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Does Technology Isolate or Connect?

Yes and no.

There are those who feel that technology isolates us from the world. I maintain that, while it's certainly a tool that can be misused, it can still be a tool for connection.
A photorealistic image of a person sitting at a desktop computer, writing an email. The computer screen displays the email message, clearly starting with 'Dear Mom,'. The setting is a cozy home office with personal items like family photos, books, and a coffee mug.
(Image: DALL-E 3)

This may be my biggest partial turnaround in the last 20 years.

Folks sometimes complain that today’s technology isolates people, and — depending on the ferocity of their opinion — is leading to society’s moral decay and eventual collapse.

It’s become clear in the last few years that specific technologies can be abused, and there’s plenty of evidence that moral decay and collapse is happening as we speak.

I still see technology as part of the solution, but I absolutely concur it’s also part of the problem.

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Embracing and connecting with technology

Technology can isolate or connect us depending on how we use it. While it contributes to societal issues, it’s also a powerful tool for meaningful connection. Embracing technology can foster community and help maintain relationships. Technology provides tools; any solution to the problems we see lies in how you and I choose to use those tools.

A story of success

Some of my most rewarding interactions follow this pattern:

  • Someone has a computer problem preventing them from doing something important.
  • They come to me for help.
  • I help either directly or with something that eventually leads to a solution.
  • Sometime later, I hear the problem has been resolved. Yay!
  • The “something important” turns out to be remaining in contact with out-of-the-area family or other forms of community connection.

These experiences are especially meaningful to me when the person reporting back turns out to be in their eighties or nineties and my help has allowed them to remain connected not only across miles (perhaps thousands of miles), but across generations.1

Helping Grandma remain connected with the grandkids absolutely makes my day.

Forming communities

For nearly 20 years, my wife and I have hosted the annual Pacific Northwest Corgi Picnic. Corgi owners from around the region bring their dogs to our home for an afternoon of fun in our (fenced) backyard. We’ve had as many as 150 dogs with as many people. You may have heard of a similar event, the So Cal2 Corgi Beach Day, where over 600 dogs (or more) attend.

These are events — in-person, real-world events — that would not take place were it not for the technology that surrounds us. The technology enabling you to read this permits entirely new communities to form.

From Corgi picnics (there are several around the country)3 to Meetup groups to Kickstarter projects and more, groups come together in new and exciting ways — ways that would not have been as easy, or even possible, before technologies ranging from simple email (the genesis of our picnic) to Facebook (responsible for the overwhelming success of the SoCal effort) and more.

On the other hand

Much has been written over the past few years about the negative effects of technology. I won’t rehash it other than to acknowledge how social media4 has led to dramatic divisions in our country and others, as well as the presumably social-media-related increase in depression among youth.

It’s complicated. On one hand, you can argue that social media is bringing the left together and the right together while simultaneously driving left and right apart. The isolation any group has within their bubble of information has dramatically decreased tolerance for information not aligned with that group’s preconceived ideas. The “truth” has little to do with it.

I admit I have no solution, or at least no practical solution.

What I do believe, though, is that the solution is about people, not technology.

Technology doesn’t isolate people

People isolate people. People “other” people. People don’t look outside of their information bubble. People don’t question what they’re fed online.

It’s all about people.

I honestly don’t understand the concern that technology is isolating. As I sit here behind my computer, I feel more connected than I ever would have had computers and the internet never been born. I interact with more people daily — online and in person — than I ever could have in previous decades.

Blaming technology for isolation may be scapegoating it for something that would have happened anyway. People isolate themselves regardless of what’s available to them.

Just because they’re not willing or able to connect with you in the way you want or about the topics you care about doesn’t mean they’re isolating themselves. It’s very possible — even likely — that they’re more connected than you know, using technologies you’ve elected to pass by. Even the kids spending time on their mobile devices are typically using those devices to connect, though it may be in ways you and I are unfamiliar or even uncomfortable with.

Get connected

Don’t fear the technology. Get connected. Get comfortable getting connected.

  • Learn the tools. Explore email, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Facetime, SnapChat, even TikTok or whatever else it is your friends and the kids you know are using these days. :-)
  • Write an email rather than lamenting that no one writes letters anymore. Email is just a letter sent electronically. They’re just as appreciated.
  • Join an online discussion or Meetup group related to your interests. It could be local, leading to in-person events, or it could be global, creating interactions you never would have dreamed possible in years gone by.
  • Embrace new ways of connecting with the world and the people around you.
  • Make a difference. Be it to someone (perhaps an overseas grandchild who has never heard your voice) or to some cause, use technology to make the world a little better.
  • Step outside of your information bubble. Rather than branding them as evil, learn more about those with opinions different than your own. The information is out there.
  • Share what you learn with others. That will connect you to even more people in ways you can’t imagine.

