something to honk about
I’ve been reading a lot about how lonely people are. Apparently they are spending too much time watching television and texting on their iPhone and not enough time socializing and chatting face to face. I’ve been reading that rather than foster community, Facebook makes people feel disconnected from others. Apparently scrolling through their timeline and seeing other people’s vacations and weddings gives them a deflated sense of themselves. Is this what people really think, or is this just the latest thought-trend?
I would like to take people at their word. If they say they feel lonely and disconnected I will believe them. I have a different experience. So am thinking critically about this conundrum from my own perspective.
I am not lonely. I live with my husband and my two sons and our rabbit and our fish. I enjoy their company. Our parents (the kids grandparents) come to visit some weekends and I am happy to see them. We go to the park when the weather is nice and my kids quickly make friends and play with new kids all the time. They have been at their school for two months and already have made friends among their classmates. Sometimes, I see my mom friends and we laugh about life and we talk about our jobs or our gardens. I chat with my husbands coworkers when we pick him up some days. I chat with my kids teachers at school. I chat with the checkers at the grocery store. I wave and say hello to my neighbors every day. I Skype with my sister who lives in Hawaii. I’ve Skyped with my husband’s grandmother who is 93 and lives in England. I write her letters several times a year. When I had a job outside the home (and I will again soon) I spent my hours working, and chatting and joking and laughing with my coworkers and our customers.
I am not lonely. In fact, I cherish my alone time as a contrast to the together times. I am somewhat of an introvert, I suppose. I like to read and write and sew and garden. And those are mostly solitary endeavors for me.
Being the age that I am, 34, and married and a mom, my life revolves around my family. I don’t know what it would be like to be, say, in college right now in the era of the smart phone. With all the texting and Instagraming and tweeting that goes on. Does that become a barrier to real relationships? Do people really sit across from each other and look at their phones instead? I don’t know how that could be, but I don’t even have a smart phone. My cell phone does not do much and it does not entertain nor distract me.
And how about Facebook? Does this social media platform keep people at arms length? Is it getting in the way of forming real connections? Once again, at 34 years young, I feel out of date. Facebook wasn’t there when I was in high school and barely existed when I was in college. Everyone I know joined after I didn’t graduate from college. I don’t know what it is like to date or have high school besties in the age of Facebook. For me, Facebook lets me stay in touch with friends and family who I would have lost track of a long time ago without it. People who don’t live in the same town as I do. I get to see pictures of their graduations and their weddings and their babies and their travels. I’m happy for them. Yes, occasionally I am a little bit jealous, too. But mostly I’m glad.
As many of you know, I don’t put my own pictures on Facebook. I have many reservations about Facebook which I have discussed elsewhere. In spite of the things I hate about it, it is my only way of reaching and staying in touch with a good number of people in my life. That is what I’m hearing is bad about it. We should all be meeting face to face and sitting down for coffee or beers instead. But these people live hundreds of miles away from me. I can’t see them for coffee. Facebook isn’t preventing me from doing that. Life is. But that is just life. C’est la vie.
This is all from my own point of view. But I am ready to admit that others may have a completely different experience that is equally valid.
So what is the truth? Do the systems we built to keep us entertained and connected to each other do the opposite and cause people to be bored and disconnected? Or do we just have such a wealth and luxury of opportunity that we can’t think of anything else to want except for more?
Are we lonely?