Cliff Nzombato

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Alone and lonely; fear of intimacy and embracing frequencey, how the internet is changing the way we think and have intimacy.

The generation X, we enjoy our state of frequency ( as in regularity) so we remain at it ( (in the tube, twitter, face book, texting, chat rooms and the Youtubification of our self to ourselves) but there remains the fear of intimacy on a subconscious level, which in so many ways create an active subterfuge and mask ourselves, this is all about the way we live today although we create all thing yet we fear ourselves.

The X generation is one of the most educated generations yet we have saturated the single dating chat rooms. Alone and lonely; fear of intimacy and embracing frequency. We seem to like, and actually fall in love with the medium more then we do of each other.
We say computers don't think but they are changed the way we think and how we relate to each other on so many levels. Especially on the matter of relationship, there re more people on the dating sights than in Parks, coffee shops and Restaurants in our growing cities today.

As a Social Worker that is what I see and hear as I travel around the world, an increase of fear to connect on a so call street level (people have become afraid of other people), however, people would freely talk to others only when they become strangers themselves or wear a mask, on the internet they call it “user name” in chat rooms, in the real world its like getting a bit of alcohol, thus increase in the rate of confidence in oneself.

The lack of physical touch and social network might increase high risk to depression and addiction, which might lead to the intake of anti depressants with detrimental sigh effects. There is a direct correlation between depression and lack of physical social network. We say that computers don’t think but they change the way we think.

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  • Nov 21 2011: Wow! This topic of discussion touches so many areas. Debra, I have to agree with you. A smile can make such a difference in a person's day. I'm a very smiley person. An elderly gentleman once told me that my smile was contagious. I was touched by that, the fact that just a smile had changed someone's day. Coupled with the thought that on a bleak day, just a walk at the lake, where people are generally friendly and chatting, can make all the difference.

    The thought that people are lonely and are unable to reach out, because they've been hurt. It saddens my heart, but it's such a reality of life. We're afraid of being vulnerable, so we hide behind a username and a computer. I've seen it....when people become so intrigued with the attention that they've been longing for, they're unable to let it go...sadly enough, they stay in cyberspace for years. They feel safe and powerful, but are unable to communicate sitting beside someone. So they miss out on the love and touch that we need to grow and be healthy. God made us to love and be loved, to have and to hold, to be gentle and kind to one another.

    I think the internet, texting, tweeting, etc are great tools. That being said, it's very sad to see it become a wedge between people. Couples watching a movie together and one is on Facebook updating their status. It's sad to think that we're so malnourished for attention and connection, that it comes to that....or the parents texting their children downstairs or their spouse in the garage. What happened to spending real time together, focused on each other, family time? Talking, touching, hugging...showing affection?

    In my opinopn, this is part of the problem, we take the quick and easy way out. In the end, people end up feeling disconnected, unimportant or ignored, including children/youth. They turn to other hurting friends or gangs to hang out with, they feel at least they care. The root of the problem is...they're hurting and they don't want to be vulnerable/exposed.
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    Nov 15 2011: Cliff -This is a great topic and a very important question. I will watch your suggested TED talks and learn. Then I hope to be able to get back here and make a contribution to this thread. I go slow so I have to watch the talks several times.
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      Nov 19 2011: Juliette Zahn
      I am currently traveling and making contact with people in the air ports around the world, I left Calgary to Ottawa, Ottawa to Frankfurt airport Germany and now am in Abuja Nigeria, where the temperature is great 25, clear skies and visibility, my dear, is as far as you can see, just simply, beautiful: the long and short story was that I went from -17 to plus 25 + and it feels really great! This update is typical of face book status update (what’s in your mind kinda stuff? Ok back to TED ! To the question of intimacy and the lack of it.

