Rumors of Loneliness:  True or False?

What filter?

The concept of loneliness on the internet is widely accepted.  Loneliness, period,  is clickbait.  Editors and writers are susceptible to studies on  loneliness.  Editor to reporter:  “Write a piece on loneliness on the internet. Check out the University of Blah study.  Good stuff!”

We all want to be happy, we all want loads of friends, we all socialize with our dysfunctional families, and everyone is terrified of solitude except Thoreau.

Yet when I read these articles on loneliness I am incredulous. The studies conclude that people are anxious and lonely because they don’t get enough likes, because their lives are less exciting than their rivals’ on Facebook, and they don’t look charming enough in filtered selfies.

IIn short, we are a nation in crisis. The lonely ones are so depressed by the lack of likes on social media or by not resembling Taylor Swift or Nicole Kidman that they will end up in the looney bin for as long as their insurance will cover it.  There they will be expected  to sand and paint ceramic animals in crafts (a cheap form of art therapy).

You know what I say:  Turn off your like button!  Turn off your filters!  Get off YouTube immediately!  Don’t even try to look like Taylor Swift!

The odd thing is that the writers of the articles on loneliness never indicate the affirmation of the act of writing, which is surely part of the motivation to post.  Of course we write alone, but it doesn’t feel lonely: it is an affirmation of our flights of fancy, a stimulation or simulation of happiness. It forms an intuitive connection between our hands, our keyboards and our  flow of words. 

And the studies may be biased. How is the control group chosen? We don’t know. An acquaintance once participated in a study by a famous sociologist.  She claims that she  and her friends mischievously lied  to the researchers,  because the questions were so absurd, so obviously based on the assumption that women are wispy and delicate.  The resulting book based on the study was considered profound.  

All I can say is everyone loves clickbait.

Who’s in Trouble on the Internet?

On an “electronics-free” vacation—and I find it sad that I use a phrase like “electronics-free”— life was calmer. I found myself staring happily at a plane tree.  I also read poetry.  

Why don’t I do this all the time?

On my return, I decided not to bother with the internet.  But soon I was checking my email.  And then I read the news.  And then I learned about the latest celebrity scandal.

Now by celebrity scandal, I do not mean scandal.  It is usually something quite ordinary.  For a couple of years, it was the angst of delicate adult women who were apparently raised in caves, or they would not have been traumatized when a famous man touched their butt in a bar (possibly 50 years ago).  More scandalously, Roseanne Barr was fired from her own TV show for making an offensive joke about a black woman.   I am sure it was offensive, but I note that her career depends on offensive jokes about everybody.  And then there was the Marie Kondo scandal: when the famous declutterer suggested that her clients should weed some of their books, people on Twitter went crazy.

And now there’s the Jonathan Franzen scandal.  In an essay in The New Yorker, “What If We Stopped Pretending?”,  he said that climate change cannot be reversed and is causing an apocalypse.  He writes,

If you care about the planet, and about the people and animals who live on it, there are two ways to think about this. You can keep on hoping that catastrophe is preventable, and feel ever more frustrated or enraged by the world’s inaction. Or you can accept that disaster is coming, and begin to rethink what it means to have hope.

And people are furious at his belief in the climate change apocalypse.

I rarely agree with Jonathan Franzen, but what he says has been said before.  Surely nobody is shocked at this point at the idea of an apocalypse. And he is not the first person to mention that Earth is going, going, gone.  Barbara Kingsolver said in an interview that she believed she was seeing the end of the world.    And nobody, to my knowledge, got angry at Kingsolver–everybody likes Kingsolver.

Franzen also attacks the Democrats’ Green New Deal and claims green energy will not make a difference.  He is wrong.  It can make an enormous difference — it can slow down the apocalypse, if not prevent it.  

And though it is hard to trust any politicians, they may follow through, because even the corporations want green energy now.  It is cheaper than fossil fuel. 

Things couldn’t be worse, but Franzen isn’t to blame.

Hope for the best, expect the worst.  

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