Telecommunication is excommunication

Nov 18, 2020


Tin cans connected by ethernet cable
Credit: pxfuel

Sometimes signals mean their opposite. It seems like communications technology should bring us together, but in practice it pulls us apart.

Telecommunication provides an illusion of closeness. Facebook is like “Friendship: The Video Game” — there’s even a number to keep score with.

The first time I realized this, I was on the phone with my family on the West Coast. At the same time, someone was moving in next door. I realized I kept in closer touch with people hundreds or thousands of miles away than down the street.

The greatest human separation in history, our current pandemic lockdown, could only have been possible because of our telecommunication-enhanced isolation. Our economies have suffered, but as little as ten or fifteen years ago we would have been unable to avoid economic catastrophy.

The horse has kind of left the barn on this one. We’ve accepted technological isolation without fully understanding the effects on society. These shock waves are reshaping us.

But while you can’t change the hand you’ve been dealt, you can change how you choose to play it. Listen, I work in tech, I carry a smartphone, I’m knee deep on social media. But I try to focus on how I can use them rather than letting them use me (pro tip: treat social media like a slot machine — once you see something good, “cash out” by signing off).

Isolation is inhumane, and telecommunication enables it. We’re living in an inhumane age. Let’s remember that as we struggle.




Lifelong musician, quarter century programmer, recent writer. Punk Buddhism, Bike Party Party, Practice Uncertainty