Modern technology and isolation: how can you reconnect?

On the one hand, there’s the social fragmentation generated by social networks and its corollary, the loss of critical thought, both roundly condemned by Douglas Rushkoff. And on the other, there’s social aspiration, backed up by evidence from biology, psychology, and evolution that shows the benefits of collective work. We’re all connected but disconnected. So how can we reconnect?

Rushkoff roundly criticizes digital media for being a tool that divides us in binary ways: yes/no, for/against, us/them. But he argues that human nature isn’t to blame for this black-and-white approach. Instead, Rushkoff points to the online platforms and their business plans that use sophisticated technology to exploit and manipulate humans to generate clicks. What can we do to turn things around?

Today we live in a state of perpetual emergency, with constant interruptions that prevent us from forging genuine social bonds. In both his book Team Human and his podcast, Rushkoff paints a vitriolic portrait of the technologies that enslave us far more than they serve us. But he remains optimistic: one day humans will become fed up with the technology that divides us, and we’ll be united by the desire to tackle these collective challenges together. Rushkoff concludes his book with three simple words: “Find the others” — individuals who are moving in the same direction as you and (even better) people you don’t agree with. Start meeting and talking to people again — you’ll feel much better for it and will end up being more open, more resilient, and a better communicator. In fact, simply more human.

 

Can Humans Reconnect in an Age of Isolation?” (podcast with Douglas Rushkoff, Knowledge@Wharton).