The price of interconnectivity

Constant social spheres are greatly shaping our lives.

Delaney Daly

There’s a distinct difference between loneliness and being alone. The former term connotes those familiar feelings of high school: alienation, exclusion and misunderstanding come directly to my mind. Evolutionarily, loneliness has always been perceived as some type of weakness — those who live in solitude have less of a chance to continue their bloodline and are thus incapable of adding to their species’ gene pool. Being unable to connect and relate with those around us can be damaging, perhaps evoking or intensifying low self-esteem, especially in adolescents. Maybe this is why humans have created their identities and the society around them based on social association. We crave company.

When most think of being alone, loneliness probably pops into their minds as a direct association. It makes sense, too, on a surface level. However, solitude can be beneficial. It allows us to reconnect with ourselves and return to a more centered state of being. Aloneness takes away the need to respond to the myriad of opinions and behaviors we face every day. Self-sustained actions beget useful development, building a sense of self-awareness, self-reliance and creativity. Of course, these attributes can also be found in people who are not alone, but they may be more potently tapped into while we allow our minds to cease from the back-and-forth banter of others. When social motivation is taken away, people gain the freedom and aptitude to self-organize and even solve problems with ease. Much like personal attachment, aloneness is a staple for individual growth.

It is slightly unsettling then that collective national proportions of people are spending less and less time by themselves. It seems much more likely for both kids and adults to accompany solitude with internet use. What used to be a time reserved to reading, writing or doing anything alone now includes newer outlets, such as social networking, streaming news, media and the responses they
generate.

 Much of that has been exacerbated since the advent of smartphones. Remarkably popular among young adults and business professionals, smartphones ensure that we are never alone and that any time we want that connection, we can have it.

Isn’t this a good thing? As a social medium, the internet is unique in a variety of ways; one being that it is constantly shaped and reshaped by everyone who uses it. In addition to the consumer portion of internet usage, the constant input into this global system ranges from major or viral content to the smallest pieces of information. The internet is the most up-to-date source of media, and its mass amount of content far outweighs any other medium.

Studies have shown that an increasingly large amount of people depend on their smartphones to the point of authentic affection for them. Furthermore, a constant connection to the social world can both take people away from themselves and alienate them from their family, friends and peers. Already, approximately half of America’s young adult population believes that hyper-connectivity will prove to be more of a weakness than a strength, eventually creating adults who are unable to have face-to-face relations or retain large amounts of
information.

No, the internet is not out to get us, nor are smartphones turning us into robots. However, there is a balance to almost everything in life, and in relation to the integrity of personal development, people need to know and enjoy how to be alone.