IT’S strange, don’t you think? That in a world never as interconnected as before, more and more people are going through phases of feeling more alone.
And it has gotten so bad that people of different ages are taking their own lives to escape the loneliness, the lack of care and even of attention from their loved ones and from the world. In even more tragic situations they even take the lives of others in the process, as if misery loves company and they wanted to share the tragedy with others.
That’s why you have suicides in some instances, and mass shooters in others. The loneliness, the frustration, the anger even comes to a boil, with terrible consequences.
Social media, I feel, is the great amplifier. In a positive way it has a way of amplifying the good things, things worth hailing or celebrating, things one must be proud of. A single post can be seen instantly by thousands, and theoretically the whole world can know a thing or two about you before you even finish reading this sentence.
There isn’t much of a downside in social media being the happy amplifier.
But it also serves to amplify the negative things, the sad things, the bad things. One slip you make and the world knows. Someone inadvertently reveals your deeply held secret? In a few seconds strangers know.
Worse, social media could be amplifying lies about you and trying to debunk the lie can seem like a Sisyphean task. You begin to feel that even the walls have eyes that look unkindly on you. There’s nowhere to hide.
In a related way the world’s interconnected nature makes it easy to brag about things (true or false) to an unbelievably wide audience, which in turn could leave the vulnerable feeling envious, jealous, even damned. You need not peek over the hedge to see the greener grass on the other side; all you need to do is click a button to check your Timeline.
Hate. Envy. Anger. Jealousy. Spite. These and more can easily be fanned by the interconnections that make up today’s world.
There isn’t much of an upside in social media being the amplifier of negativity.
To the sensitive, things can become too much. Unable or unwilling to share their thoughts for fear of being more vulnerable, people turn inward. They may wish to speak out but are drowned out by the torrent of comments that social media can generate. Or they may feel ignored. Or they may feel the world is spinning so fast and everyone is busy with life that no one has time to listen to them. Or they refuse to be a burden to others.
So they turn inwards even more. And it is when they reach breaking point that they decide to take action, with tragic consequences.
Beyond IQ and EQ it is time to cultivate what has been termed “social intelligence,” or SQ: the ability to go beyond cyber connectivity and engage in more flesh and blood ways that my generation used to do in the playground of our schools and the streets of our communities. Engagements that made us understand what it meant to be part of communities of boys and girls and men and women who had to grapple with the ups and downs of life while crying and laughing in the process of getting scarred and learning lessons. Engagements that helped us keep things in perspective, appreciating what we had and who we are and who at our dreams were. Engagements that made us human.
Maybe that’s the problem of today’s high tech interconnected world – it’s made us feel less human in the process as technology interconnects more and more of our lives.
Indeed, how could someone deeply troubled be encouraged to live life when the touch and the warmth have disappeared?