Despite our inter-connectedness, we're now more alone than ever.
By Johannah Cornblatt | Newsweek Web Exclusive
There are more than 300 million of us in the United States, and sometimes it seems like we're all friends on Facebook. But the sad truth is that Americans are lonelier than ever. Between 1985 and 2004, the number of people who said there was no one with whom they discussed important matters tripled, to 25 percent, according to Duke University researchers. Unfortunately, as a new study linking women to increased risk of heart disease shows, all this loneliness can be detrimental to our health.
Still, loneliness is a natural biological signal that we all have. Indeed, loneliness serves an adaptive purpose, making us protect and care for one another. Loneliness essentially puts the brain on high alert, encouraging us not to eat leftovers from the refrigerator but to call a friend and eat out. Certain situational factors can trigger loneliness, but long-term feelings of emptiness and isolation are partly genetic, Cacioppo says. What's inherited is not loneliness itself, but rather sensitivity to disconnection.
Social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace may provide people with a false sense of connection that ultimately increases loneliness in people who feel alone. These sites should serve as a supplement, but not replacement for, face-to-face interaction, Cacioppo says. He compares connecting on a Web site to eating celery: "It feels good immediately, but it doesn't give you the same sustenance," he says. For people who feel satisfied and loved in their day-to-day life, social media can be a reassuring extension. For those who are already lonely, Facebook status updates are just a reminder of how much better everyone else is at making friends and having fun.
NEW YORK TIMES:
'Breakfast Can Wait. The Day’s First Stop Is Online.'
by Brad Stone
Technology has shaken up plenty of life’s routines, but for many people it has completely altered the once predictable rituals at the start of the day.
This is morning in America in the Internet age. After six to eight hours of network deprivation — also known as sleep — people are increasingly waking up and lunging for cellphones and laptops, sometimes even before swinging their legs to the floor and tending to more biologically urgent activities.
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