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Social media, loneliness and isolation.

“The pathology of social media is all about loneliness”

Social media professionals take the weekend off. Twitter users use hashtags so that their content can be found without being followed. Everything is turned towards discoverability rather than commitment and conversation.

Social media practitioners know that people aren’t listening attentively so they repeat and repeat in the hope of a click or two. Hashtags are just a way of pretending that a conversation has had an audience. It doesn’t measure the number of comments and responses. It doesn’t measure how long threads lasted before they stopped.

There was a time when people like me would read every tweet from people we followed and we would converse daily. It created a lot of friendships and led to a lot of face to face meetings.

In today’s social media landscape I do see loneliness rather than socialising. I see on twitter that people are actively posting only once or twice a day. On Facebook I have seen such a serious decline in participation that there is little reason to stick around. My generation were active in social media for a short amount of time and now they have retreated to “normal” life.

Whilst some people have hundreds of likes on their instagram images I have half a dozen to a dozen. Almost every like on Instagram is a person that I have conversed with online for years. There is a chance that I can tell you how long we’ve been chatting online, whether we’ve met in person and at what event and which networks we have shared. Twitter friends were trusted enough to become facebook friends. Facebook and twitter friends followed on instagram etc.

Facebook was a very active and social place when we were all at university and having the same social life. Twitter was a very social network when I was looking for work and meeting the London Social Media crowd, the French social media crowd and the Swiss social media individuals.

Ingress has presented me with a large group of Swiss people whom I have met many times recently as an active player of Ingress. Many of them are around my age.  We use Google hangouts to talk and plan missions and are in constant communication.

Glocals was good for finding people to explore new activities and locations with but the connection lasted only as long as the activities. There was little to no follow up socialising online. The Glocals Scuba diving group is the one I got along with best and the group with which I did the most activities. It’s a shame that this was an activity for people a decade older than me.

When I think of the social journey both online and offline I see that loneliness is not the pathology of social media. I joined Twitter because I love to try new things. Facebook was a network of university friends whom I saw every day. Seesmic was a network of people whom I developed strong friendships with that last to this day and Glocals was probably the only network I joined out of solitude and a need to do things on weekends. I like the irony that the network I joined to avoid solitude is the one that resulted in the deepest feeling of it. Eventually every social network becomes lonely but we would say the same about the city from which our friends have gone, of the bars and more.

Geneva is referred to as an airport hub. People come to the city for a year or two and then leave. As a result the refreshing of friendships is very high and it takes a certain personality to cope. Modern transportation; planes, cars, and trains create a pathology of loneliness and social media are part of the solution for as long as the social networks are frequented.

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