social anxiety is the primary economic force in California today. The tech economy is pushed forward not by a desire to meet new people but by a desire to avoid human contact at all costs—unless it’s to-your-doorstep on demand.”

and the progress is in…

There is plenty of research and opinions (for examples, just read this and this) arguing that, in spite of all the bad news we hear every day, human beings are, at the global level, “better off now than they have ever been”.

One of the substantial differences between the average human and the average multibillionaire is that only the latter is actually able to decide if and how to spend her time with other human beings, and to choose who those other humans are. After all, both scientists and motivational posters tell us that the secret of true happiness is to “make the best use of the time you have”.

But if this is the case, the last part of “statement #3”:

“avoid human contact at all costs—unless it’s to-your-doorstep on demand”

means that digital tech is doing something right. NOT bad (to the extent that something almost everybody wants is right, at least). It means that those arguing that humanity is much better off now than in the past are right, but they should add this crucial development to changes in life expectancy, access to electricity and other material indicators. Right?

Yes, I DO know “it’s complicated”. I do know that loneliness as default, permanent state is bad. Take this as a provocation. Further thoughts left (for now) as exercise for the reader. Bonus points for exercises made via face-to-face conversations with other humans.

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