1048 friends, 4598 followers, 1 lonely soul
We worry if we’ve got too much or too little; we notch up our conquests and proudly slip that number into conversation; and we spend more and more time trawling the net looking for it.
We’re looking for friends. Or followers. In the past year, there’s been an 82 per cent jump in the amount of time Australians spend on social networking sites and nearly 10 million of us log more than eight hours a month on Facebook, Twitter and blogs.
Problem is, all this skimming of Wall posts and retweeting is only making us feel more isolated.
According to Relationships Australia, the more we juggled Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and email accounts, the more disconnected we feel and nearly 30 per cent of the hyper-connected 25 to 34 year-olds say they’re lonely.
But, given flicking each other badly punctuated, hastily written emails or excruciatingly self-conscious, faux- ironic Tweets now stands for friendship, is it any wonder we feel increasingly isolated?
We’ve come to rely on basking in the reflected glory of how many “Likes” we get or how many followers we’ve racked up to feel loved the more disconnected we become in our real lives from genuine relationships (platonic or otherwise).
Social media sites have schooled us in the habit of collecting friends like tokens and it’s tough to deny that all the hours we spend on Facebook and Twitter aren’t predominately exercises in narcissism and self-aggrandisement. After all, having an online presence is really about talking - not about listening.
We might incessantly fiddle with our phones, twitching to find out if someone has Tweeted anything funny in the last 30 seconds or if we’ve been “Friended” by that hot guy from accounting, but we’re spending less and less time actually talking to people - in the last two years, 67 per cent of Australians report they’re spending less than ever on their mobile phones.
The problem with all this loneliness isn’t just that you’re more likely to spend a lot of your life sitting at home swigging pinot gris out of the bottle and watching Law & Order reruns (nothing wrong with that -Ed.), but that it can have a significant impact on your body.
American academics have found that loneliness is as bad for your health as being an alcoholic or smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and twice as bad for you as being obese.
A survey of 3000 nurses found that having close friends can also improve your chances of beating cancer, according to British researchers.
So, is it any surprise that the tech world is keen to get in on the friendship business?
Two million men have downloaded the gay hook-up app Grindr globally, but company founder Joel Simkhai says their research shows that the majority of members predominantly use the technology to find friends and not dates.
Simkhai is now getting set to launch Project Amicus, an app specifically designed to hook you up with new friends.
“It’s bringing people out of the house,’’ Simkhai told The Sunday Age recently, “It will be a tool to find other people around you that are like you.”
I wonder, how does an app help you find someone with the same bad taste in movies? Someone who likes the Bold and Beautiful in equal measure to you and is happy to spend hours discussing the merits of a vodka martini verus a gin martini?
Do you think an app is the way to stave off loneliness and help us make new friends?
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