      We each in our own ways have to take considerable measures to care for one another as card carrying members of the human race, and just let the machines be! Although am expecting to hearing your thoughts on this matter: what would u say about your level of social interaction: 1= I need to go out and hug and be hug! While 10 = I get all my 8 hugs a day. Where do you rate yourself?
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        Nov 19 2011: 10 ++ I have myself on a steady diet of 18 hugs a day :-) :-) Any more and they are assigned into overage accumulated hug accounts which can be used any other day:-) :-)
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    Nov 13 2011: I see that there are and have always been a lot of lonely people who do not know how to connect or who do not know how to initiate connection. I cannot solve all the problems around me but I can be one person who is willing to make eye contact, to offer a hug to someone who needs one and to really see and hear people. I smile at everyone I see on the street and I make eye contact with them. Almost everyone smiles back at me but then I am a not a very threatening person but just a middle aged woman.

    Psychology and medicine have documented a condition called ' failure to thrive' where unloved and untouched babies fail to gain weight and some actually die from just not being touched and loved. I think it occurs in adults too but we have not connected the dots and we call it an epidemic of depression in our societies. Hugs are a bit trickier to administer because even when someone could use a hug some people are so wounded inwardly that the warmth of human touch is a bit like warming up frost bitten skin too quickly- it hurts them with its emotional intensity. If you are aware and sensitive you can tell which people want and need a hug and when it is OK to give one.

    What I am hoping to say is that we can only -but significantly- make a difference in one small exchange at a time. The great hope is though, that it becomes exponential rather than just a drop in the bucket. I hope that my little drops of love or of hugs or of smiles are added to enough others that some people get what they need and go on into their own spheres of life and starting dripping love to someone else.
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      Nov 13 2011: Derbra , thank you for your post: I actually read a few other studies that were done in this field. its a good thing to read your post and to see a practical real person contact on displace. we need to take the human race back it to its original social network.
  • Nov 13 2011: Not to be too pessimistic about this important issue, but consider the fact that the internet is a for-profit endeavor now. Every chat room and cyber-bsed meeting place is there for it's owners to make money. Our profiles and topics collectively make statistics-for-profit, and engender the idea that we can be understood and fulfilled alone, and that it is all we need. Being social creatures is more than texting phrases to each other, and now we feel we are "connected" when we never stop talking to the void of cyber space. Space by definition is a void, cyber or otherwise, and we fill it with chatter but we are, as you point out, more alone than ever. culturally we need to devalue the role of such "connections" and put them in perspective, for they pale in comparison to holding hands with another person in any context- love, kindness, compassion, generosity, support.

    The Internet's greatest value is it's ability to share ideas and information but it is useless in forming actual connections that matter to the soul of a person or community. If it was enough, we would cyber marry, and cyber raise kids, and cyber feed the hungry, and cyber celebrate momentous occasions . . . .any relationship we form on a computer can only be the beginning of a true connection, not an end in itself. The connection must still be formed in person- but many are too busy typing to go outside and make a physical effort to express themselves and touch each other. This idea removes the profit from the endeavor and will never be promoted online, except in places life TED!
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      Nov 13 2011: Dave
      I think if the internet continues to think for us it would become problematic, in the sense that we would lose decent people up in the dark wood of cyber spaced, displaced from their form and function in society. I understand that the internet has come to stay, that been said, it should not deprive us of our Natural Socialization objectives, the sanity of all humanity, Touching, Hugging, Smooching and good old Kissing.
      • Nov 14 2011: Cliff- "the sanity of all humanity" is the fiction to me- and "Nationalization Objectives" are rhetorical devices invented by corporations to get new markets to transform with their products- if there was no profit potential they would not lift a finger.. The implication fostered in part by the internet that we are somehow part of a global whole is the fallacy - our arrogance in assuming it is right to transform cultures everywhere based on their status as compared to ours- as if the west has it all figured out, or consumerism is the only way for people to be happy, when it is that attitude that forces indigenous cultures to disappear and be subsumed into the poor of the cities. Look at Mexico City after the 1985 earthquake as one example.

        In light of your response, please respond to my topic if you would. I really want to hear your opinion. and thanks!

