In the silence of connection,people are comforted by being in touch with alot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’tget enough of one another if we can usetechnology to keep one another at distanceswe can control: not too close, not too far, justright.
A 2010 AARP survey found that 35 percent ofadults older than 45 were chronically lonely, asopposed to 20 percent of a similar group only adecade earlier. According to a major study by aleading scholar of the subject, roughly 20 percentof Americans—about 60 million people—areunhappy with their lives because of loneliness.Across the Western world, physiciansand nurses have begun to speak openlyof an epidemic of loneliness.”
We’ve become accustomed to a new way ofbeing “alone together.” Technology-enabled, weare able to be with one another, and alsoelsewhere, connected to wherever we want tobe. We want to customize our lives. We want tomove in and out of where we are becausethe thing we value most is control overwhere we focus our attention. We havegotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one,loyal to our own party.
We expect more from technology and less fromone another and seem increasingly drawn totechnologies that provide the illusion ofcompanionship without the demands ofrelationship. Always-on/always-on-youdevices provide three powerful fantasies:that we will always be heard; that we canput our attention wherever we want it tobe; and that we never have to be alone”
In today’s workplace, young people who havegrown up fearing conversation show up on thejob wearing earphones. Walking through acollege library or the campus of a high-tech start-up, one sees the same thing: we are together,but each of us is in our own bubble, furiouslyconnected to keyboards and tiny touchscreens.”
FACE-TO-FACE conversation unfolds slowly. Itteaches patience. When we communicate on ourdigital devices, we learn different habits. As weramp up the volume and velocity of onlineconnections, we start to expect faster answers. Toget these, we ask one another simpler questions;we dumb down our communications, evenon the most important matters. It is as thoughwe have all put ourselves on cable news.”