Technology has created a planet without communication boundaries. Want to talk to someone? Shoot them an email or send them a Facebook message. You can also comment on their Instagram profile, tag them in a Tweet, or call them on Skype. In essence, communication is now limitless and instant.
The irony of such a tech-driven world is that more people are lonelier than ever. According to a 2018 survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and The Economist, 23% of UK adults and 22% of adults in the US say that they lack companionship, feel lonely, or feel isolated. These are alarming statistics from two of the most technologically-advanced countries on the planet, and similar observations are happening in other parts of the world.
Unfortunately, the very thing that is supposed to connect us seems to be keeping us further apart. The more time we spend in front of our screens, the less time we spend with one another. In essence, technology is making us more alone.
Technology and the Loneliness Epidemic
Advances in digital communication have transformed how we live our lives. You can do almost everything online – banking, ordering food, paying for products and services, education, and other things that used to require our presence.
The web has blurred geographical borders as well. It takes less than a second to call someone across continents. People have been able to join social movements, political campaigns, and fun activities by just logging on to their social media accounts. You now make friends around the globe without waiting for the mail or going there yourself.
On the one hand, these developments have created an unprecedented level of global interconnection. On the other, it has fueled feelings of loneliness for many people. Several studies reveal a lonely truth:
- In one study, young people under 35 confessed feeling most alone. This demographic is also one of the most prolific users of social networks.
- Another study found that 48% of respondents only had one person they can honestly confide in. A similar study 25 years ago showed that people had three confidants on average.
- According to research by the Harvard Business Review, employee performance went up 50% when teams were able to socialize more compared to groups who primarily used digital communication.
- A 2017 study found that young adults who used social media for an average of two hours a day experienced more social anxiety. The same study found that heavy social media users were three times more likely to experience social isolation than their peers who used social media less.
The Need for Stronger Connections Offline
At the root of all this loneliness is the lack of intimacy. Neurobiologists have found that human beings are wired for it, and we are suffering from its shortage. Technology may have made it easier to bridge the distance and stay in touch. Still, it has led to a lack of actual, real-world connections, which is making many of us feel increasingly alone.