Friends Electric: Power Failure

In the context of a discussion of the supposed “Renaissance Generation” and knowledge through contemporary electronic media, Neil Remington Abramson had commented as follows:

And as for the Internet and communication, there was a big piece in 4 parts in the Sun, about how Vancouver is the loneliest, most isolating city in Canada, and part of the reason is that people never relate face2face anymore. …I suspect that I’d be very lonely in Vancouver, if I weren’t married.

In terms of Neil Remington Abramson’s comments, some of the comments in the Vancouver Sun series to which he refers are found in an article by Tara Carman,
Vancouver a difficult social atmosphere for many newcomers” (June 22, 2012):

A Vancouver Foundation survey on community connections, released Monday, suggests one in three Metro residents find it difficult to make friends in this city. People between the ages of 24 and 35, those who had lived in either Canada or their neighbourhood for fewer than five years and people who live in suites in houses were especially likely to feel this way.

This has implications for the wider community, according to an analysis of the survey results by Sentis Research. Those who have difficulty making friends are less trusting of others, feel less cohesion with their neighbours and are more likely to feel alone and unwelcome than those who do not have difficulty making friends, the Sentis analysis found.

“There is a hardening of attitudes that comes with negative experiences trying to forge friendships,” the analysis said.

…(One interview subject) admits that keeping in touch with friends in other cities through social media may have made her less motivated to make more of an effort locally.

“It’s easy to feel connected and then realize … Thanksgiving comes around and you don’t have an invitation anywhere,” she said.

From the companion article by Tara Carman, “Social isolation has far-reaching effects on us and our neighbours, survey says” (June 22, 2012)

One in four respondents reported feeling alone more often than they would like and one-third said they consider Vancouver a difficult place to make friends.

Most people don’t socialize with their neighbours and almost one-third of respondents said they have little interest in getting to know them.

And further, in her article “Residents feel Metro divided along ethnic lines, survey finds

While 83 per cent of respondents said they have been to a community centre or library recently, a majority have not attended a religious service or community meeting or participated in a neighbourhood project in the last year. Just 13 per cent said they attended a city council or school board meeting. About half of respondents have not volunteered in the past year, with those aged 18-24 the most likely and 25-34-year-olds the least likely to have done so.

So much for the “Renaissance Generation”, perhaps, though the term seems to have been coined in relation to marketing strategies, rather than in terms of positive futures for communities. Plus, there’s always the downside of Facebook depression, with potential applications to electronic interactions generally, as well as the potential false social consciousness among those in the Occupy Movement or, more recently in Canada, the Quebec student protests. Intellectually shameful extrapolations, but still…

Postscript, July 15, 2012: Actually, the extrapolations are more than intellectually shameful. Basically seeing what one wants to see, as happens more often than one might prefer. If the greatest volunteerism is from those 18-24 (and without examining the specific data), this would seem to support some of the positives associated with the so-termed “Renaissance Generation”. And, of course, having not read the book…

About brucelarochelle
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2 Responses to Friends Electric: Power Failure

  1. Perhaps loneliness is oversold as a social evil, likely by marketers seeking to sell ways to fill up your alone time. Back before cellphones, smartphones, email, texting, Twitter, etc.–that is, no more than 5-15 years ago–people had alone time not constantly filled with electronic chatter. From the dawn of time, people had time to be, and to think. Now that can all be filled in, on the assumption it was all wasted before. And it’s addictive, as I found out when my Blackberry crashed.

    I wonder if, in our wired world, eliminating all these chances to be, and to process one’s own sense of being-in-the-world, will have any deleterious effects on the human psyche. No doubt, there will be health effects that we will learn about later, but obviously can’t appreciate now. Who would have believed that smoking could cause cancer, that we could actually fill the ocean with garbage and that fast food could make you fat? Imagine– who would ever have thought so?

  2. On July 16, 2012, Neil Remington Abramson commented further, as follows (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):

    It’s the electronic ersatz communication that replaced both genuine interaction and also genuine downtime for reflection. I wonder whether their absence will have any effect on a psyche developed over millions of years to have this other kind of input.

    Seriously, the evolutionary psychologists talk about the evolution of the brain and behavior (as did Darwin) as well as just body. If you eliminate key inputs humans have been getting all along, you’d think there could be an unanticipated consequence; as there usually is, unidentified until the unintended suffering has already started. Maybe there would be some mutations that suddenly had fitness potential in the new eWorld.

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