When hyperconnectivity leads to social alienation


While casually wasting time on Facebook, I came across this status from 4Chan reporting that father had promised to give his 14-year-old daughter $200 if she could quit Facebook for five months.. The contract, though slightly over the top, evidenced a parent’s very real concern over this new tendency to hyperconnectivity. A paradoxical moment, but a very interesting one.

That same night, while making dinner for my girlfriend and her friend, I noticed that they were compulsively drawn to pick up their phones between conversations to see what was new on Facebook. My talents in the kitchen insulted, I admonished them and asked them to please leave their poor, abused phones alone. When it comes down to it though, I’m no better; I suffer the same affliction. From morning to night, hyperconnected people facebook, theypostpictures to Instagram, they text friends. They never stop, never take a single moment to disconnect. They have no patience: they need to stay constantly occupied, constantly stimulated.They’re afraid of missing out. Case in point: 58% of smartphone owners can’t go one hour without checking their phones..

Just recently, a friend was waiting for the bus and noticed that everyone around him had their eyes glued to their smartphone screens. What can explain why people choose to fill time this way, rather than taking those few precious minutes to think? Everyone knows someone who constantly searches Wikipedia for THE best response in an argument, instead of just thinking about what would be the most logical. We use the web to assure ourselves of our intellectual fortitude, to prove what we know, but rarely to actually learn. Hyperconnectivity is the opiate of the 2.0 generation. It’s a drug that cuts us off from reality, and prevents thought..

We all have that friend who tries to share all the coolest content, who needs to be in the know, who accumulate likes, RTs or is trying to boost their Klout, or reach the top 1% on LinkedIn. Have you ever seen someone delete a Facebook status because it didn’t have enough likes or comments? Are we using social media to rewrite our lives?

Tell me how many subscribers you have, and I’ll tell you who you are.

We have entered into the era of social meritocracy: if we aren’t part of the network, our personalities cease to exist, we become nothing.

Who’s responsible for this kind of thinking? Us or the system? Is this anxious need for constant validation our natural state, or has hyperconnectivity made us this way? It’s my belief that we’re the architects of our own obsession; technology simply maintains and amplifies our own tendencies. Remember, without our participation, there would be no social network.

Phobias linked to hyperconnectivity have even started to appear over the past few years. One example is nomophobia,the fear of leaving home without a smartphone. This person would fear seeming uninteresting, or missing something of importance. There’s alsoFear Of Missing Out (FOMO), that makes us stay connected constantly so we can share or compare ourselves with others in order to control our anxiety. These two phobias often come together, and can create a toxic cocktail for the relationships of people who are affected.

Have you ever been out with friends, and found that each of you was so busy sharing the special moment with your social networks, you neglected to actually speak to the people involved? We’re physically present, but mentally absent. Are we trying to be more interesting online than in person? Next time you’re out, get everyone to pile their phones at the end of the table; the first one to reach for their phone picks up the bill.

It’s time for us to grow up, and start moderating our hyperconnectivity so we can connect without excess. Encourage your friends to put their smartphones away when you get together, disconnect from Facebook when you’re alone, enjoy the view without putting it on Instagram, and visit your favourite restaurants without checking in on Foursquare. You’ll see, the change will do you good.

Right now, there’s no social etiquette to stop the masses from acting like social douches. The only tolerable effort I’ve seen wasthis agreement a mother made with her son when she got him an iPhone. Our society is missing this type of education, that would allow us to build new social codes and prevent digital abuse from affecting our lives.

In the end, the father gave his daughter the gift of freedom: he allowed her to experience life without being connected (she was six years old when Facebook was founded), to look away from her screen and lay eyes on the world, and appreciate being in each moment. There’s a name for this, too. It’s called Joy Of Missing Out (JOMO)and it’s a step towards finding balance between our digital lives and our real ones.


Credits photo: thedoghousediaries.com

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  1. Marshall Lentini

    This was good. Especially these lines are worth remembering:

    “Hyperconnectivity is the opiate of the 2.0 generation. It’s a drug that cuts us off from reality, and prevents thought.”

    Next time some soulless millennial drone asks in bland befuddlement why I’m not on Facebook or Instagram, that’s exactly what I am going to tell them.


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