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A short history of technological isolation
We’re beginning to recognize an important problem that’s been hiding in plain sight: social media isolates humans from each other.
How did we get here? Simple. Tech keeps us separate.
Looking at the costs
We’re lured in by tech’s benefits but never consider the costs in loneliness. The frog-boiling comes on so slowly we barely notice. Once we acclimate to the pain, we imagine it’s an inevitable part of life. It’s worth looking a lot more carefully.
Here’s an example - take a cold, hard look at literacy. No joke.
Our bookless ancestors were forced to talk to other humans every single time they wanted information. No checking for recipes, child-raising tips, or advice on sabre-toothed tigers. Those conversations fought against isolation and the cascade of Surgeon General problems.
Not saying we shouldn’t read. We get so much out of books. Plus, it’s fun. Just don’t imagine there’s no cost. Once you start looking at the full picture, you see it everywhere …
Movies mean a few people speak to millions - less conversation overall.
TV pulled us out of movie theatres - even less interaction.
Netflix on your phone? It’s like an isolation booth.
Amazon equals no more asking friends for book recommendations
Youtube means I can figure out how to fix things around the house without getting advice.
Of course, tech also delivers wonders. It’s not time to smash the machines, just to recognize both sides of the equation.
What are social media’s costs?
Of course, social media can also be wonderful. Last night, I grabbed beers with a friend I had not seen since high school. I’ve also moved into new circles too. Plus, I learn about people I’d never run into otherwise.
But for a technology that is supposed to connect us, social media sure can isolate. Here’s a few examples:
Facebook feels like we’re in contact, but there’s something hollow. Some surprising math shows that most people have fewer friends than their peers. The 90-9-1 rule points out that 1% of users create almost all the content and everyone else just scrolls. Seems like a conversation, but it’s really a broadcast.
TikTok pushes a steady view of beautiful people, making us think everyone around us - including ourselves - is relatively uglier.
Instagram goads many into showing a fake side of their life, whether by filtering down to the best times or even applying software filters to simulate beauty.
However, the biggest cost is on individuality. Social media can transform us into angry mobs, capable of punishing anyone with different views. The natural reaction is to outwardly conform, hold back opinions and maintain a defensive crouch. This is unhealthy and drains life from our friendships.
Time for a social media fast?
Social media can feel like a powerful drug because it taps into our human need for connection. Yes, it has problems. And yes, we need to stop sweeping those problems under the carpet.
But we don’t need to give up on social media entirely. I believe it’s possible to fix many of these problems and still enjoy the benefits. When people speak openly, they can be authentic. When they no longer accidentally burn friendships, they make stronger connections. And when they expand their comfort zone and respectfully argue with opposing views, we all start healing our divisions.
We don’t need to ditch social media, just improve it. And that’s why I’m building Weave. Weave provides room for all of your friendships - whether or not your friends can handle your views. You’re going to love being yourself again.