The idea of the computer hacker, alone in his basement with only the glow of his computer monitor to keep him company used to make us laugh. Don’t look now, but you’ve turned into that loner now, as you hold on to your smartphone for dear life, tapping out another text or tweet while you wait for the pizza delivery guy to arrive.Recently, and ironically, the commentary on how disconnected we have become with one another, has turned some short YouTube clips into viral hits...being shared using social media of course.
The Hazards of False Connectivity
The reason this video has struck a chord with so many people is because it takes a mirror to our own disturbing behaviors. When did it become acceptable to trade the carbon-based-lifeforms beside us for the touchscreens in front of us? Now studies, like this one from Brigham Young University, suggests that low social interaction has the equivalent health impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is twice as bad as obesity to your lifespan.
Whoa. Take a minute and let that sink in. Not only do we hurt the feelings of those around us when we mindlessly “connect” through technology, but our lack of engagement is hurting us physiologically.Being social only online does not actually enrich your life, but rather, it's creating a larger distance between you and the people around you.
The Irreplaceable Human Experience
Interactions create a “positive feedback effect” on us that lead us to taking better care of ourselves as we age. Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor in the Department of Psychology at BYU and one of the authors of the study, said that “Family, friends, and colleagues influence our health for the better in lots of small, as well a big ways.” Taking time to interact with others can push us to be our best selves.
Famous comedian Louis C.K has a talk show interview, currently circulating around the internet where he talks about why he doesn’t want his daughter to have a cellphone. In the same vein as the “positive feedback effect” he comments that in-person interactions teach children (and adults) empathy. He believes, when we tease someone in real life, we can see their pain and decide we don’t like hurting others but when we tease someone using our fingertips and see no reaction, no consequence, we’re likely to do it again. We become numb and feel protected by screens that separate us from others. This interview is both hilarious and insightful, well worth a watch (maybe with headphones though).
Find The Offline-Online Balance
Now all of this is to say, we obviously live in a more interconnected world where technology helps us reach people in ways that were impossible before. We don’t see people tossing their devices into the ocean to sing kumbaya around a bonfire anytime soon. What we’re advocating for is, of course, some balance.
Use technology facilitate your offline interactions but not to substitute them. Also, if you’re unable to get that face-time with your friends, family, or colleagues, why not use some of the latest technology to replicate the experience? Try giving your friends a video call with Skype, or host a Google+ Hangouts with your colleagues in another country.
It’s never been easier to get that face-to-face time with people when you’re not in the same location. But don’t forget to get out of the house once in a while and go mix and mingle, unplugged. That face-to-face interaction is priceless, and even the latest in high definition technology can replace the human touch.
Technology and social platforms like Facebook have become a real oxymoron in today’s society. As we’re becoming increasingly more isolated the more we try to stay connected online. Stop alienating yourself before you have to resort to these silly life hacks like cardboard cutout friends and collecting cats to numb the pain of being alone.
So disconnect a little to live a life that’s worth sharing online.
Are you guilty of being overconnected online and disconnected offline?