April 15

Today's quotation:

Any decent society must generate a feeling of community.  Community offsets loneliness.  It gives people a vitally necessary sense of belonging.  Yet today the institutions on which community depends are crumbling in all the techno-societies.  The result is a spreading plague of loneliness.

Alvin Toffler

Today's Meditation:

I used to love to walk into buildings before class at the colleges where I've taught.  I would walk in and see a lot of people talking to each other before class, sharing their thoughts and ideas, talking about what they did this weekend or this morning or last night, talking about classes and homework and readings.  Nowadays, though, the crowds are still there, but silence reigns because the vast majority of the students are on their phones--not talking on them, looking at them.  Their sense of community in that situation doesn't even exist because they're looking at so-called "social" media, and seeing what someone else who isn't there with them has posted rather than talking to the person standing next to them.

The sense of belonging in our modern societies is disappearing, and many people are suffering because of it.  We all need support and encouragement, and if the only place we find it is on the screen of some device, we'll be sorely lacking and missing it.  I do my best to engage students in face-to-face conversation, and very often I can see that it's appreciated.  Very often also, though, I can see that the person just wants to get back to looking at the screen.

More and more of my students are having problems relating to other people--I'm getting more letters from deans telling me that a particular student has sought help from a mental health service at school and that they hope I'll be understanding in my grading.  More and more of my students sit completely quietly in class, not daring to give answers because they think they'll be wrong, and they think they'll be judged.  They feel isolated and alone, and the screen does nothing to help them deal with those feelings.

The loneliness of our current age may be the most insidious ever.  You can have a zillion friends on Facebook now, but not a single person to talk to when things go bad.  You can know how to send a fifty-word text in fifteen seconds, but not know how to express your frustration to the person you're with.  Human beings have always felt lonely and isolated, but it seems to be getting worse, not better.  Perhaps we need to figure out how to put down the phones and the computers more in order to engage with the communities of which we're a part.

Questions to consider:

Is texting someone the same as talking with them?

Why do our communities encourage us to use our technology more?  Who benefits when we do?

How can we feel lonely when we're in the middle of a crowd?
For further thought:

Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.

Carl Jung
  

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