Saturday, April 11, 2015

On Social Isolation.

Ian Cooper

How does a person become isolated?

I used to talk to my dad every day. 

When he went into the old age home, I still saw him every two or three days. I would either drive or ride my bike up there. We could talk on the phone even when I didn’t show up.

My dad died. Sooner or later, I guess that was going to happen.

My sister works full time, retail hours. At seventy-six years old, my mother is still operating a business.

Normally, I would speak to them on the phone maybe once or twice a week. There are times when we really don’t have much to talk about.

I used to have a few friends. They’re all gone now. Various things happen over the course of five, ten or fifteen years.

Some of them may still be out there, but I don’t much care to go looking. Perhaps that is just, for I was trying to change my life. Some of them might have been doing that as well.

I am estranged from my brother. In life, shitty things happen sometimes. I no longer see my brother, nor my two nephews. I used to go over there almost every day, especially after my dad died. I would sit there and watch TV. We were just goofing around. My brother knew people in their little neighbourhood which extended my own social circle.

I used to walk up the street and talk to a neighbour. I don’t live there anymore, that was the street where my buddy Bob lived. He moved away and I don’t know where he went. 

Sometimes it’s better not to go looking anyways.

Ran into a guy on the beach last year. He told me so-and-so died. That was quite a crew in its heyday. I’m not all that proud of it, but at least it was a crew, right? I had somewhere to go.

I’m not a member of the R/C fliers anymore. I dropped out of the writers group and never go out to the spoken word events anymore. I skipped the last convention we had locally. I don’t think I’ve been there in at least two or three years.

Days can go by when essentially I don’t speak to anybody. It’s like living in a kind of sensory deprivation. What it is, is social deprivation, and that’s why Facebook and other social media took off. There are plenty of social and gregarious people in the world. It’s not surprising that it caught on. But it also took me by surprise when I first got on there. I thought whoever invented that was a genius—and I was right, too.

To some degree it helps, as to whether this is a relationship, or merely an audience, I would say it is a bit of both. Whether performing or spectating, it really still is some kind of relationship.

If nothing else, it gives us the illusion of social interaction. It is active as opposed to passive, in the way that television is passive. It’s interesting that with rise of remote-controls, people’s use of TV changed. Now they change the channel more often—hundreds, possibly even thousands of times a day in some cases. They crank the volume up and down, set things to record and collect shows that will be repeated endlessly over time.

It’s even social in the sense that much of what viewers are looking at are people—you’re looking at pictures of people. Human interest stories are all over the place.

I haven’t had a TV in three or four years. On a very small pension, I just can’t afford it. Not with a phone and a computer on the internet, all at the same time. I suppose that’s why I liked going over to my brother’s house. I could sit there and watch Charlie Sheen, or Burn Notice, Hockey Night in Canada, (my brother’s obsession) or even just the Weather Network.

Living in an apartment building, I speak to one neighbour regularly at any length. I say hello to a half a dozen more. And that is the sum total of my social accomplishments in three and a half years.

It is also true that isolation is often used as a punishment.

An isolation tank or an extended period of isolation can induce neuroses or psychosis.

Here’s the straight dope on social isolation.


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