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The world has shrunk dramatically. Transatlantic journeys that once took months take a few hours. Emailing someone in Japan from England takes less than a second. Phone calls can reach Australia with as much ease, clarity and speed as they do a neighbor. This is advantageous to anyone who has studied abroad, worked in a field that required international communication or simply wanted to talk to someone who lives a long way away.
The shrinking of the world in a logistical and communication sense is deeply advantageous in many ways. The world, however, has also shrunk in an emotional sense. It has, for many people, shrunk down to a single person: me. Despite having the entire world at their fingertips, people have fewer meaningful relationships and conversations than ever. They have fewer relationships and conversations period. Many people get most of their human interaction through quirky, snarky or gushing comments on social media or images with a clever tag line. This has led to a complete dearth of real human connection, and depression, drug addiction and suicide rates are rising as a result.
According to an analysis of data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths attributed to alcohol, drugs and suicide in 2017 was the highest since federal data collection began. The national rates for deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide rose by 6 percent. Suicides alone increased by 4 percent. Increases of 4 and 6 percent may not feel like much, but those numbers translate to an extra 2,200 suicides and a total of nearly 152,000 deaths from drugs, suicide and alcohol. When compared to numbers around the turn of the millennium, the suicide rate has increased by 62 percent, the number of alcohol related deaths has increased by nearly 90 percent and the number of deaths caused by drugs has jumped by a staggering 280 percent.
Many people have attributed these tragic numbers to the lack of real human interaction. That lack of social connection and emotional intimacy fuels hopelessness which in turn increases a person’s likelihood of seeking solace in addictive substances or looking for an even more tragic, final solution. Given the rise of ever-more impersonal forms of communication, such as texting in place of calling people, one of the best things people can do to help combat the rising tide of loneliness is go back to old-school forms of interaction. Call people instead of sending them a social media message. FaceTime instead of sending a SnapChat. Better yet, set up a face to face meeting where you two can look each other in the eyes and connect in the way that humans were always meant to connect.