Even in the face of headlines that scream “Fake News!” or “Beware Your Privacy!”,  I’m more excited than ever by the possibilities for connection and community across our planet. It’s turning out to be messier and more work than I envisioned when I originally wrote this — but technology is a tool, and it’s up to us to wield it appropriately.

I hope you’ll share that excitement and take action, however small, to embrace it.

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Footnotes & References

1: I don’t tear up easily, but when I do, it’s almost always a scenario like this.

2: Southern California – the event was held at Huntington Beach, near Los Angeles.

3: I don’t know what it is about Corgi people, but it’s a thing. Apparently, we’re somewhat crazy.

4: More specifically, the algorithms implemented by the major social media players.

35 comments on “Does Technology Isolate or Connect?”

  1. When I started using Facebook, I located a few of my old high school and neighborhood friends and organized a small reunion when I returned home one summer. Connecting through friends of friends, I am now in contact with well over half of my old friends. I probably send more emails and chat messages in a week than all of the personal letters I’ve ever written in my life. Needless to say, technology has in no way isolated me.

    I used to use Skype to stay in contact with my children and grandchildren (I live in Germany, and they are in the US). Now I’ve switched to phoning, but those free international phone calls are also a result of internet technology as all of those calls go through VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) as my phone service is provided by my ISP. Many times we’re using the internet without even realizing it.

  2. I have to counter this to some degree. People now think that EVERYONE has a social media account and they look at you like you’re a Communist or weirdo if you don’t. Same thing with a cellphone.

    My 30th high school reunion came last year and if a friend hadn’t mentioned it I’d never have known…and I’ve continued to live here all of those 30 years. People have assumed that everyone uses Facebook. Websites seem to think I own a cellphone and pester me about it for ‘security’ benefits. I have a copy of every video I’ve ever posted and if somebody ruins it I don’t really care anymore. None of it was done for money.

    Now, it’s not just about some privacy issue. I really don’t need a website to keep track of my loved ones though…I have email and a telephone package with fixed long distance. My mother doesn’t even go online.

    If I need to buy something or find a location or contact information, it’s something I can do at home and I don’t need a phone to find it. I don’t even own a car so it’s highly unlikely I’m going very far to get it.

    And I’m on a fixed income (no, neutered) so the issue of food vs. cellphone is solved. But when people become so lost in social networking that they forget to even send a letter to tell me my own class reunion is near, that’s not cool. I skipped it and had a great bike ride listening to the oldies station on my AM radio.

    Like I was doing 30 years ago. I don’t remember half of those people anyway but for a minute between classes.

    If people don’t like to answer their cellphones, they aren’t always worth an email.

  3. I definitely agree with Steven. When our children and grand children come to visit us they seem to be on these dam phones or ipads or whatever they are called, texing or playing games. No time to visit. We do have a cell phone, but it is turned off. It is turned on only when I have to use it. I believe in new technology, but I think there is very little social life and communication between people.

  4. I couldn’t agree more. As someone who’s a bit shy I’ve always known it’s up to me to get out there and brave the social world; when I don’t, it’s on me. The Internet offers a world of opportunities to do that, whereas my physical environment is fairly limited. It’s made me more intelligent, more aware, more involved civically, more connected to the world in general, and, socially speaking, broadened my conversational range because it’s so easy to keep up with not only current events but an almost limitless variety of interesting subjects. I’m still shy, it’s my natural inclination, but the Internet has had a very positive impact on me.

  5. I have watched people isolate themselves with TV and a recliner. It does not take the internet. The internet only speeds things up for better or worse.

    In my town with 100 year old homes, the front porch and after dinner walks were the social media of the time. Even in the 1960s I remember sitting on the porch of our post war suburban home and greeting the neighbors that would walk by after dinner.

  6. You probably forgot newsgroups (countless of them) which do help people a lot especially newbies to any specific area of life.

    The newsgroup may not be related to computers but to any sport / activity or tourism or any sphere of life.

    Newsgroups have helped many (myself included) though not specifically to isolate but to bring people together in a noble and more humane way.


  7. Guess I should have clarified I was agreeing with YOU, Leo. By the time I submitted, other replies had already posted. As someone also on a ‘neutered’ income, I prioritize when it comes to money, like anyone else. I don’t have cable TV, satellite radio or a Internet pkg. on my cell, just a basic low-minutes & text deal. If the TV dies, there won’t be another one. When it comes to my high-speed Internet connection, though, I’ve chosen it over just about everything else including food a few times when things were particularly dire. I joined FB early on for about 5 months and found it sucked up an inordinate amount of my time reading posts of incredible banality, so I dropped it. Do I see its value for others? Definitely. If we choose to stay out of social media we are certainly left out to an extent. If we don’t adapt to the everchanging world we will be left behind, as it always has been. That’s the way it is, like it or not, but it is a choice. To choose to opt out of the mainstream and then blame others for not chasing after us is counterintuitive. I have grandkids also; it’s up to the parents to teach basic manners. Beyond that, it’s also up to us to be at least interesting enough to warrant their attention, and to be understanding of their teenage inclinations to connect obsessively with their friends. They’re no different than we were back in the day, when our parents would have to hound us to “stop tying up the phone”.

