Loneliness and Technology


sanctus
#1
Forty year old Joyce Vincent had been lying dead in her London apartment for two straight years before the badly decomposed body was discovered by her landlord in April 2006. The story, quietly tucked away in British newspapers, profoundly upset readers around the world who saw her isolation as a failing of modern communities. As one outraged blogger put it, “Two years. She lay there. Alone, dead, unnoticed, and unmissed. How is it possible that in a city of about seven million, not one person noticed that a neighbour, sister, cousin or friend was missing?”
How, indeed: in an era of advanced communication technologies in which loved ones can be reached with a few clicks of a mouse or dial of a phone, it seems implausible that the number of solitary deaths have been on the rise in countries like the UK and Japan in recent years. Alienation, dubbed the “great emotional sickness of our era” by Italian filmmaker Michaelangelo Antonioni, remains a disease that even email, cell phones and online networking has been powerless to remedy. These days, some experts are even suggesting that our social bonds may be breaking down not in spite of these new technologies, but because of it.
A decade ago, when many North Americans were still just starting to go online, Apple, AT&T, Hewlett Packard and Intel funded a research project by Washington University to study the psychological and social effects of using the Internet. While most first-time users went online for social purposes, the studies showed a rapid decline in participation for social activities beyond the net and increases in depression and loneliness. While magazines like Fortune and BusinessWeek boasted the virtues of “interactive” sites such as MySpace and YouTube, most internet users were found to be joining fewer clubs, talking less in-person and hanging out with friends less often. While new tools were allowing people to network faster than ever, studies around the world have pointed to the shrinking social circles of tech-savvy consumers. A June 2006 study by Duke University concluded that the average American today only has two close confidants, while SwissCom Inc. found that 80 percent of all cell phone conversations took place with only four people.
Some critics have rebuffed the suggestion that technology has eroded traditional human bonds, noting that the interaction is simply taking place in different forms. “What it’s really doing is shifting the means of socializing,” says Barry Wellman, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto. In other words, the seemingly quiet and withdrawn teenager at family dinners could in fact be a witty conversationalist in online forums. This didn’t necessarily make her anti-social; it was simply a different mode of communication. While heavy internet users were spending less time with family and friends offline, they were keeping more regular contact through cell phone calls and email. The Internet has moreover been a godsend for some people who lacked opportunities for human contact, such as the elderly and disabled. Vilify it though we may, technology has so far played an invaluable role in keeping people integrated.
In themselves, email and cell phones are only a small part of the broader causes of loneliness in modern society. What these tools have done, however, is fundamentally change the nature of our communication with other people. While our new tools grant us the convenience of talking from a distance over a screen, they also exempt us from the intimacy that comes with face-to-face communication. The subtle nuances of facial expressions and body language are lost, and in return, we are spared the awkwardness and inconveniences of in-person meetings.
“There is something trying, even exhausting, about human interactions,” writes Laura Pappano in her book, The Connection Gap. “Why meet when you can e-mail? And digital video makes it seem like you’re there. Right?” While interviewing a terminally ill woman who chatted online to escape loneliness, however, Pappano discovered that the woman gradually grew cynical of the superficial interactions with her ‘friends’ – to them, she was merely a name on a screen, disembodied from her cancer and the world around her. They didn’t perceive the pain in her eyes or voice as she communicated with them. Her life and death had no impact on their conscience.
“I don’t want useless sounds. I want to select them,” complains Monica Vitti’s character in Antonioni’s 1964 film, La Notte. In today’s age of virtual communication, it has become all too easy for people to select and filter out the voices they don’t want to hear. It’s a world in which voices of isolated, impoverished individuals like Joyce Vincent all too easily lose their place. In the last hour before her death, Vincent surrounded herself with unopened Christmas presents and drowned out the silence with sounds from her TV set – a parting reminder to herself, perhaps, that she was still connected to a society that had long forgotten about her.
Jenny Uechi
 
Ariadne
#2
Quote: Originally Posted by sanctusView Post

Forty year old Joyce Vincent had been lying dead in her London apartment for two straight years before the badly decomposed body was discovered by her landlord in April 2006.

How about that! Good credit, I suppose.
 
sanctus
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by AriadneView Post

How about that! Good credit, I suppose.


I wondered about that myself, and would love to read more of this part of the story to see how her rent had been paid.
 
