Examining humanity's pressing crisis and how technology can reverse the exacerbating effects it created in the first place.
Never before have we been this connected as a species than we are today. An average person has hundreds to thousands of friends on social media. Endless stream of news and entertainment is at our fingertips 24/7. We can learn anything and virtually reach anyone on the internet. Yet, we’ve also never felt more disconnected.
Even before COVID-19, loneliness has been on the rise. A 2020 study reported that 45% of adults globally report feeling lonely on a regular basis, and Gen-Z, the supposed most connected generation, feels the loneliest of all. In a 2018 survey, 76% of respondents believed their country was becoming more divided, with 60% thinking it was getting worse than it was ten years ago.
With all the technological advances that allow us to stay connected to anyone, anywhere, why are people feeling more disconnected than ever?
Going Back To Our Root
This is not a new phenomenon. The disconnection we’re experiencing today is a result of a deviation from our natural habitat that began 300 years ago and is now only appearing as pronounced symptoms.
From the dawn of time, human beings have evolved to rely on connections with others. As hunters and gatherers, our ancestors had to work together to secure food, care for their families, and fend off the carnivores. Being together meant survival. Over time, natural selection rewarded us for forming connections with each other. Being social becomes part of out biology and as an evolutionary adaption to this, our body literally reacts to isolation with physical pain.
However, with the rise of technological advancements during the late Renaissance and the subsequent emphasis on individualism in Western culture, communities began to dissolve. The industrial revolution only accelerated this trend as people left their villages to work in factories. Ironically, the bigger cities grow, the smaller our connections become.