A Cure for the Global Isolation Epidemic Is Close at Hand

The global epidemic of isolation results directly from the automated technologies of attention-harvesting, “social” media and online advertising.
Modern technology, social media news, modern isolation, technology and isolation, depression news, human neurobiology news, does technology cause depression, does technology cause isolation, tech news, human interaction, tech and human interaction

© franz12 / Shutterstock

February 07, 2020 13:18 EDT

Isolation, loneliness, anxiety and alienation are trending worldwide. They feed on themselves to breed the anti-social reactions of mistrust, hostility and depression, and thus create yet more isolation. That feedback loop makes isolation structurally self-reinforcing, which is the key scary feature of a spreading epidemic. Hence, a global isolation epidemic, possibly with fascism and terrorism, might be around the corner.

Now consider gazelles. Herding animals, they spend almost all their time feeding, jostling neighbors, locking horns, sleeping and mating. They evolved for reciprocal, autonomous neuromechanical interaction. Their nervous systems need those vibratory reinforcement signals to regulate biorhythms and stay sane.

No wait! A white tail flashed! Gazelles leap, white tail up, white tail up, white tail up! Everyone sprint! Go! Go! Go! No time to wait! Alarm has sounded! Danger! Run!

That’s the gazelle version of broadcast media: fast, one-way, designed to catch attention, distract, motivate. That is, to motivate alarm, fear, urgency and hatred — quick-response reactions. Broadcast doesn’t motivate bonding, affection and love, but the opposite.

That’s because it can’t. Bonding, affection and love need reciprocal, autonomous interaction, the one thing broadcast by definition cannot do. I’m sure that any isolated gazelle, if subjected to white-tail-flash signals on its eyeballs all day long, would be a nervous wreck.

How Human Collaboration Can Beat Screen Addiction


That’s how broadcast media work and don’t work. Broadcast of any form, even old-school newspapers and radio, suffer from the gazelle-tail problem of communicating emotions which isolate people far more efficiently than emotions which bring us closer. Furthermore, modern digital transmission focuses and concentrates the subtle social toxicity of broadcast thousandfold, by mixing in personal segmentation, instant delivery and monetization. Digital things do grab our attention very efficiently — on purpose.

To that overdose of white tail flash add the physical isolation so many people suffer nowadays, spending whole days seeing no human face in person and touching no human hand, even as they watch alarming news on screens. Consuming information that can only agitate you is bad enough; doing it alone is even worse. No wonder whole countries are filling up with hate and fear.

Human children weren’t born for this. We were born for kinship, companionship, snuggles, grappling, eye-gazing, grooming — and of course hunting, gathering and resting. That is, we need reciprocal autonomous neuromechanical interaction, just like the gazelles. If we get enough proximity and touch, enough live conversation and back rubs and hugs and arm links and scalp massages, then we’re happy again. That’s just how warm-blooded biology works.

The global epidemic of isolation results directly from the automated technologies of attention-harvesting, “social” media and online advertising. Like most outbreaks, isolation festers most severely at the epicenter — my boyhood home of Silicon Valley — where together and separately everyone typically eats meals in silence, hunched over phone; where no one has time to do anything, especially to talk; where people are always suspicious of “pitches”; where healthy, well-educated teenagers throw themselves in front of trains to die.

The tragedy is that homo sapiens, the most deeply and intricately loving and empathic species ever to walk planet Earth, is now among the most lonely, hateful and anxious, thanks entirely to technology that makes us look at and touch it instead of each other. And thanks to white-tail-flash fear and anger, broadcast tech acts like an enchanted window that, by transmitting mostly awfulness, makes everyone seem awful and worth avoiding.

Fortunately, the cure is close, at hand.

*[The articles in this column present a set of permanent scientific truths that interlock like jigsaw piecesThey span physics, technology, economics, media, neuroscience, bodies, brains and minds, as quantified by the mathematics of information flow through space and time. Together, they promote the neurosafe agenda: That human interactions with technology do not harm either the nervous system’s function, nor its interests, as measured by neuromechanical trust.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Support Fair Observer

We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.

For more than 10 years, Fair Observer has been free, fair and independent. No billionaire owns us, no advertisers control us. We are a reader-supported nonprofit. Unlike many other publications, we keep our content free for readers regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to pay. We have no paywalls and no ads.

In the post-truth era of fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles, we publish a plurality of perspectives from around the world. Anyone can publish with us, but everyone goes through a rigorous editorial process. So, you get fact-checked, well-reasoned content instead of noise.

We publish 2,500+ voices from 90+ countries. We also conduct education and training programs on subjects ranging from digital media and journalism to writing and critical thinking. This doesn’t come cheap. Servers, editors, trainers and web developers cost money.
Please consider supporting us on a regular basis as a recurring donor or a sustaining member.

Will you support FO’s journalism?

We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.

Donation Cycle

Donation Amount

The IRS recognizes Fair Observer as a section 501(c)(3) registered public charity (EIN: 46-4070943), enabling you to claim a tax deduction.

Make Sense of the World

Unique Insights from 2,500+ Contributors in 90+ Countries

Support Fair Observer

Support Fair Observer by becoming a sustaining member

Become a Member