Are We in the Viral Age of Loneliness?

20130417-053717.jpgSabiniana Balagtas Baliba
George Garneau, Ph.D.
English 200
2 May 2013

Are We In the Viral Age of Loneliness?

As technology is vastly revolutionizing our lives, the World Wide Web is pulling us from our world of reality. In fact, Canadian writer Stephen Marche writes, “Social media—from Facebook to Twitter—have made us more densely networked than ever. Yet for all this connectivity, new research suggests that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic)—and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill.”

In the Atlantic article Facebook Making Us Lonely, Marche further writes: “According to the Los Angeles coroner’s report, she lay dead for the better part of a year before a neighbor and fellow actress, a woman named Susan Savage, noticed cobwebs and yellowing letters in her mailbox, reached through a broken window to unlock the door, and pushed her way through the piles of junk mail and mounds of clothing that barricaded the house. Upstairs, she found Vickers’s body, mummified, near a heater that was still running. Her computer was on too, its glow permeating the empty space.”

Marche passionately argues: “She lay dead for the better part of a year before a neighbor and fellow actor, a woman named Susan Savage, noticed cobwebs and yellowing letters in hermailbox, reached through a broken window to unlock the door, and pushed her way through the piles of junk mail and mounds of clothing, that barricaded the house. Upstairs, she found Vickers’s body, mummified, near a heater that was still running. Her computer was on too, its glow permeating the empty space.”

Vickers’s death indeed, was so horrifying. Because apparently before her passing, she was too hooked on fan Internet sites that she ended up isolating herself from families and friends. (Marche) What was even more horrible, even the coroner could not tell the exact date of her death, for her cadaver was extremely decomposed already when a friend found her.

However, in a research study, science and medical experts Emma L. Pelling and Katherine M. White stress, that the “high-level Social Networking Websites (SNWs) use is influenced by attitudinal, normative, and self-identity factors.” What this study means is that the impact of social networking depends on one’s individuality, and not in general.20130417-060350.jpg

Realistically speaking, the account of Vicker’s death is not credible enough for anyone to question the humongous contributions of Internet and technology to our lives. Yes, both do pose some challenges, just like everything else in this world—for in everything, even in everyone (and that includes us), there are always two contrasting sides—for that is the irony of life, the greatest irony of life! Moreover, one should not generalize that all social networkers are like Vickers—who prior to her death have long suffered from depression—as the late former starlet also faced other issues of stardom, aging, and etc. Therefore, to conclude that she died because of social networking, and that all social networkers, like us, bloggers, are either lonely or narcissist, is wrong. Because we are not like Vickers, and it is not fair to compare us to her.

The narcissism that narrow minded and cynical people see in us, social networkers, is actually self-confidence brought by self-efficacy—as we are now so empowered by a great deal of knowledge and information, that no encyclopedia has ever did to humanity before. Most importantly, the burden of addressing all the dilemmas surrounding the effectiveness of the two powerful mediums of Internet and technology lies in our hands. For we should know better our responsibilities to ourselves—we must ensure that everything works to everyone’s greatest advantage—and that is not being narcissist, rather, that’s being wise.

In fact, another research study for social behavior and personality, published by the Society for Personality Research, scholars I-Ping Chiang, Yi-Hsuan Chiang, and Yu-Chi Lin, of the National Taipei University, discovered that on blogging (which is one of the most popular social networking activities): “People prefer to leave messages and make recommendations about Sites that are within their realm of interest, such as the blogs of friends or people with similar interests.” What this means to me, is that blogging and all social networking activities are enriching our lives.

20130417-065519.jpgPersonally, terrified of Vickers’s death, I honestly pondered if writing and blogging is doing me any favor at all. As I actively write and submit articles to various websites. In fact, I have accounts in all blogging sites too. I also send essays and my creative works, poetries and sentiments to Yahoo! However, deep solitude made me realized the blessings of this medium. Moreover, it is my nature, that when I am in doubt of anything, I always use my two hands in gauging all issues in life—on my right, I weigh all the goodness—and on my left, I weigh all the evilness. If the goodness is more than the evilness, then I will strive to straighten the latter. However, if it is the other way around, then I drop; I quit; I junk and get rid of anything that will not make me a better person.

Therefore, and in response to the statement of Marche, that “the drive for isolation has always been in tension with the impulse to cluster in communities that cling and suffocate,” that is not true at all. For in the blogosphere, we highly support one another. In fact, we subscribe to one another’s Sites. Yes, we may not see likes and comments all the time, and it is not because, we do not like each other’s posts, it is just that, we have personal lives to tend to. On our dealings with one another, we, of course, put cautions, as we know there are also limit to social networking too.

Regardless, the truth of the matter is, we, social networkers, bloggers, are not lonely creatures on earth. Moreover, the Internet is not in any ways making us lonely, neither, narcissist. In fact, we are passionately, and unselfishly sharing our knowledge and expertise (e.g. photography, arts, and writing; even our poetries, along with our personal journals), and we are truly enriching the World Wide Web. Because our blogs mirror how the Internet is enabling us to speak truthfully about our joys and tribulations, our successes and failures, even our dreams and downfalls. Our readers can cherish and apply the good lessons they learned from us—and they can avoid our mistakes and blunders in life, to make theirs better than ours. We, bloggers, are the new and fresh faces of journalism. We are making the Net humane.

In conclusion, indeed, the Internet and technology revolutionized and continuously revolutionizing our lives, and that the World Wide Web is pulling us from our world of reality, the old, boring, lonely and boxed reality. Thanks to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, for through their ingenuities, and the proliferation of social networking sites, we are able to keep our passions burning, thereby, enriching our lives, thereby, enriching the World Wide Web, and in our most unique and humble ways. The Net is making us more knowledgeable and sociable. Most importantly, through social networking, through blogging, through this blessing, we are making ourselves great collaborators—for collaboration is a trait and a virtue, a major key to succeed in all walks of life and professions. We are thankful for our blogs! We are thankful for the Internet!

Works Cited

Barbour, Michael, and Cory Plough. “Social Networking In Cyberschooling: Helping to Make Online Learning Less Isolating.” Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning 53.4 (2009): 56-60. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

Doohwang, Lee, Kim Hyuk Soo, and Kim Jung Kyu. “The Impact of Online Brand CommunityType On Consumer’s Community Engagement Behaviors: Consumer-Created Vs. Marketer-Created Online Brand Community In Online Social-Networking Web Sites.” Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking 14.1/2 (2011): 59-63. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

I-Ping, Chiang, Chiang Yi-Suan, and Lin Yu-Chi. “The Antecedents and Consequences of Blogging Behavior.” Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal 41.2 (2013): 311-317. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

Marche, Stephen. “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? (Cover Story).” Atlantic Monthly (10727825) 309.4 (2012): 60. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

Miller, Robert, Kristine Parsons, and David Lifer. “Students And Social Networking Sites: The Posting Paradox.” Behaviour & Information Technology 29.4 (2010): 377-382. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

Pelling, Emma L., and Katherine M. White. “The Theory of Planned Behavior Applied to Young People’s Use of Social Networking Web Sites.” Cyberpsychology & Behavior 12.6 (2009): 755-759. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

Porter, Alan L., et al. “Research Coordination Networks: Evidence of the Relationship Between Funded Interdisciplinary Networking and Scholarly Impact.” Bioscience 62.3 (2012): 282-288. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

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38 thoughts on “Are We in the Viral Age of Loneliness?

  1. Well reasoned points, based on personal research, and experience, trump the naysayers when it comes to deciding what to accept as viable practise. Well put Aina.

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    1. It just doesn’t make sense, Francis for anyone to generalize such careless analysis. I believe in my heart, there’s goodness to what we are doing here. We just have to persevere in safeguarding ourselves from all the threats. For no matter where we go, there would always be threats. But we can be all cautious.

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  2. So interesting. I think, as with everything, that everything has its time and place and the old adage of ‘everything in moderation’ holds true here as well. One must take the wheat from the chaff and be self aware enough to recognize which is which.

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  3. Oh, absolutely! You’ve noted some excellent points here. For me I think people know what makes them happy and so long as one is happy isn’t that the whole point?!
    Thank-you, Aina, for all your hard work bringing us this excellent post and for sharing it with us x

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  4. A wonderful article, Aina, expressing angles of a many spoked wheel.
    I am enjoying the connections I have made because of the Internet. I would not have found you, and so many wonderful individuals were it not for this computer at which I write, connect, have fun and learn.
    Naturally, there are also the obvious pitfalls that we must all safeguard ourselves against. This holds true for all platforms of life, and must be considered seriously.
    Being a competitive dancer, I also enjoy the benefits of interaction and unity on the physical level. I do enjoy physical contact with like minded individuals, and couldn’t (at this stage of my life) do without the active ‘physical’ sociability and comradery I enjoy within those moments.
    Here’s to many, many more years of fun, learning and communicating on this wonderful platform; one which I’m sure shall continue to expand…

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  5. A good article!

    The social media is just a tool…it all depends entirely on who is using it…

    Thank God I am more addicted to TV than FB or Twitter…LOL…

    Cheers!! 😀

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  6. Read on the billboards yesterday that a Swede had paid $20 for 140 new friends on FB or Twitter .. can’t remember witch one. Terrible .. what about the friends we have in real life .. *smile – with all the new social networks .. do we have time to spend time with our friends .. or do we only use internet to find out what is going on in each others lives. ????

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  7. marvelous and relevant and a kaleidoscope of opinions ~ I believe anything can be used for both the noble or corrupt… I’m bedridden so, the internet has helped me keep in touch in a variety of ways but, it never takes place of the human contact, eye to eye, hearing the voice we love.

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    1. Hello! Thank you for sharing those inputs to us, aof course, for the gracious visit and kind words as well. Indeed, nothing can replace, the warmth of our loved ones. And they’re voices will always be melodies that will keep us going. You take care. Thanks, and God bless you always!

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  8. Interesting post well written .l am really not that electronic person.l do enjoy using the computer.l am glad to get know many wonderful bloggers like you.Thank you for liking my post ( Best Version ) Warm regards.jalal

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  9. Our words carry the beauty of our life’s spirit! That is what moves us within, for that love which is never dominated gives us the energy to persevere! If we look at ourselves we are two, one is flesh and one is spirit. Unfortunately most fall captive to the most dangerous part the lures of the flesh, and their spirit becomes out of balance! There is an ending that comes to the part of our life that is controlled by the flesh, and if that is so why do we hold so dear to it! True lasting life blossoms within our spirit, and when we communicate and touch with the love alive within them, then our hearts will dance, our eyes will see more truths, and blessing will pour down into our wholeness. Our words reflect our spiritual heart, which shares, cares, and always refreshes another soul! This is the voice we should always seek to speak with…for it is a timeless lasting treasure. For even without seeing an image or photo of those I love, my spirit will still listen to their life spirits in their words and I would always know who you are for your spiritual DNA has its own unique touch! The world will crumble and fade away but feeding and sharing our spirits will always be the most treasured gift! God bless you my sister and thank you for sharing such a wonderful thought provoking post. Your mind is always an eloquent joy to embrace for you are blessed to teach and share! Mahalo, sorry for rambling so very long!

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  10. What an interesting take on social networking….I hate to think of such a thing being abused to the point its bringing people to loneliness, but I can completely understand how it would happen. My people are constantly on their phones checking all kinds of things and sometimes I want to bark just to bring their attention back to each other! Well said, well researched and well done!

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  11. Hi Aina.For the second time l read your superb article.l hope people will realize the truth here.When my dad bought the TV back in Iraq l though we are reaching new era of technology..Now technology and electronic are striping the many their Humanity.They are letting electronics control their lives.No more family life ,no more going out its obsession in its worst state.Thank you for liking my recent post(Jalal and his OUD) Sincerely jalal

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  12. Hi Aina, l just read the great review of the four giant American novelist (The icons of the American Literature )l was really amazed with the fact about the American economy and the American dream.After 2007 the economy is suffering and the American dream became a myth.Thank you for posting this great study.jalal

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    1. Thank you Jalai! That’s actually required in academics. I really had to research good, coz I am studying for free, but I had to study really hard to keep my grades. Nonetheless, thank you!

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  13. And when I had to create my new blog, I often wondered if you were well my sister! I have missed your wonderful and awesome posts! But more than that, what you always brought to life in such a genuine way. Thanks for sharing again even if it is a reblog….you are missed my sister! Happy holidays and God bless you Aina!

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  14. There is indeed a great deal of danger, if I may use the word, by getting too hooked up on all Social Networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and so on. The lonely person too often takes this virtual world of hers for all that matters now. In fact, her friends on FB counts more than real life friends and even family! That creates the vicious circle of more loneliness. So, because one cannot live in peace with being alone, she, or he, creates this whole new universe. The true danger though, is that this universe is somehow a bit unreal. It is not true life, even if all is manage by real people…we just need to be keeping our feet on the ground, although relationships of friendship and of love can become real (I’ve seen it happened)! So, it’s quite kind of delicate…I guess people shouldn’t shut themselves from all the world outside, ’cause there IS the life! Thanks for the sharing of this real good article.

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  15. My analysis is quite simple. Although this woman´s death was a tragedy it is an isolated incident. She was a very very troubled person. Social Media if used in moderation, is incredible useful. Tell me, that I´ve got into this about a year plus ago. I´ve met incredible people from all over the world, and meeting new people means that you are going to be able to learn new things. Leaning is knowledge and knowledge is power,so they say. I don´t see the narcissist factor at all, unless you are already a narcissist. As a matter of fact I see it quite the contrary. People tend to hide themselves behind their writings. They like to be anonymous for the most part. And that´s fine with me, what do I care. But what I do care is the writing and communication and the learning experience of it. And obviously the different outlets it provides you to submit your works, whatever those works are social media just makes it that much easier to get it out there for a broader audience. So my guess would be that a person that feels lonely, this medium will only help them to not feel that way so harshly. Of course, having physical relationships around you is key. Humans seem to have a tendency to be social creatures. And if you have a problem in that you better work on it because there are a bunch of people out there in the world that once you step out the door you´ll have to deal with, with good and bad. But social media used smartly, I say again, used smartly is a great tool. That I will say it help connect people, lonely people that is(and the rest of people who don´t feel lonely)and if they work on their physical relationships at the time then social media may even help them at that.

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  16. I have been digging into your posts and came across this one, which I found eloquent and very well penned, dear Aina…
    Isn’t it paradoxical that in the Age of Social Media, its consequent connectivity, has led us to a lonely attitude… I pretty much think so…
    And in my personal experience, since I began blogging and so on, my contacts with people I used to see like two or 3 times, not family and coworkers, is now once a week, if I get to see them during the weekends…It is like comfy, easier somehow… Odd as well!
    A great post! … Thanks for sharing. 🙂
    All the best to you!, Aquileana 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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