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          Nov 14 2011: I think in so many ways, David, what the internet is fostering is real; if we deny its reality, we‘re presupposing that our collective narrative, suggesting the impact is just fictional and that the internet is not eroding our physical social contacts would be one of the grievous mistake in social discourse ever!! That assumption would rather be a fallacy But discussing its effect and correcting its impact would be the right direction to follow.

          The internet has created and is totally reconstructing the way we behave, how we physical make contacts, (touch) and also the way we think. This shift cause by the internet is comparable to Vatican 2, in paradigm shifts, affecting our social and cultural dynamics at every level.

          The internet is supposedly sharing the same impacts with other social changing technologies like roads, radio and telephones ie to improve our method of communication, not to replace it and to serve only as a mere means to an end; unfortunately the internet has become a life force, serving as the end rather then the means.

          David, I don’t think the internet is a mere passive tool without a soul or as you put it“The implication fostered in part by the internet that we are somehow part of a global whole is the fallacy”
          This machine is an aggressive tool and it appears to be invading the human soul: a huge deregulated high-per capitalist nonhuman force. And the sad thing about the internet is that, regulating it would be censorship of the highest order.

          We have to begin this pragmatic conversation in dealing with the invasion brought by the internet but to sit down and do nothing is a “fallacy”.
  • Dec 12 2011: We fear intimacy because we lack integrity.
    I don't think we so much "enjoy" it, as much as feel comfortable there, and don't have much experience anywhere else.
    I don't think we love the medium; we love all the things it brings us. We can't fall in love with each other until we learn to see beyond our selves.
    There are "security" cameras in parks, coffee shops and restaurants. In England even the children are afraid to go outside & play because of all the "security" cameras. On the internet, there is apparent anonymity. We talk to two people at once without them knowing of other. We think we go from site to site unseen, untracked.
    The "lack of physical touch" is a big big problem I think; (see James Prescott's )
    Anti-depressant prescription drugs should be a BIG no-no; especially in those younger than 25! I'm thinking many such problems can be better-fixed with a healthy diet (no MSG, no hydrogenated oil, no Aspartame[!!!], no high fructose corn syrup [in fact, I'd avoid ALL corn-products now that the GM corn has infiltrated the crops], etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. [no wonder portion-sizes have increased with all the crap they pack into our food]), & hugs. {HAHA Did you see that? "all-the-crap-they-pack-into-our-food-&-hugs"}
    IDK if computers have changed how we think. They've definitely changed how we act, though. T.V.s have changed how we think, I think, (and not for the better).
    Gary Vaynerchuk: But caring about your customers & caring about yourself was real nice, but he lost me at "just keep hustling." (Didn't watch the whole thing)
  • Nov 21 2011: hello cliff ,there was great thank you

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      Dec 6 2011: Don, sorry, I have been travelling for a bit now, am in Africa currently working on bringing change to a much oppressed population in a totally different demographic.
      Change is not a superficial element but an exodus, a kind that happen in two levels by consent or by force. They all have their place in our individual and collective history and biography

      I think your generation was force to be silent as a result they become resistance to change unconsciously: they do not want to easily let go or learn new concepts, change to them appear to take them back to the side lines of silence. Concerning integrity, I think integrity is a product these days you can buy or sell it and the socking thing is that some people who are suppose to care, they don’t care anymore, I think its time they go! In my profession if your “give a shit” button doesn’t work any more is time to go.: its not as simple as it seem but I hope you understand?
  • Nov 14 2011: I am passive about very little, Cliff, and my wife would certainly agree with that! I feel the Internet does offer a massive shift in our ability to understand and foster knowledge. What I would like to see is an Internet devoid of advertising and for-profit endeavors. It should be free for anyone and solely filled with information only. It can be the library of the future. In the US, the moment a city budget gets tight they close the libraries and city-sponsored art and culture projects- the last place we should try to save money. Our perspective is way off in general. I agree that more regulation is not the answer, but honoring anything that makes a profit is, by it's nature, ignorant of history and culture. I hate to see such a wonderful resource be reduced and belittled by commerce. What to do . . . .what to do.
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      Nov 14 2011: David, you have a good idea but I think it’s also a paradox; without the advertisement on the internet; who can we trust to pay for the information?

