The Isolation of Connectivity

Image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay

Dennis Prager released a very good article at the Daily Wire that answered why so many young people are unhappy. The article is very thorough and I highly suggest you read it, but I have something to add that I feel is important but often goes overlooked.

Prager stats by giving stats that I feel are pertinent:

— In America between 1946 and 2006, the suicide rate quadrupled for males ages 15 to 24 and doubled for females the same age.

— In 1950, the suicide rate per 100,000 Americans was 11.4. In 2017, it was 14.

— According to Grant Duwe, director of research and evaluation at the Minnesota Department of Corrections, in the 1980s, there were 32 mass public shootings (which he defines as incidents in which four or more people are killed publicly with guns within 24 hours). In the 1990s, there were 42. In the first decade of this century, there were 28. In all the 1950s, when there were fewer controls on guns, there was one. Fifty years before that, in the 1900s, there were none.

— Reuters Health reported in 2019, “Suicidal thinking, severe depression and rates of self-injury among U.S. college students more than doubled over less than a decade, a nationwide study suggests.” The study co-author Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, said, “It suggests that something is seriously wrong in the lives of young people.”

In summary, Prager chalks this up to a loss of values and I can’t disagree. Values were more than just a way of identifying right and wrong, they were a guide book to a happy and, just as important, a sane life. I feel like we don’t put enough weight on the stability part of having a moral core, and that a lot of the Biblical values we as a society hold aren’t just mystical rules handed down by people who lived centuries ago. There’s a rhyme and reason to all of it, even if we’ve forgotten the reason.

But if there’s one thing that I’ve observed in my time of watching the human race interact from my perch as a culture critic, it’s that the human race is connected more than ever but that this connection is a hollow sort.

Allow me to explain.

I spend a lot of time on Twitter and both watch and participate in the daily arguments that go on. The arguments take on a different flavor than they would in real life. Online, people are quick to insult and be rude. They invite both strangers and friends to come and assist them in their argument in order to give themselves the edge of populism around their idea. They say things that, if this were an in-person conversation, they wouldn’t say at all.

The safety the internet provides you can make people a lot more daring in how they say things. From the comfort of your keyboard or cell phone, you find the anger or frustration of someone funny. However, in-person, that anger and frustration may result in some negative consequences for you. A person might get so angry that they lash out at you physically, or their hurt may be so palpable that you begin to feel guilty.

Our behavior is crueler online and as such we see the world as a much more cruel place. We begin to distance ourselves from strangers. Who knows? Maybe the guy you just got done fighting with online has the same temperament as the gentleman quietly listening to his headphones on the bus, and you’d rather not invite his anger.

The other aspect of online life is that we carefully curate what others see through social media. You put your best foot forward on Instagram where you show people your adventures or friendships, or talents.

But that’s not really you. You’re human. You have troubles and problems, insecurities and anxieties. You don’t wake up looking like a model. You’re unkempt, groggy, and probably grumpy, and while you’re definitely blessed for living in America, your life isn’t the high flying show that you put on for people. The idea that you’ll be found out brings on more anxieties and worries. What’s more, you start comparing yourself to other people. “Living your best life” becomes a competition with others, not a goal for yourself.

Envy seeps in. Jealousy abounds. Stress rises.

You feel insecure, fake, and in need of affirmation. In order to get it, you curate more. You make up someone that isn’t you and claim it is you on social media through photos and posts. The proverbial needle goes in and you wait for the high of chemicals that come from likes, retweets, and hearts. Life is good for a time, but soon reality sets back in and you’re faced with the imperfect, less exciting creature that you really are.

Not only are you now untrusting and even hateful of others, but you also hate yourself.

The world you live in looks like a dark place. You’re more connected than ever, but you feel more isolated than you ever have.

The term “online community” is a hollow thing. The people you interact with are real but the interactions themselves are an imitation of the real thing. Between the conversations are filters and lenses with which the other person wants you to view them. The naked personality, looks, and wit aren’t there for you to get a real sense of who the person is.

We’re hiding, and as such, we feel isolation, even while we’re having a conversation.

If you wonder why young people are so depressed, that’s a solid chunk of why right there.


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