Curiosity
#4
Very sad story to read about the lady who wasn't missed by anyone.....

Perhaps she "owned" her apartment and if the utilities went off the utility companies assumed she had moved and nobody had taken over the dwelling..... still.... it's awful to think about.

I believe the initial attraction to an active life for some on the internet is the absence of the usual "what will I wear, is my hair ok, I wish I was more buff, better looking, didn't have that awful accent or laugh too loudly...." and while face to face presentation is important to really "know" how we feel about someone - perhaps their "inner person" is even more acceptable and beautiful to the outside world and themselves...

....so some can fly and be entertaining and yes make friends...whereas some real life experiences lead them away from any attempt to do so in our world.

We have elevated the perfection of people to a crippling level now where many prefer to hide out secretly pumping their hopes an dreams to strangers rather than facing the putdowns and barbs because we don't measure up to what we perceive another may or may not see us as we would like to be seen.

I truly love to see quiet and shy people blossom on forums such as this.... as they gain comfort and courage through friendships whether real or cyberdriven..... they are building themselves and trying new
patterns of thought and communication....which will some day enable them to tread on the glass which
is the "real world" as we know it.

I also love to read people who totally psych me with their knowledge and sphere of interest in some pursuit of study I wouldn't even be able to spell..... yet they share with us in space.... opening up new ideas and thoughts to brighten and teach us as well....we who would never meet such people in real life.

And always to those who spend a minute to say a kind word and give us a pat on the back.... like home.
 
selfactivated
#5
Being alone is hard enough. But being lonely is unbearable. In 2001 I tried to commit suicide. I laid in bed for 3 days with a houseful of people (my ex and 3 kids) Noone called the police or the ambulance. My friends online (3 of them) called Midland police, 3 calls frome three different places. Canada, Georgia, and Pensylvania. The police showed up and asked if I was alright and My ex told them I was sleeping. They asked to see me and the called the ambulance. I was in a coma. The officers were not happy with my ex.

But Im in the same situation here. If anything happened to me NOONE would notice. My landlord would come in about 2 weeks after the first. So I could be dead 6 weeks before anyone knew it.
 
m_levesque
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by selfactivatedView Post

Being alone is hard enough. But being lonely is unbearable. In 2001 I tried to commit suicide. I laid in bed for 3 days with a houseful of people (my ex and 3 kids) Noone called the police or the ambulance. My friends online (3 of them) called Midland police, 3 calls frome three different places. Canada, Georgia, and Pensylvania. The police showed up and asked if I was alright and My ex told them I was sleeping. They asked to see me and the called the ambulance. I was in a coma. The officers were not happy with my ex.

But Im in the same situation here. If anything happened to me NOONE would notice. My landlord would come in about 2 weeks after the first. So I could be dead 6 weeks before anyone knew it.

What about your kids? Wouldn't they notice?Your parents?
 
L Gilbert
#7
One would think that the mailman would notice something screwy after all the mail crammed in her mailbox or being unable to jam the mail through the slot anymore.
 
L Gilbert
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by selfactivatedView Post

Being alone is hard enough. But being lonely is unbearable. In 2001 I tried to commit suicide. I laid in bed for 3 days with a houseful of people (my ex and 3 kids) Noone called the police or the ambulance. My friends online (3 of them) called Midland police, 3 calls frome three different places. Canada, Georgia, and Pensylvania. The police showed up and asked if I was alright and My ex told them I was sleeping. They asked to see me and the called the ambulance. I was in a coma. The officers were not happy with my ex.

But Im in the same situation here. If anything happened to me NOONE would notice. My landlord would come in about 2 weeks after the first. So I could be dead 6 weeks before anyone knew it.

I bet there's a few from here that'd wonder where you got to.
 
selfactivated
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by m_levesqueView Post

What about your kids? Wouldn't they notice?Your parents?

My Mom is dead and my Dad never calls. My two girls are in thier own world and its not unusual behavior for me to become reclusive. Im a Mental health patient, Im BiPolar and its just not unusual for me to become depressive.


Quote: Originally Posted by L GilbertView Post

I bet there's a few from here that'd wonder where you got to.

