Computers -- Isolation and Togetherness.

Computers -- Isolation and Togetherness.

Updated: Mar 23

One of the more-contemporary questions people may ask themselves and others today is whether or not the increasing usage and consumption of computers (phones included) make us lonelier or more connected to the world, or in other words -- more together. So, in order to technically and competently answer this question, there is a usefulness in comparing between times before computers and times after computers, and determine by that examination if people spend more time alone due to computers, or less, than without computers.

Without doing so exactly, and by using logic, I think it’s safe to say that the answer is a mixture of yes and no.

Yes - because we get detached from our own communities, and no - because the local detachment is heavily compensated by the intense potential of connecting with people worldwide, all because and/or thanks to computers.

If I lived in an age before computers, my alternative to writing articles on Quora and Philosocom would be sitting alone, thinking of my own subjects, write but only attempt to publish my articles, depending on the pity of the publishers, rather than succeeding, without the need for external confirmation.

If I am to use this hypothetical, personal example - then I, like many writers today, would be very alone in the world, depending on the mood and the liklihood of publishers to either accept or reject our applications, and even if they accept to publish our articles, they would probably pass censorship, and would anyway be exposed only to those who read the specific newspaper or magazine, and won’t have the potential to be viral like it has nowadays.

That way, people were more alone before the invention of computers, rather than after it. This is because computers brought along with them the potential to be viral and be known worldwide.

But still, a common claim is that computers had made us lonelier than ever. The Japanese have the hikikomori, a culture of hard-core modern-day hermits, that spend almost their entire waking hours alone, in front of a computer or a television. The hikikomori therefore serve as an example where the opposite is true, that computers and the internet make us spend more time alone.

There is also this rule I heard that exists in China, where you are sent to a rehabilitation camp if you spend to much on a computer? I am unaware whether that law exists today, but even if it got canceled - there must be a reason why a modern-day communist government would want its citizenry to limit themselves from extensively using a computer, for being extensively alone is the bane of any communist society, as communism is a heavily collective ideology, and computers, which can be seen as a symbol of individuality, may hinder the collective coherence of any modern-day communist society.

So, I guess, the answer to the question at depends on what exactly are you doing on your computer when you use it. If, for example, you are a livestreamer, then technically, you are together with your audience. If you, like me, write articles on the internet, then you are both alone (when you write) and together (when you are being read by people worldwide). If you play a game and never, or at least barely, communicate with anyone but with NPCs (non player characters -- bots, basically), then you are technically alone like a traditional hermit.

The entire basis of using a computer or a smartphone is complex, because the “act” of using a computer/smartphone is never a specific act, like it is often said it is. Using a computer can therefore either make you a social butterfly or an extensive recluse, or a mixture of both - all depending on what do you do when using a computer.

And still, one thing is certain - you do not need today to be in the exact location as other people in order to be together with them. As long as you are in the same window, chat or site as them, you can interact with them even if you are from the opposite location of one another on Earth.

Right now, when I’m writing this article - I am technically alone. Writing is merely a monologue, but when it is published, the article enters a hybrid state between being alone and between being together; alone, because I, the writer, am elsewhere (I might as well be asleep), and together, because reading this article is a form of interaction.

Computers can therefore be compared to physical spaces. If you are in a space that is only occupied by yourself, without external perception, you are technically alone like a hermit. If you play a single-player game, for example, and you do not record it on live while playing, you basically live in a period of electronical hermitage. So isn't the case whenever you interact with others on a space that is inhibited by more than one person -- a public domain, basically. The exception of the latter is when you are not in a conversation, as a lengthy piece of writing or recording can indeed be considered a form of isolation during the time of their production. I write this article right now, but I am not in a conversation/chat with others, so even if this article is a form of communication, it is still a work that is done alone while alone, and only when it is read it is done alone while consumed by others, which is a form of interaction, obviously, creating a form of hybridity, just like with books and other non-virtual material that has been produced while alone.

It all boils down to what is the regular action or set of actions you do while you use a computer, in order to determine whether the time your spending is being spent alone or together.

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© 2019 Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosopher