The percentage of us with no close friends has tripled since 1985.
Millennials like myself are the most common variable in this equation.
Ironically, the Internet, an invention that should be bringing us together, has become the main reason for spreading worldwide loneliness since its debut. We are continuing to isolate ourselves by hiding behind the computer screen.
The risk of death increases by 26% among lonely people. Kids are becoming more socially anxious, starting at a much younger age, as parents accept iPad use during toddlerhood (Dictionary.com says this is a word, I like the sound of it). Kids are hiding behind screens and avoiding real social challenges and responsibility.
When you sit in that coffee shop or walk through that shopping mall, your view of the people around you might be different than what it was just fifteen years ago, pre-Facebook, pre-social feeds. You might notice a little more loneliness everywhere you go.
One thing that sparked my interest in the topic of loneliness was the ever-increasing emptiness of cul de sacs on Saturdays. I grew up in a cul-de-sac (1990’s-2000’s), and you would see kids outside everywhere, rain or shine. Now? No one.
I play basketball outside with my brothers every week. We’re all grown-ass men in our thirties (okay, I’m 29, but let’s round it up). The things us Carss brothers see are empty fields and empty courts on weekends. Occasionally, one boy or girl might be shooting hoops by themselves because the parents wanted some alone time (they couldn’t find a babysitter when the romantic moment struck). The reality is, that child has no one to play with – the rest of the kids are at home on iPhones, sending around Snapchat filters without any real emotion or empathy.
Some highly influential marketing experts and gurus suggest that social media is making kids more connected than ever before, but I’d go on a limb and say Psychology Today and Harvard Medical School would be more reputable sources than these people (this is where I’m pulling my statistical data, but I’m not going to academically add citations because I still get nightmares about APA format).
We are facing a global health epidemic without a real solution in sight at this present time. The Internet is such a new invention that we haven’t really learned about its long-term health effects. And social media is just a baby in comparison – we really don’t know what we’re dealing with here…as I write this article…alone in my apartment…on a website of all places.
Businesses are becoming more dependent upon online marketing strategies and social media to grow their bottom lines, and rightfully so. This is where consumers are at. This is where more and more business is being done. We need Instagram experts to understand consumer psychology more than ever before. Or do we? How many people are actually happy who look happy on Instagram?
Industries are changing. Even the book publishing industry is evolving now. Selling paperback books has transitioned to selling eBooks, which has transitioned to selling audiobooks, which has transitioned to an increase in noise-isolating bluetooth headphone sales (key word: isolating). As someone selling children’s books and audio narrations, I should eat my words. Even I am encouraging kids to read on iPads by releasing these stories. I’m even narrating them on YouTube in an auto-playing playlist (endless hours of content to drive your kids nuts). Seems paradoxical to be doing all of that after writing an article knocking iPads and the Internet, but I need to make a living, and that’s where the parents are.
I’m not intentionally writing an article to create doom-and-gloom. Not by any stretch :/ This is more of an awareness and mindfulness play. Sometimes we just don’t know we’re spending time on harmful things. I like to create what might make at least one person uncomfortable. That’s where the content becomes meaningful.
If I had kids, I always subconsciously believed that giving them a phone would be dangerous. Now I’m beginning to feel like my hypothesis is becoming a reality.
I don’t want to be an armchair expert or any expert for that matter. But given the trends these past two decades…
I probably wouldn’t allow devices at the dinner table.
I probably wouldn’t allow devices until they move out.
I probably would encourage playdates with real friends.
I probably would have fun and play outside with my kids.
…I hope we all do someday.