How can technology make the world a less lonely place?

May 9, 2022
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Sam Bailey, Marketing and Social Analyst at Nash Squared, reflects on a recent podcast to explore the relationship between loneliness and emerging technology.

On this weeks’ episode of Tech Talks we talked to Hannah Thomson, founder of The Joy Club. She has created an online community for retirees, encouraging them to take part in activities to help make retirement less monotonous and lonely. 

The Joy Club was started prior to COVID lockdown restrictions being implemented, and has helped to bring retirees closer together through that testing period. Whilst this is an example of technology bringing people together, has the explosion of technology over the past decade actually pushed us further apart? 

Are our socials really that ‘social’?

There’s no debate that social media has pushed the boundaries of communication. You can discover new connections across the world and talk to them, sharing almost anything with anyone, anywhere. Is this the ideal variation of ‘social’? I think we can all agree that chatting online has little comparison to the impact of a real-life, in-person conversation. 

Numerous platforms offer the same promise of connection; dating apps, online university, messaging platforms and gaming. They have all made information accessible, and you are more likely to find a niche interest community due to their proliferation, but I believe they have also succeeded in erasing a huge proportion of human interaction. 

Don’t sit that close to the screen, your eyes will go square! 

Online gaming has its place, but it’s at the expense of physically kicking a ball around. With a predominantly young demographic and its extremely addictive nature, children are increasingly missing out on key developmental traits that come from outdoor play and human interaction. The NPD Group even found that in 2021, 91% of children aged 2-17 are playing some form of video games. Unfortunately, the line we all heard as kids that “TV will rot your brain” really has some truth in it. And it’s the same, if not worse for video games. 

People are much more likely to text than call, kids are far more likely to go on their PC than contact a friend and go outside. The ease with which online interaction is available means we lean on it instead of making contact in the physical world, despite the limitations of the relationships we form. 

Data from the World Health Organization shows that more than half of adolescents are gaming for a minimum of two hours daily, and boys are three times more likely to game for six or more hours than girls. Although some implications of this, such as violence, have not been proven, risks to social development, sleep, nutrition and school performance have all been supported. 

On an even scarier note, in the UK the Gambling Commission has found 1 in 7 children, almost 250,000 children nationwide, are involved in gambling, a direct correlation to the rhetoric of trading, purchasing and betting through video games. 

It’s not all bad

It sounds like I’m being unduly negative. We started by citing ‘The Joy Club’, and platforms really can bring people together. After all, technology allowed us to stay in contact with friends and family throughout a global pandemic. Without these platforms lockdown would have been even harder.

Like anything, there are negatives that have come from ‘social’ technology. My point is we need to choose our platforms carefully. Ask if they’re curated and focused communities that enrich our experiences. Technology should never wholesale replace (due to laziness) our need for real social interaction, and finding balance is key.

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