      The internet has become this god, a spiritual parasite that we can’t do without in so many ways; it’s a world in and outside our control, at the same time, there is some kind of symbiotic relationship between the soft user and the hard core user but the internet as the Beast would carry the day. Publicly funded internet would be like public Radio or the Library that get shut down when the budget is cut.

      I included internet on the list of addictive substance when asking my clients about any addiction and provided therapy for them in the same way I treat clients with drug addiction or any other substance abuse. I am not against profit but against marginalization and inequality. To answer your "what to do" question I think we rather ask ourselves what is it, that we are not doing?
      • Nov 14 2011: I wished I lived in Calgary to spend a weekend discussing this with someone as thoughtful as you. It is a paradox . . . . When you think of how it started- as a simple way to spread data and ideas among people connected by science and research contrasted with what it is now, it is staggering, not to mention how quickly it got there. Perhaps we will wind up with a "social net" and an "info-net" that are mutually exclusive of each other. That way, we can let people decide what they "need" it for- sort of like separating shopping malls from libraries. In the US they cut funding for public radio and people still pay for it to keep it going (unless that is just PR, I don't know). I would pay for Wikipedia and TED and many other sites, and pay gladly. We certainly give tax incentives to companies to encourage favorable activities (though favorable to whom is another question), so when motivated properly we can get what we want accomplished. I have to believe we can have a neutrality and openness in it's organization that we can run ethically and without purely financial incentives.

        Though, why is it that the moment I type those words I feel foolish and naive?
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      Nov 14 2011: So many people are facing so much pain which started with the person who was supposed to love them most. I feel so much compassion for your pain. I recently told my daughter who has fallen in love with someone who is absolutely in love with her too- to remember always to be kind. When someone loves you have had the power to unleash a nuclear winter on that soul and it seems as though you are in that place, Don.

      I was there a couple of years ago when my almost 30 year marriage ended when I got cancer and my ex had an affair with a young woman who is younger than some of my kids. (She also happened to be my financial advisor at my local credit union and you can imagine the injustices that arose out of that!) My world was pain. I share this, though, to say that I am not in pain any longer. I thought it would never stop- but it did. And the strangest thing happened- I began to see a life that was- to my great shock- better than the one I had before.

      I really believe that you will make that adjustment too. I am sorry for your level of PTSD and I hope that you make some good progress with it by getting a good counsellor. Sometimes you just have to make it across the desert and it feels like it will take the proverbial 40 years but we all have lessons to learn in that time that led us to a better way of life- within our own minds and within our selves.
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      Nov 14 2011: Don you're an amazing man and I hope you'll contine your thoughts on this post. I just read a few of your work and its impressive to say the least. I would love to meet you some day and listren to your wisdom and work with you to find ways we can help changer social "inn Justice" as you really put it. lets keep in touch and connect on another level. I think the problem with our world is that: Good people just do nothing!
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    Nov 14 2011: Cliff --

    I couldn't agree with you more. And, the proxy effect technology has on many dimensions of human psychology and relationship, is I agree, troubling.

    Saturday Night Live, of all media, communicates the illogic logic lack of non-techical touch is leading to.

    Warning, the video is a bit risque, in a humor-via-sly-geeks vernaculars way.

    But, hilariously ironic, I'd say. And, in the hopefully temporary absence of a fleshier alternative offering real-time non-tech mediated touch. It's at least something of a placebo to spark a couple of endorphins.

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      Nov 14 2011: Hi Don, Going through a divorce especially after a long term marriage is truly traumatic. PSTD is a very difficult condition so I am really glad you are able to particpate here on TED. We are glad you have found your way to us and this is a pretty great place to participate.
      Keep participating Don! Big hug to you for your new found courage too!
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    Nov 13 2011: Powerful post, Cliff. This is frequently on my mind also. There is so much to say on this subject, I'm almost afraid to start ;) Will be back later!
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      Nov 14 2011: Linda you're awesome, thank you so much for your contribution, take your time make sone contact, touch and be touch: a high five to ya !!
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    Nov 13 2011: Hello there Cliff .... great question !

