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The Impact of Technology on Loneliness

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During a time of global isolation, the impact of loneliness has become increasingly apparent. In fact, around 37.5 million adults in the United States live alone, which means that many of these people have had little to no contact with other humans for months. Of course, quarentine is extremely important for public health and safety, but this issue of loneliness has left us to ponder the future of human contact. Humans have long been known to be social creatures, and new emerging technology may be changing this behavior. For example, children growing up in this world of technology and interconnection often have online friends. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 57% of kids have met friends online, whether that’s through online gaming or social media sites. Yet, while many parents have concerns over these online relationships, experts such as Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a psychologist in Princeton, New Jersey, believe that online friends allow kids to connect with others with similar experiences. As a teenager myself, I understand how meaningful it was for me to meet a community of people who were all passionate about healthcare during the Harvard Vision Global Health Conference.

However, this digital contact simply isn’t enough. Even with online resources and video conferencing apps, 47% of people reported declining mental health due to the pandemic, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), and older adults aged 70 and up are particularly susceptible to feeling scared and lonely. This has highlighted the importance of basic human interactions and in-person interactions with friends and family. Many studies have shown that people with strong social ties lived longer and happier lives. Even though technology has helped us connect to others virtually, human interactions are irreplaceable. In a time where in-person contact just isn’t possible, here are some things you can do during isolation.

1. Video chat or call a loved one

Technology can be helpful, especially when it’s the only way to connect, because hearing a person’s voice can be much more significant than texting. Reconnecting with friends and family you haven’t talked with in a while can make a huge difference, and it’s definitely something I wish I did with my grandparents. Some other ideas include creating group video chats to converse or teaching a topic to your friends through video conferencing apps.

2. Help deliver groceries for the elderly

Since the elderly population are more likely to experience anxiety and loneliness due to the pandemic, helping them out as an act of kindness can make a big impact for them, and being kind to others has also been shown to improve health.

3. Work on a project

Working on this blog has been a great way for me to continue learning during quarentine, as well as other projects such as cooking, studying evolution, and reading have also been helpful.

4. Exercise

“Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function,” according to Sharma, et. al. 2006, which shows that exercise has physical health benefits as well has mental health benefits. Exercising as a virtual group through video conferencing apps can also help you connect with people!

5. Find resources online

There are many resources online that help people connect and learn, including educational websites, Facebook groups, online forums, social media, and online gaming. These resources can help you meet new people with similar interests! I wrote a post with some of my favorite online resources.

In conclusion, humans have valued and benefitted from social interaction for thousands of years, and this behavior is still important today. However, the loneliness crisis faced by 60% of Americans is not a new issue, but rather emphasized and somewhat exacerbated by the pandemic. Isolation has showed us the importance of human contact, and with an increasingly technological world, it is important to remember the significance of working together that led to the society we know today.

Bibliography

Byron, Ellen. More Americans Are Living Solo, and Companies Want Their Business. 2 June 2019, www.wsj.com/articles/more-americans-are-living-solo-and-companies-want-their-business-11559497606.

CBS News. “More than Half of Teens Make New Friends Online.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 6 Aug. 2015, www.cbsnews.com/news/more-than-half-of-teens-make-new-friends-online-pew-poll/.

Glum, Julia. “Online Safety For Teens: Are Internet Friends A Good Thing?” International Business Times, 14 Aug. 2015, www.ibtimes.com/online-safety-teens-are-internet-friends-good-thing-2052238.

Brody, Jane E. “Social Interaction Is Critical for Mental and Physical Health.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 June 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/well/live/having-friends-is-good-for-you.html.

“How Sharing Kindness Can Make You Healthier & Happier.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 Nov. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/how-sharing-kindness-can-make-you-healthier-happier/art-20390060.

Sharma, Ashish et al. “Exercise for mental health.”Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatryvol. 8,2 (2006): 106. doi:10.4088/pcc.v08n0208a

Ducharme, Jamie. COVID-19 Is Making America’s Loneliness Epidemic Even Worse. 8 May 2020, time.com/5833681/loneliness-covid-19/.

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