On the basic social disconnection that underlies addiction
“I think that—and I should be careful about how I say this, but—I do think using Facebook sometimes feels like using heroin,” Vivek Murthy, the recent-past U.S. Surgeon General, said yesterday.
The comment came at the Aspen Ideas Festival, in a room with green tape on the floor in the shape of a rectangular box, along with about 100 people who came to participate in a sort of experiment about social isolation and ideological polarization. The session was called “Creating Connections in a Divided World.”
At the start, Murthy noted that Americans report being twice as lonely today as compared to the 1980s, and that this is a serious health concern. The question before us was, why the loneliness? Why do we divide and isolate ourselves? The setup was simple. A moderator posed a series of questions to the group. For example, if you could be a fabric, would you be silk or corduroy? Everyone was then supposed to choose a side, and then physically move toward one side of the big green box or the other, depending on how strongly they identify with a given answer. One of the more interesting prompts was: Do you identify more as a hand-shaker, or a hugger? It turns out almost everyone is a hugger. At least, they say they are—the handshake is still the default. It turns out that our former surgeon general is also a hugger, I note.