Social Media, Loneliness, and Isolation

Two recent articles in the Federalist are related to this blog’s theme of “relationships, power, and freedom.”  Both articles are packed with insights and I highly recommend you click on the links below and read them.

The Loneliness of Not Knowing Ourselves by D.C. McAllister and What Abortion Selfies Tell us about American Community, by Ben Domenech explore how social media seem to have made people more isolated, not less.  Ironically, social media can provide only a faint illusion of connection with others.  For too many, it’s become little more than veil for loneliness, making it even worse.  One danger is that as  people become more alienated and isolated, they become more susceptible to manipulation and control.

Without the real connection of being in the physical presence of others, McAllister, notes, we cannot really be known either to ourselves or someone else.   We can’t really share.  She adds:  “And that is what we want. That is what human connection is all about. It’s being known. This is one of the great themes (and great comforts) of Scripture. We are known by God. Before we were born, he knew us (Jer. 1:5), he knows us better than we know ourselves (Rom. 8:27), the Shepherd knows his sheep (John 10:14), our Creator has searched us and knows us—and still loves us (Psalm 139).

Earlier this month, Ben Domenech reflected upon the decision of an abortion counselor to film her own surgical abortion and try to put a positive spin on it by posting the video to the internet:

“The concept of the abortion selfie is in some ways an inevitable consequence of an increasingly atomized culture. Consider instead the lure that would motivate one to seek to share this moment, and then to share in the reaction to this moment from social media, and then to share again in the reaction to that reaction in the pages of Cosmo. This is an individual seeking out the affirmation and attention of others – for good or ill, it is an attempt to find a community, a grasping for a sense of belonging.”

And I believe he is exactly right.  Her act was not only destructive of life and so much else, but it was also an act motivated by an urge for attention and validation, a craving for community. My hope is that as we better understand this motivation in human beings, we might learn how to breach the walls and overcome the forces that separate us.