    Its also been a concern of mine for some time now.

    Many of the public places where people would meet and chat, have been refurbished with T.V.'s and computers... banks, pubs, restaurants, coffee shops...etc. You can rarely stand in a line up now without someone pulling out an i-phone.

    This not only changes the way we interact, but also impacts on a person's solitude.

    I myself am very new to the whole chat-room experience, and although I was delighted to discover that some depth of relationship can be achieved, I have been far more reluctant to open up in a more personal manner.

    That being said, I am starting to loosen up a little... and I know the absence of body language is very strange to me... no matter how people compensate. This whole medium doesn't seem to allow for more soulful engagement, a deeper encounter.

    That being said, I have witnessed deep sensitivity and compassion in many of the postings ! I guess I have much to learn...I don't know! I tend to stay on a head level... and maybe that's something I will need to look at if I decide to hang around. There's certainly no shortage of good people here, with many wonderful intentions and ideas being expressed!

    One deficit for me is that I am very aware of the fact that the postings are being monitored, not only by other participants, but also by the TED-conversation team, who are trying to assist as best they can!

    But this whole process tends to make me very self-conscious... and many would claim this is a good thing. The downside however, for me, is a guarded spontaneity, something I rarely experience in other contexts !

    Freedom to be, and express, my true Self is one of my highest values !

    Thanks for your question!
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      Nov 14 2011: Denis, I am glad you are here too.
      Here is something to lift your spirits and hopefully make you less self aware and more joyfully spontaneus!

      (I saw him do it in concert last tour in London Ontario.)
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        Nov 14 2011: Hi Debra...

        I'm not sure why you thought my spirits were down, but thank you for the link none-the-less !

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      Nov 14 2011: Hi Debra and Denis!

      A perfect lullaby as I go off to dreamland, Debra. Thank you for posting it...I was in just that kind of mood today.

      There is a difference between hanging out in one's living room with good friends, and being in a conversation for all to see. I hear you there. Like Grey's Anatomy - when observing surgery from the viewing room above. The transition from privacy and holding things close to the chest, versus transparency and open source environments is a monumental shift in culture. Will certainly be interesting to see how it unfolds over time. Today I wished I'd be around to see our world 100 years from now.

      Nevertheless, many of us are glad you're here. You seem like one who is comfortable long as there are good people around. :D
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        Nov 14 2011: Hi Stranger...Ha!

        How are ya?

        You always seem so relaxed...except for the very odd time...and I wonder how you do it?

        Can you help me understand what you meant by this...or suggest some reading !?

        "The transition from privacy and holding things close to the chest, versus transparency and open source environments is a monumental shift in culture."

        Sounds to me like a great Topic for this site, or perhaps its already been done (if so, do you know where?)

        Honestly Linda... this has been such an eye-opener... and with so many unknowns... but that's been the story of my life ! And as to my comfort level ... well ... it didn't matter who I was with... I drank with them all ! But it was my solitude that sustained me...

        Anyway... its nice to see you again!
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          Nov 14 2011: Drank with them all...past tense? :) I have no idea why that stands out amidst all the other gems. (laughing!)

          Relaxed? Yes, I suppose I am these days...relative to earlier times. One of the benefits of aging is knowing yourself, don't you think? It's my favorite part of being over 40 ;) I can't think of any reading right now but I'll get back to you on it. There are some great TED Talks on the subject too. :)

          It's always an eye opener for me too. I get it. Upside and downsides to everything I suppose. I'll share more about that another time. I like the Rilke line on solitude....always loved that.
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        Nov 14 2011: Geez...

        I even need to be careful of my language tenses..? Besides being a you edit too? Ha!