From “Loneliness” by Emily White

April 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Researchers stress that whole areas of our lives have become open to commercial intervention…

In a recent issues of “Psychology and Marketing”, two authors remind store owners that many people at malls are there because they’re lonely. Because of this and in order to maximize sales, merchants are to highlight the personal (cue the homey sofas and friendly baristas at Starbucks) and downplay the real goal, which is the sale of goods for cash. With the market having delved into the more private reaches or our personal lives, we’re left with a situation in which our ties might look the same as they did fifty years ago, but feel quite different. Connections might remain in place, but there might be less heart and content to them. The culture overall, stress academics such as Hohschild, might become “cooler”, offering us more chances to buy things, but fewer chances to connect.
And it’s important to not that the market, which is gradually closing in on what used to be considered “personal” is quite rapidly eating away at the natural world. Over the course of just the last thirty-five years, populations of marine and terrestrial species have declined by a rate of about 30 percent. A conservative estimate of the extinction rate pegs it at about 800 species a day, or 27,000 species a year, with many estimates suggesting that half of the plants and animals in the world will be gone by the year 2100.
It may seem odd to drop an endangered pine marten into a discussion of loneliness, and this is because we usually conceptualize the state as a gap or shortcoming in interpersonal relations — we see it as a state of lacking intimacy with the people around us. While this definition is no doubt accurate, it can’t be said to be exhaustive.
Without species diversity, environmental psychologists warn, we’ll necessarily feel more alone. It’s for this reason that E O Wilson, a Harvard professor who is one of the world’s leading conservation, has described ours at the “Age of Loneliness.”  He is not speaking metaphorically. He means that, as we continue to let species perish, we’re inevitably going to feel more isolated and bereft in the world they’ve left behind. With loneliness conceptualized in this reasonable way — as a state that reflects, at least in part, our ties to the world around us — it’s impossible to think that the extinction rate can climb upward while the loneliness rate remains unchanged. Environmental losses will translate into personally felt absences. What’s different about environmental loss is it’s quiet nature. There’s no one storming out, no one slamming a door or leaving a hastily written note. Rather, extinction is a gradual, perpetual, and silent good-bye — a disappearance we might not even notice until we start to feel empty, and then notice that the world we’re living in has become quieter, less vivid, and a lot more lonely.
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species are perhaps the most obvious indicator of loss. It’s relatively easy to estimate species diversity over time and then calculate what’s gone missing. It’s slightly harder to do this with personal relationships, but the same overall pattern of a slow vanishing appears if you compare sociability levels from the 1970s to those of today. Compared to  thirty or forty years ago, we’re spending more time alone, seeing less of our friends and family, spending more time at work, losing confidants at a grater rate, glorifying aloneness, and allowing the commercial to slowly undermine the personal.”
pp 226 &228
-Thank you Emily White for tackling this uniquely sad topic of our times, may you always find connection, love, and comfort
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