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A Fine Line - Between Chaos and Creation

Everybody seems to think I'm lazy; I don't mind, I think they're crazy...

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Saturday, Week 1 - The Age of Isolation
Forever Alone Pinkie
OFic/ONarrative Saturday beckons! This is just something that's been rattling around in my head for a little while now. Apologies if it seems to ramble; I've had bullet points for this in my head, but no real structure. I've tried to make this as coherent as possible, though.

The Age of Isolation

We live in an era that not only prides itself on its ability to keep the people all over the world connected, but is basically doing all it can to fall over itself giving self-congratulatory backslaps for how great of a job it's doing. A Google search's top results on autoprompt say that the 21st century is "the age of technology", "the age of computers", and most intriguingly, "the age of greed", but I've got another theory - it's the age of isolation.

You can't watch anything on TV without being peppered by ads - this much has been true for decades. But now, more than ever the past few years, I've noticed an uphill trend in a certain kind of ad. In between all the shills for bigger trucks, more finely-crafted alcohol, and shampoos that promise to make your hair glisten like it's the Twilight vampires in the sun, there's been far more of an emphasis on tech commercials and the importance of staying connected with said tech.

You should be buying newer smartphones to stay on top of social media regarding big events (right now it's all about keeping up with the hype leading up to Superbowl XLIX); new computers to keep in contact with relatives and friends who live far away (usually the teary new college student), and new tablets to showcase your times away from home when you couldn't have a computer on hand (the tropical beach family vacation video-call ad is my favourite).

Now, some of these advances are good - don't get me wrong. I live in the second-largest country in the world; a place where if I hear someone from another country talk online about how they finally get to visit their friend who lives in X City and they never get to see each other, I look the distance up and laugh. In a country where your brother talks about the distance from where we live to where his potential soon-to-be-girlfriend lives as "only 17 hours' drive", it's nice to be able to talk to my cousins and friends who live even farther away than that. I was in cadets for 5 1/2 years; I met people from all over the country throughout that time. I, more than many people, would like to think I can appreciate the benefits of these technological advances. No more communicating that takes weeks to reach the other person - you can speak to them instantly (time zones permitting, of course) in real-time.

But there are downsides.

Have we ever considered that there is maybe such a thing as being too connected? I know some people who spend more time talking to people online than they actually do to people in real life. I sometimes ride transit to/from work, and it always fascinates me to see just how many people are "plugged in" to something: whether it's a phone checking Facebook/Twitter/other social networking site, headphones hooked up to an iPod/mp3 player... the rides are quiet. We're all talking to people, yet we're abandoning the world around us.

The ads focus on how happy it makes Grandma and Grandpa when we video call them and tell them how wonderfully we're getting tanned in Tahiti, but it doesn't focus on the other side of the camera and its problem - the pressure. There's another problem that comes with being so connected, and that is simply the mounting pressure from being so constantly viewed. I'm not even talking about your run-of-the-mill "Big Brother Is Watching" pressure, I'm talking about internet celebrity-ism.

We all know them - heck, maybe you are one reading this. They're the people we find on Twitter who make the constant snappy one-liners most of us wish we could; the people on Instagram taking wonderfully artsy-looking shots that we try but can never seem to replicate; the amateur filmmakers on YouTube whose videos we wish we had the skills to produce. Maybe they're even people you know on Facebook - the ones who look like they have it all together; who have the seemingly perfect lives. This, whether consciously or unconsciously, usually leads to us trying to out-do them.

Now, healthy competition is good, but this is unhealthy. We spend so much time trying to impress the people on the viewing side of the photo, the status, the tweet, the video, that we don't bother with the people in our physical vicinity. Maybe it's because our digital self is functionally a fantasy persona - one we project to others to look like we have it all together, and who doesn't like to live in a fantasy world?

Unfortunately, we can't live there forever. One of my favourite authors once said: “She wasted all her...time wanting to be the age she is now, and she'll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age.” I can't help but feel that this is incredibly accurate for the younger generation in the 21st century, wanting to be approved of and adored by as many people as they can for as long as possible. To keep up with the rate of digital information turn-over, we put so much effort into trying to stay relevant and current to the rest of the world that we lose sight of what's immediately around us.

You won't see any ads out there telling you to "stay connected - go outside and talk to someone", or even (perish the thought) "stay connected - don't touch your cell phone when you go out with your friends", but maybe there should be. Maybe it's time we leave our self-imposed isolations and start trying to physically connect with people again.

Maybe it's time we changed the 21st century, and 2015 in particular, into something besides The Age of Isolation.

Hopefully that made sense and wasn't too ramble-y? I don't know... it's late, and it's just a thought that got stuck in my head one day. Tomorrow kicks off Week 2 - starting with two more things cadets/the military has taught me!

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An interesting one, and by no means are you alone in your suggestion. As somebody who spends significantly more time talking online than off, I would have to disagree with you - but then, having said that, if I had children, I would likely discourage similar behaviour in them.

We're all different, obviously. I am completely useless at face to face stuff. Before the internet came along I didn't talk to people at all, so far from isolating me, the internet has given me the only real communication I've ever had. I'm not the only one to feel that way either. Is the internet a problem for a lot of people? Yes. I'm perplexed by families who seem to communicate more through Facebook than through actual talking, despite living in the same house! Although I imagine that an element of that is moody teenagers being moody teenagers. But for some of us, that old "isolating internet" is the least isolating thing there is.

And yes, it made perfect sense, and didn't seem at all rambly! :)

Yeah... I do a lot of these things, too, and I had planned to mention that in this piece, but there was no real place to put it in that didn't feel like it was shoehorned in. I just thought the "Isolation vs Connectivity" standpoint was an interesting observation, though, in regards to the specific things I've noticed IRL.

There's nothing wrong with having more friends online and such, and one of my brothers is actually like that, but it's the unhealthy kind of "too much online". He doesn't work, he's not in school, and he just basically spends all day/all night in his room on the computer or sleeping (so I'm told, but he was doing this sort of thing even before I moved out). So I worry about people like him.

Thanks - I'm glad to hear it didn't seem too disjointed. :)

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