In the past five decades, information technology has advanced immensely from telephone booths to mobile phones. More importantly, is the invention of the internet that has lifted the challenge of distance. Today, people can connect through the internet without having to travel over long distances for a face-to-face meeting. Similarly, communication has become highly sophisticated and simple. Just an email or a text message is enough to deliver information within seconds, doing all that from the comfort of your sofa. Isn’t that not comfort? The answer to this question appears obvious; it is comfort, indeed. Ironically, it is this comfort which has become the problem in the information age, and the society is paying a heavy price for it. It is reported that loneliness has become a social issue in the global society with trends of loneliness showing alarming upward surge. This phenomenon is acknowledged by Renzetti who remarks that, “loneliness is our baggage, a huge and largely unacknowledged cultural falling” (p. 1). Interestingly, mobile phones are, partly to blame for the rising incidence of loneliness.
Alarming Trends of Loneliness
In reflection to Renzetti’s argument, it is apparent that loneliness has seemingly become our companion. This aspect is evidenced by the figures that reveal that loneliness has reached catastrophic thresholds. Renzetti remarks that, “In the West, we live faster, higher in the air, farther from our workplaces, and more singly than at any time in the past” (p. 1). According to Renzetti, Canadians have fallen victims of loneliness. She reports that more Canadians are living alone compared to the past. It is reported that one-quarter of Canadians are lonely. Another study carried out among the Canadian university students showed that two-thirds are experiencing loneliness. Elsewhere, loneliness shows similar trends. For instance, loneliness has doubled among the United States’ population over the past three decades. This aspect is reaffirmed by recent studies that revealed that 40% of people experience loneliness. With these alarming trends, it implies that something is seemingly going wrong in our lives. Ironically, people do not seem to have noticed that loneliness is taking them down, day-by-day. Vancouverites are the best example; they believe drug abuse and house prices are their main sources of bother. However, Kevin McCort, as cited by Renzetti provides the other side of the issue, that people are feeling “lonely, isolated, and unconnected to their communities” (p. 4). If this is the reality, what are the underlying causes? Renzetti acknowledges that chronic loneliness has both internal and external sources. She says that loneliness appear to have connection with genetic factors and social circumstances. However, she suspects that “something is making it worse” (p. 2). This question has troubled social scientists for quite some time, but the answer is evidently appearing true, the mobile phones!
Mobile Phones Link to Loneliness and its Consequences
In retrospect, mobile phones have been linked to the increasing trends of loneliness in the society. Studies show that mobile phone addition has led to the increase of loneliness. Bhardwaj Ashok (2015) acknowledges the usefulness of mobile phones, but reckon of its negative impacts. This is reaffirmed by Ezoe Toda (2013) that information and communication technology is associated with various social issues, and personal interpersonal relationship changes is one of the key social issues. It is reported that mobile phone dependence increases loneliness. In contrast, face-to-face interaction has been found to decrease loneliness. According to Jin Park (2012), mobile phone’s dependence hinders the development of social skills leading to loneliness.
As noted by Renzetti, mobile phone’s dependency is associated with the increase of loneliness in the society. In turn, loneliness is related to a number of consequences. She notes that loneliness, the outcome of mobile phone’s excessive usage, has become a public health crisis. This assertion appears true because social scientists have realized the link between loneliness and health consequences. Some of the key consequences of loneliness include anxiety, depression, increased risk for physical and emotional health problems, and interpersonal hostility.
One of the consequences of mobile phones is the development of internet addiction. With today’s sophisticated mobile technology that provides access to social media sites, internet addiction has become a serious problem, especially among teenagers. This explains why more teenagers are becoming lonely, unlike in the past when loneliness was associated with old age. It is apparent that mobile phones are reducing interpersonal interactions. Ordinarily, interpersonal interactions play significant cognitive roles. Foremost, face-to-face interaction, does not only present the reflection of a real-life environment, but also helps in the development of social skills. It is apparent that when people interact through face-to-face scenario they share social skills as they engage in various social activities. This is a different scenario from what is happening through mobile phones connection. Virtual connection through emailing, texting or chatting over social media does not create the benefits of face-to-face interaction. Moody (2001) notes that internet use increases loneliness. This is, probably the reason why lonely people are depending so much on voice communication through mobile phones in an attempt to create some social connection with other people. Interestingly, voice communication has been found to exacerbate levels of loneliness. As people engage in mobile phone’s communication; their craving for face-to-face interactions increases. This is what drives loneliness as it is evidenced by Renzetti through Marci O’Connor’s case. In this case, O’Connor feels isolated from the rest of the world after having worked as a freelance writer for years. Her craving for human interaction prompted her to seek a waitress job, in order to gain human contact. Another case is that of a patient who visited a hospital emergency ward to talk to someone. This situation appears as an incidental analogy with what is happening with mobile phone addiction.
On the other hand, loneliness as a consequence of mobile phone’s addiction is responsible for anxiety and depression among people who are addicted to mobile phones. Depression has always been linked to health problems including heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. Therefore, mobile phone’s dependence by the global society may explain why some of these chronic illnesses have become pandemic in the past two decades. From a clinical perspective, chronic illnesses reduce the quality of life and lifespan. This phenomenon is analogous to the results of the recent study by the University of California at San Francisco. This study revealed that loneliness was associated with heart problems and early death.
In a brief conclusion, it is apparent that loneliness has become a serious social and public health problem in different parts of the world. Loneliness is causing many deaths and other health problems, yet people do not seem to have noticed that issue. A surprising twist of the issue is the link of mobile phones with high rates of loneliness.
Bhardwaj, M., Ashok, S. (2015). Mobile phone addiction and loneliness among teenagers. The International Journal of Indian Psychology, 2(3), 27-34.
Ezoe, S., Toda, M. (2013). Relationships of loneliness and mobile phone dependence with Internet addiction in Japanese medical students. Open Journal of Preventive Medicine, 3, 407-412.
Jin, B., Park, N., (2012). Mobile voice communication and loneliness: Cell phone use and the social skills deficit hypothesis. New Media Society, 15. Retrieved from http://nms.sagepub.com/content/15/7/1094
Moody, E. (2001). Internet use and its relationship to loneliness. Cyberpsychology and Behavior, 4, 393-401.
Renzetti, E. (n.d.). Loneliness: the trouble with solitude.