Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lonely and connected to everything

We are living in amazing times with amazing technology.  We have social networking, text messaging, communications devices that never leave our side and we know so much about what is going on in the world and with our friends.  We know everything..... everything short of being able to read our friends' minds.  When we reach that point do you think we will genuinely all be happy?

It's been nearly half a year since I got rid of Facebook and while I still feel that I am missing out on things like those new pictures of my little niece and some good discussions I've found that my life is a good bit easier and less stressful.  I do continue to use Google+ and Twitter but for different things but I know that it's really only a matter of time before Google+ becomes the detriment to my life that Facebook was.  I continue to deal with loneliness but the lack of the connections has not made me any more lonely than I ever was which makes me wonder how much social networking really truly offers us.

I grew up in the 80's and 90's and I remember times before we had all of this constant communication.  I remember when we got our first answering machine and when it was exciting to get home to listen to messages that people left us or that daily trip the mailbox to see what was there for me.  I remember when I did have a message or a letter in the mailbox how special that was -- it was certainly something that was treasured.  Now a trip to the mailbox is a chore and usually only ends with someone trying to sell you something or someone wanting money and mail for my and my room mate can stay in the box for days because, well, we just don't care about it.  When someone thinks of something they need to tell someone they just send them a text.... it's easy and doesn't even require a response half the time.  If its a little more in depth we send them an email and then that email goes right to our phones and we instantly read it (likely while distracted with something else).  We don't even have that time where we get home to check our email that is special anymore.  We truly are connected to everyone we want to be wherever we are and when we want to be so how can anyone feel lonely in this world?

One of the biggest stories in social network of this week is the story of Amanda Todd who took her own life after years of bullying.  Amanda's story started out by someone admiring how beautiful she was and asking her to flash him on a web chat.  If someone really admired her I'm sure it made her feel extremely good and she thought she could return the favor so she did.  The thing is that Amanda isn't alone.  We have numerous webcam chat sites that people go to daily and anytime you see an attractive girl you see at least one person in the chat begging to see something and completely attacking the girl.  This sex-driven world we liven seems to offer some kind of fulfillment to a big part of us that is missing and it seems that the void no one can seem to identify is loneliness.  I mean, how could that be the cause of our pain and emptiness since we're so connected?

I don't think there is a guy alive today that has not, in one way or another, struggled with pornography and I wouldn't be shocked if 3/4 of us have "sexted" with someone.  In out logical minds it is kind of weird that we would go to such extents to try to see someone naked when we could just type a keyword into Google and find all the naked girls we want.  What makes it different?  Personally I think there is a huge psychological difference and I think the focus of sexual addiction is a lot more psychological than it is carnal.  Our world is becoming lonelier by the second because even though we are so connected on a knowledge platform we are less and less connected on an emotional platform.  We know so much about people in our lives but yet its too easy to know that information and we don't have to work at it.  Many of us post onto social networking sites because we just don't have anyone to express whats going on in our lives and we hope that maybe someone, somewhere, will read it and understand.  The emotional connections to people that we used to have in the 80s and 90s are no longer important or even understood.  So what does this have to do with trying to get someone to let you see them naked vs just looking at porn on the internet?  I really believe that it is an attempt to feel an emotional connection with someone.  The fact that that person is actually showing you and not just performing makes the experience so much more "real" to you and, while it may satisfy you a little bit more than just any porn on the net, it doesn't last which means you go back for more and more and, unfortunately, people get hurt.  This isn't a guy vs girl issue but an issue that is affecting everyone equally.  While it is certainly true that the mistakes girls end up making tend to be far more detrimental to their lives the root issue is affecting the stalker and the stalkee alike.  It is very important to focus on what the actual issue is rather than trying to blame people, however, when someone brings harm to someone else they certainly should be held accountable and prosecuted according to the law.  The problem is that simply prosecuting people and trying to put an end to the bullying doesn't solve the problem in the long run.

In the past month I have been feeling loneliness that I haven't felt in an extremely long time.  I've really been trying to make connections to people but I just can't seem to do it and I'm finding that there just isn't that huge of a desire for those people to make connections with me.  If I go back a few months maybe I was guilty of the same.  One night this week I sent text messages to at least a dozen people that I knew (some being people I haven't talked to in years) and didn't receive one single reply.  It just wasn't important to them.  I can't hold them accountable though because I know that in my life I have been guilty of the same.  There have been many times in my life where I've said that I have no friends and then in response to that I get so many messages saying "I'm your friend" but that never really was the point of my statement.  Even though there are people that call me a friend these people have no real emotional connection to me and I think this is true with most of the "friendships" that exist in this nation right now.  We're slowly forgetting how to make those emotional connections and we're becoming distant from the people that we communicate with every day.  Our focus is turning inward and causing us to look our for ourselves because emotionally those other people don't matter to us and it would be too much of an inconvenience in our own lives to take some time out to have a conversation with someone we say is important to us.  We don't hurt ourselves that moment but we hurt humanity in general and fall deeper into our lonely little worlds.

We have a huge problem facing our nation and our developed world and it's one that isn't going to be fixed by more technology or a new president.  Our problem is inside each and every one of us and it's something that most of us can't even identify or acknowledge.  Loneliness is ultimately what is going to destroy us and turn us all into the self-centered monsters that we see oppressing us now.  If we don't learn how to love others and make those emotional connections then we are doomed as a human race.


Unknown said...

I've been thinking connections with people a lot lately too. I've been reading scriptures in the Bible about how God designed us to interact with each other and it just isn't part of our culture or churches. Independence does NOT seem to be God's plan at all. Most relationship scriptures talk about interdependence - the give and take of meeting each other's needs and helping one another. In addition to lonliness, I think we are all walking around with holes in us. Sometimes people talk about the God shaped hole which I totally agree with. But, I think the Creator of the Universe made us to be in deep relationships with each other too. All sorts of needs go unmet when we are all islands unto ourselves. It saddens me that I don't know how to change this within myself and certainly don't know how to affect change in people around me.

Bob K Mertz said...

The church really has been a source of a lot of problems as well. It's been so hard for me to fit in anywhere because it seems that the majority of churches don't really seem to know the same God that I do. I, of course, do not doubt their love for God and I'm sure that they are led in different ways but for me it's hard because I tend to be more of a liberal Christian and many times I feel like people are just trying to make me "see the light" which I have already seen. I often wonder how many other people truly love God but avoid church for this very reason. I guess there is a part of me that thinks I'm dealing with this loneliness simply because people don't understand me and don't really want to take the time to understand me -- maybe I'm just too much work? I've always made it a point in my life and my business to trust people and to be there for them whenever they need help and more times than not I get taken advantage of -- which is fine because I know that I am doing my best to be the honorable person in everything I do. The problem is that I look more at the emotional connections than the other person does and it means a whole lot more to me.

I don't know if you've gone to see (or have read) The Perks of Being a Wallflower but I would highly recommend it (my last blog post talks about a lot of it as well). There is a decent number of people that are those wallflowers that can see the pain in everyone else and really want to somehow help them but they just can't.... While many people look at this horrible actions people do and see a horrible person I can look at that same person and see someone that is hurting and hasn't ever really had anyone there for them despite the fact that they thought they did.

I guess that's what social media and our connected world is doing to us... connected to people is so abundant that is so undervalued and meaningless. If we don't figure out how to change that we are in a lot of trouble.