Isolation Desired and Achieved









Last weekend I read a sentence from “Unsocial Media” an article written Tony Reinke for Desiring God  that hit me like a ton of bricks.  The quote is actually by Reinke from Stephen Marche and his article “Is Facebook making us Lonely” The interesting thing is the more I’ve meditated on that statement, the more it meant to me.

“The problem is that we invite loneliness, even though it makes us miserable. The history of our use of technology is a history of isolation desired and achieved.”

That idea of isolation being desired and achieved illustrates for me the relationship many people (myself included) have with their electronic devices.

Reinke does an excellent job of explaining how technology used to be a community based thing that the family gathered themselves around, now instead it has become something only enjoyed by individuals

Isolation was made possible by advances in video. The community cinema gave way to a large shared television in each family’s home, which gave way to portable televisions, and now personal LED TVs in every bedroom.

When it comes to music, this technological trajectory is even clearer. The live symphony on a Saturday evening was, for many people, replaced by the stationary phonograph (record player) in the family room, which was replaced by a large transistor radio, which was replaced by a portable transistor radio, which was replaced by a boombox with open speakers over the shoulder, which was replaced by a Walkman clipped to the waist, which was replaced by a tiny iPod clipped to the sleeve. Music went from a social community experience, to a shared family experience, and now to a personal headphones experience.

Going along with that isolation idea today media (especially on our phones) are used as an escape from reality .

In a way individuals can escape the world filled with stress, pain, and conflict in favor of one they have complete control over.  A world filled with Netflix queues of favorite programs, personalized music playlists,  facebook posts that make us look awesome, and Instagram feeds with perfectly timed photos.

There is something enjoyable about having a part of life that we can totally control.  However once the isolation we long for so much is achieved we will inevitably realize it won’t satisfy.

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