The Internet will bring us closer, they said. It will improve social connection, they said. Yeah, about that…
In the early days of the web and social media, we all thought that it’s simply an add-on to actual, face-to-face, relationships. However, with time it became all too easy to create the facade of a perfect life on Instagram. Real-life conversations gradually morphed into superficiality, devoid of any vulnerability (Brené Brown regularly cried herself to sleep at night). The explosion of apps also made it possible to barely, or rarely, leave the house.
In Japan today, over a million hikikomori can be found. These are adults, mainly young, who haven’t left their homes or interacted with others for at least six months. The reasons are varied; for some the pressure of the outside world is just too much; for others the root cause is a feeling of shame or depression.
Back in 2019, futurist Gerd Leonhard made the pertinent statement: “We live in a world where people have more relationships with a screen than with other people.” Since then things have escalated quite quickly.
The Japanese government has introduced internet timeouts on Saturday and Sunday evenings with the hope of forcing citizens to get out, go out, or make out. A declining population definitely does not need more hikikomori and fewer babies!
Prime Minister Junji has also been forced to allocate a part of his tax budget to help re-humanize the humans. Social skills clinics have been set up on school grounds and university campuses. From today, companies will be required to report on ‘the state of humanity’ in their workforce. Basically, employees will be assessed based on whether they are able to converse comfortably while using eye contact and whether they have the emotional intelligence to engage authentically with their co-workers.
When you think about it, a society without civil engagement and social interaction is really no society at all.