Technologically Advanced Isolation

08.05.2019 |

Episode #5 of the course Coping with loneliness in the modern world by Sonia Chauhan


Today, I want to talk about how technology has now become another significant factor in a lonely lifestyle.


Virtual Reality versus Real Reality

There is a great deal of talk about technology upgrading our lives and becoming an inherent part of how we spend our days. Mobile apps switch on kitchen lamps, get us excited, calm us down, read us poetry, get us dates, and even put us to sleep.

This was all very good until it became a global concern that we spend more time exploring our phones than each other. Technology has made us more out of touch with the real world. So, why is it that we prefer the virtual world? Probably because it feels like we’re in control. There’s no need to reveal our true selves. There are no awkward pauses in texting. It’s easier to fake happiness on Facebook.

The catch is, since our brain is fitted to respond to organic events happening in real time, virtual reality fails to give us lasting happiness. The more we live through online personas existing only in the virtual world, the lonelier our real lives become. Let’s understand how.


Does Virtual Reality Match Up to Real Reality?

Dr. Elizabeth Redcay, a scientist at the University of Maryland, did interesting research around this. She mapped the brains of people while they watched her talking in a YouTube video and while they talked to a person in real time on the same subject [1].

She found that our brain receptors, particularly those relating to emotional reward and social intelligence, are significantly more engaged during a live interaction, thus generating real emotional gratification.

There are other important reasons you should up your “real-time experience” agenda:

You build perspective. When you don’t have personal experiences with different people, you don’t give yourself a chance to frame a first-hand opinion. So, you judge everybody based on someone else’s narrative or worse, a default bias that magnifies illogical notions, racism, and cultural phobias.

You build spontaneity. Not getting enough real-time conversations can make you socially awkward. Face-to-face conversations can be messy and unpredictable. They require spontaneity and thinking on your feet, which is a core human skill.

You regain the capacity for aloneness. Too much technological connection erodes your capacity to sit still. You can’t enjoy a few moments to just be with your thoughts, when you can easily pull out your phone to surf.


Your Challenge: Strike a Balance

Remember, technology is not the problem. It’s how you are using technology.

Here are tips that I’ve found useful while using technology:

Purge your phone. Give up distracting apps loaded with unnecessary information that eat your attention. I uninstalled the Facebook app a year ago, and I no longer feel the need to just bring out my phone. Can you think of any apps you need to get rid of?

I often check my “Daily Average” activity level on Instagram to stay mindful of my surfing time.

Have a clean home screen. Shift all trivial apps away from your home screen. You don’t need to respond to every notification and red dot hovering over the app icons. Swipe it away.

Have a “no phone” day. If it’s impossible or too hard to do, start with a few hours to get comfortable. Gradually, build an entire “no phone” day.

Choose wisely who you follow on social media. Follow influencers who are icons of positivity and growth. My favorites are Jay Shetty, Simon Sinek, and Najwa Zebian.

Have a “no phone” space at home. Stop carrying your phone to the bathroom. Build a no-phone rule at the dining table or inside the kitchen. This one is all the more important if you live with family or are raising kids.

I believe that you now have a deep understanding of loneliness in the present time and all the major factors of our lifestyle that contribute to this predicament. Starting tomorrow, we will begin looking into methods to cope with loneliness, the first being: empathy.


Recommended reading

The Loneliness of Social Media


Recommended audio

“Social Media: Patrick Janelle, Molly Guy, Kat Kinsman, Sydney Engelberg, and Anna Caltabiano” by The Lonely Hour



[1] “Rapid Neural Discrimination of Communicative Gestures” by E Redcay and TA Carlson


Share with friends