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Is technology really to blame for our loneliness?

Mauwe are a Bristol based indie electronic pop duo whose debut single garnered over 5.5 million Spotify streams. Here, singer/songwriter Jay Rodger explores the topic of loneliness.

Why do we feel that this is the loneliest generation, and what can we do about it? The first and most obvious conclusion to the first would be to accuse technology. The big bad iPhone and internet and walking whilst texting which will make you miss the love of your life because you never looked up from your screen to see them sitting across the cafe from you.

But is that really it?

Social media started in order to connect people. You were meant to be able to find your ‘real-life’ friends in order to stay in touch and keep up with what was happening in their lives. And take Facebook. It wasn’t long after its conception that the groups started popping up. ‘That feeling when you think there’s another step’, ‘My mum is the best mum’, ‘Coffee in the morning’. Small ideas and comments on every day life that very quickly snowballed into gargantuan pages filled with thousands upon thousands of people all essentially saying the very same thing by liking them: “I experience this too”. It was a mass connection of dot-to-dots around the world and rather than notice the phenomenon and casually ignore it, half the world took part because it was in fact more than that – it was “I like knowing that others experience this too”.

So surely technology and the ability to communicate far more efficiently cannot be entirely blamed for loneliness? No, in my humble opinion, loneliness has always been there, and will always be there, because the problem is not necessarily with having or not having the means to communicate. It’s with having or not having the capability to fit in. And that cannot be built or taught.

How do you connect if you refuse to be part of anything?

Two points here though. The first is that, arguably, it never should be. As a species we seem to be constantly torn between fierce individualism and a strong sense of community, which will always provide conflict both personally and inter-personally. I have always felt torn between them myself. On one hand I was raised to be entirely and defiantly myself, to never give in to peer pressure on any subject including ‘following trends’ because it meant I was losing the capability to think independently. But the true result? I spent a long time feeling isolated, feeling lonely, because I was struggling to connect, and it took me a while to begin finding that balance. After all, how do you connect if you refuse to be part of anything?

But the second and main one is that judgement, or rather, fear of judgement, runs rampant as a human disposition. Perhaps more so now due to influence by the media’s portrayal of what we ‘should’ look like or ‘should’ be doing (and our inability to live up to those standards) but I’m sure it always has, even before radio and telephones and internet and Netflix. Maybe the first person to wear a hat was scoffed at and mocked by their respective peers because they thought it looked ridiculous. Maybe the first person to wear a hat lost all their friends and died lonely, only for the trend to be picked up a hundred years later. Our sea of communication potentials and technological advancements don’t make us any more alone, but they do make it all the more obvious when we feel like we’re not fitting in, and thus, it could be said that they make us feel more lonely. And in this sense, each individual has their own choices to make as to who they are willing to expose their true ‘hat-wearing’ selfs to, and who they feel the need to hide behind a facade with; and in turn, how important these two groups of people are to them.

I guess in short, I think loneliness is something we have to deal with on an individual level. Breaking the internet or banning iPhones (both probably just as unlikely as the other) may or may not help, so the real battle should be in helping the next generation to realise they don’t need to prove themselves to anyone, and shouldn’t expect others to either. They shouldn’t need to do anything they don’t want to do just to fit it, especially not for us. Us with our Supreme and our man-buns and our obsession with talking about Game of Thrones (…Jon, though?!).