I keep thinking about this video Jason Kottke linked to:
The health effects of loneliness are well documented, but I’d never actually thought of it in biological terms. We hunger for connection in the same way we hunger for food, and we hurt when we are shunned in a very physical way.
Jason’s analogy to sugar really got to me:
Like our affinity for sugary foods, the feeling of loneliness turns out to be another one of those things that served humans well when we lived in small hunter-gatherer groups tens of thousands of years ago but often works against us in our individualist modern world.
I think that a lot of online social networking is the social equivalent of junk food. Call it junk socializing. Everyone knows a “Facebook friend” isn’t a friend; otherwise why would it be qualified with “Facebook?” But we still feel like we’re connecting with people when we like their pictures on Instagram.
If Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are bad, then podcasting, YouTubers, and streamers are worse.
After listening to a “two guys talking” podcast I feel like I’ve just hung out with some friends, even though the podcasters don’t know me at all! Maybe I feel less lonely, in the same way I feel full after eating a Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese: I sated my hunger but not in a sustainable way.
As a society, we need to work a lot on social isolation. I’m not 100% in on Cal Newport’s “delete your social media” proscription, but it’s starting to make a bit more sense every day.