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Superficially connected: Social media and loneliness

POSTED: May 9, 2014 3:24 p.m.

A recently posted YouTube video is encouraging lonely, social network-obsessed technology users to"Look Up" and engage with the real world.
"We edit and exaggerate, crave adulation/We pretend not to notice the social isolation/We put our words into order until our lives are glistening/We don’t even know if anyone is listening," London writer Gary Turk says in the video.
Turk's poetic description of the isolating effect of technology struck a chord with many people. The video, which he posted April 25, has more than 27 million views.
Others share Turk's view that social media is causing people to become disengaged.
"We’ve become a generation that prefers Netflix to dating, texting to talking ... and being liked by many instead of being loved by few (sic)," writes Andy Gill at Relevant Magazine. "As a result, so many of us are finding ourselves to be and feel as if we’re surrounded by people yet still alone."
Gill adds most people are "professional performers" online and do not allow others to truly know them. Thus, individuals cannot form meaningful relationships because they do not expose their vulnerabilities.
"We’re given this illusion of being heard and accepted, lending us the false perception of feeling connected," Gill says. "But this is not meeting our innate, biological need for true acceptance and touch from someone who knows you, and accepts the real you, as opposed to this idealistic falsified image of you."
Others, however, believe disconnectedness was a problem long before social media and other technology became a daily part of individuals' lives.
"I don't think that being distracted, detached, lonely and unsatisfied are novel to the human condition," says Toni Nagy at The Huffington Post (warning: this article contains strong language). "We have been pushing each other away long before the invention of Angry Birds. These feelings were just as real and problematic even before smart phones and computers - they just manifested differently," she writes.
And cutting down screen time won't necessarily solve people's problems, Nagy says.
"The Internet is an extension of who we already are — it doesn't shape our identities as much as we conform to it," she writes. "Putting down our phones isn't the answer if we are too self-obsessed and consumed by our own thoughts to actually engage with one another and hug a homeless junkie because she looked sad, or really listen to your mother when she talks about what she ate for dinner last Tuesday." Email: kpolatis@deseretnews.com Twitter: KandraPolatis

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