The Internet, social networks, and online streams have become a staple of modern life. Almost every person with access to the Web is influenced in some way by the infinite amount of information. The Internet connects far-flung corners of the world at a previously unimagined level. Yet, despite the increasing digitalization and intensifying communication, depression, loneliness, and psychological anxieties are also on the rise. Understanding how the Internet affects human lives is essential in ascertaining the reasons for the growing loneliness in the intrinsically connected world.
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First, the Internet causes disproportionate information overload. Any user is exposed to hundreds of advertisements, news stories, videos, and images of people engaging in endless positive activities. The onslaught of content featuring high points of other people’s lives forces users to compare their own lives to the ones presented on the screens. Users feel anxiety because they think that they do not enjoy similar benefits or pleasures. This feeling is further reinforced by the constant bombardment with more images and stories of impressive experiences. As a result, comparison-driven anxiety upsets many people, making them feel that they are missing out.
Second, the virtual environment is so absorbing that users forego real-life communication. Smartphones, computers, and other electronics create the illusion of interaction. In many cases, people even prefer to text their loved ones rather than give them a call. However, the real danger lies in the strong immersion the Internet creates. It is easy to get caught up in an endless cycle of consuming virtual content. The Web always has something for a user to watch, read, or listen to. Considering all the time spent on the Internet’s distractions, it is no surprise that people find themselves not having time for actual communication without any gadgets involved.
Third, Internet-related activities exist on the basis of diminishing returns. The more time is spent doing something enjoyable, the less pleasure is derived from this activity. This formula applies to everything that does not require ingenuity, from watching videos to browsing the news feed. In the past, people had far less access to their favorite pastimes involving screens. They would return to mundane life without sating their need for more. In contrast, now, there is always something to indulge oneself in, thus, devaluating the pleasure. Therefore, excess information and the weakening ability to appreciate simple things make people lonely and depressed.