Im glad that someone would wonder Like I said earlier Its one thing to be a lone but its unbearable being lonily

Namaste
 
#juan
#10
On the face of it, this woman would have been the ideal tenant. Her rent could have been paid automatically. She would hardly have been much of a complainer. She wouldn't have used a lot of hot water...or cold. She would not have had noisy parties.

The one surprising thing, is that the rest of the tenants were not eventually, extremely aware of her "presence" in the building.

Seriously, this is a sad commentary on how we care about each other. Somebody should have cared enough to check on her.
 
L Gilbert
#11
Unfortunately, people have a tendency to distance themselves from each other when there are signs of something wrong. I think it's a self-preservation thing. There are others who overcome the tendency, though, good thing.
 
#juan
#12
I just had a horrible thought.

What her rent was being paid automatically and what if the landlord knew she was dead? In two years I would get at least a hundred pounds of mail I didn't ask for, in addition to the normal mail. This lady must have had a pile of mail somewhere, even if it were junk mail.
 
selfactivated
#13
Yall's mailman theory doesnt fly. If mail is left in the box so long (say 7 days) Its return to sender. Utilities are turned off after 2 months non payment. She prolly had Auto pay on the rent and was on SSI so noone would be the wiser. Noone to care.
 
Curiosity
#14
SelfActivated

If people knew you did not live alone, and had family living in the house with you, they would not interfere assuming you would have help.

If you are now alone, why not pre-empt those suicidal feelings by having someone to phone - there are techs on duty all hours of the nite and hot lines for that purpose.

Sit down at the computer and write a letter to yourself about what is wrong and how you can fix it....It isn't rocket science and you already know the answers but you get mad at your situation and decide to do nothing is appropriate..... when you can be living a vital and necessary life to bring joy to others.

Work out anger issues with a professional... if you don't think you are important enough to continue your life.....you have anger issues. Nobody comes down on us worse than we do ourselves.

Time for you to start rewriting your life story....you have much work to do in helping others....and if you are on a path of self-destruction you are wasting a valuable human... YOU.... and cheating some very good people of knowing you and being lifted into the sunshine by your good thoughts.

Finally you must show your son Critter ... as hard as it gets.... you choose life....not death.... and hold his memory close as a reminder.....he will know your strength.
 
selfactivated
#15
I have things ste up that keep me safe. Before christmas I hired a councilor, I took out all the pills and knives in the house I could do harm with. I used to have a friend I contacted every day but Im way to much work as a friend so that bottomed out badly. My Sis does all she can bless her. But its hard dealing with a person that goes up and down more times than a roller coaster. Im not afraid of death its life that scares the daylights out of me. BUT in the last decade or two Ive made one promice....I dont believe in promises........It was to my best friend, the one who had the stroke.........I wont leave this life by my own hand. So thats that Im stuck in Hell until the ferryman comes for his piece of gold personally.

I think the point of the article is that we need to be more aware of those around us. What does it hurt to make a phone call or email? Ive saved lives by being just a bit inquizzative and sometimes pushy. I can hear people saying....."Its not my problem" No its not. But can you live with yourself if someone ended up dead?
 
Nuggler
#16
Quote: Originally Posted by L GilbertView Post

I bet there's a few from here that'd wonder where you got to.

They might wonder. Care? NO.

woof.

?????????Mail in the box is not automatically RTS, at least not in Canada. Service is cut off, mail is held at the post office for a time, and owner/landlord is notified. "Noone" couldn't have been much of a buddy or he/she would have checked. Funny name.
 
selfactivated
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by oldnuglyView Post

They might wonder. Care? NO.

woof.


pffffffffttttt *meow*
 
karrie
#18
while I can understand why you would tell the story of the dead woman..... and why there would be discussion about loneliness in her case..... where does the internet come into play? Why link her to an article about the internet and cell phones and e-mail? Did she even own a cell? Have a computer? Did technological alienation pertain to her in ANY real way?

Or was she perhaps a person who had intentionally isolated herself through a variety of other means?

When my aunt was born, she was brain damaged through bad birthing practises the hospital used at the time. She was a trapped person... fully functioning intellect trapped inside a brain that could not communicate with the outside world properly. She was an angry, mean, person who made it almost impossible to stay in touch or be near her. She would routinely isolate herself for months at a time. When she died, it was two weeks before my mom and I went to check on her, suspecting something more than usual was up. No technological isolation at work there.
 

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