Isolated Without Being Lonely
Social Isolation is bemoaned as an almost bestial consequence of the recent pandemic. But even before COVID-19 hit, at a time when people freely met, ate, drank and socialized together, were we not teetering on the very precipice of selective isolation from each other?
Social norms had evolved around polite conversations and politer company such that “unpleasant” discussions were shunned and stamped out of socially polite congregations. People shied away from real exchanges that were deemed uncomfortable. Specifically, religion and politics were the two lepers kept out of speaking distance of mannerly company.
It came to a point where most people forgot ‘how’ to discuss these two topics, and others akin to them, in any social exchange except one: social media.
That is where we see people punching every word on the keyboard with the ferocity akin to a pugilist landing blows on his opponent with the added spike of a twist of phrase that can catalyze the intended quick and underthought response. This allows the antagonist to liquify the counter argument with an even quicker retort setting the stage for a series of responses and counter responses without any empathy, much less any edification flowing in either direction.
One conclusion that can be easily drawn from this is that while social media may have given us the seeming escape goat for the degradation of dialogue, a deeper analysis shows that it only provided us with the last refuge for it. Social media offered us digital space to engage with people but inevitably we only engaged with others’ opinions. It presented an equal amount of space to those who have considered convictions and views and to those who were in the earliest stages of to a deliberated judgement on any topic. Their lack of the grasp of the topic was evident from both, their artlessness of expression and sometimes the lack of even elementary information. The temptation to give voice one’s own thoughts without putting in the work of understanding a puzzling problem is too alluring to resist. When one is asked for an opinion on any social spectacle or noteworthy event they are typically provided with the bare outline of it, if that, as a prompt. What follows are either exaltations of agreement if the rendered opinion is considered ‘agreeable,’ or howls of lamentations at the lack of dynamism in the said opinion, in case it is not.
What this comes down to is a lack of a proper amount of isolation or private space that can result in some amount of reflection. There is an urgent need to look inward and find the demarcation of personal/private and public. A personal space that is needed for reflection, contemplation and commitment to a conclusion is the territory under invasion from the virtual public space.
But don’t blame the social media! It starts with us. Social media may amplify our own voices and magnifies our own uncomfortableness with the lack of insight. We can help that by giving ourselves some of that personal meditative space back.