Monday, January 2, 2017

Reconciling communication evidence

An interesting paradox. From How Social Isolation Is Killing Us by Dhruv Khullar.
Social isolation is a growing epidemic — one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent.
Accepting Khullar's statements as true, that poses an interesting paradox.

Since the 1980's we have deployed technology after technology that makes social interaction and engagement ever easier. However, Khullar claims that we are getting lonelier.

Bad research, poor data, inadequate measurement? No idea, but something is amiss with this claim.

I suppose one way to square the circle would be to recast the claim: "In the past forty years, our level of social engagement has increased (social networking, social media, texting, emailing, etc.) but our level of social intimacy has fallen."

The first idea is that technology has indeed allowed greater engagement with others. The second idea is that loss of community norms (or some other agent) has caused a fall in intimacy of engagement. Posting comments is not texting; texting is not emailing; emailing is no substitute for calling; and calling is no substitute for visiting. Perhaps the loss of social norms and structures has made real engagement too risky and therefore we have more contact but fewer relations?

I don't know, but something doesn't fit.

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