  8. I agree to a certain extent that technology allows people to connect. On the other hand, it can also allow crazies into your life. I sell my unwanted items on Craigslist occasionally and some of the responses I have gotten to my ads have frightened me badly. Believe me, there are a lot of people out there with whom you DO NOT want to connect and I believe that the internet allows these predators easier access to victims, especially older retired seniors such as myself.

  9. I find today’s technology a joy. Now that my large family have long left home – some to the far corners of the globe – I would feel very alone without my iPad and even my phone. I enjoy Facebook, reading what my grandchildren are getting up to, and if some of the comments from ‘friends’ are rubbish I can easily de-friend them. I can watch TV programmes whenever I want on ‘catch-up’, not at the times they are scheduled. I don’t have to trudge down the high street to book an airfare or a hotel. I certainly wouldn’t be without it!

  10. Leo, you may want to invite HM The Queen to one of your Corgi Picnics! She owns and breeds many, although I suspect camping may be one step too far at the age of 89!

  11. Yes, no, maybe… Ok, I absolutely agree with our ability to reach out and “meet” people that were before unreachable. We can Skype, e-mail, chat, all kinds of wonderful options for us to communicate exist today. I am however still concerned that the constant electronic “presence” and our “need” to be connected is having a detrimental effect. Here is a story: My wife and I were celebrating our 20 something anniversary (this year we are 28 so I really don’t remember which one it was) and we were sitting in a restaurant. I remember looking over at a young man and young woman sitting across from each other in a booth. The young lady looked as though she really wanted to be connecting with the young man, but he spent the bulk of his time looking down into his lap where he was busy with his phone. That made me rather sad, I also get rather sad when I see an adult walking a child and they have a phone glued to their head and do not have an interaction with the child. I am aware that both of these examples are by choice, people choose to spend their time with others, or with devices. Devices have a place, I just fear a bit that they are replacing some actual “face time”. :-)

  12. As someone who remembers the end of WWII, saw his first TV at age 10, and remembers when the Operator had to place all long distance calls, the march of technology has been fascinating…and it definitely has *connected* people more than ever. Decades ago it would have been surreal to even dream of a free video call with my daughter when she’s halfway around the world in a hotel room or a taxi. Now it’s an ordinary event. I can send friends pictures taken at 40,000 feet…while still in flight. Yes, some do immerse themselves in web surfing, or send texts across the room instead of talking, to the detriment of their social skills. But we are more connected than ever, able to instantly reach out to many when there’s a reason to do so (or not). And 50 years from now…

  13. Tonight I was typing some thoughts that came into my head into Evernote. Then I began to think of all the “young people” who are in large numbers spending a lot of time looking and typing on their phones. I was thinking about what they actually do when they are on the smartphone. I imagine texting and messaging rank high on the list. Mmmmm, you mean they’re communicating with another person?

    Coming from a generation where all the kids I know wrote at most half a dozen letters a year, and most of those were thank you letters for birthday presents. Now kids are writing like crazy, and getting criticized for it? Progress just seems to scare some people. They feel like now it’s reach a tipping point and it’s gone too far.

    One seemingly valid criticism is that spelling and grammar are going out the window. Yeah, but is it really the texting that’s killing grammar. When I was in school we never spoke with good grammar to each other, and a lot of swearing. But we still learned to write and speak properly when we needed to. Maybe they’re not failing us. Maybe we’re failing them.

    • I’m always on my phone. I communicate with more people than I was ever able to before, most of it by text. And it’s top notch communication, keeping in touch on a regular basis. I keep in touch with grandkids and even organize large events. I also read more books than I ever have before with my Kindle for phone, and often even do work while I’m waiting in line. I’m definitely more connected and love it.

  14. Leo,

    Sometimes, in our case, at least, constant changes and/or limitations
    re accessing important sites definitely constitute barriers to communications.
    Same outcome with “noise,” pop-up ads, concerns about unknown sites and
    other barriers to viable two-way, effective communication. JAS

  15. There is one aspect of this technology that does cause isolation. Organisations can use computers, robots… to form an almost impenetrable barrier between it and it’s captive customer. Try cancelling an order or changing account details with a Utility.

  16. What really isolates people is not having an internet account or using technology. Try being in school without internet or computer/phone and your teacher assigns homework electronically. Does it get in the way of personal contacts, sometimes, but it also allows a person to contact people all across the world that they never would have known were there without technology. Governments post all kinds of information online now, information that they had to print before, allowing people to learn facts about their country.

    • I’m all for technology but I believe many institutions over use technology in cases where non-tech solutions would be better. I teach in a technical university and all homework and class exams are taken online. I’m all for putting the homework online but it’s dangerous giving exams online. Last week the WiFi was down when the students were about to take an exam. Luckily, it came back on after a few minutes. So, I believe the problem isn’t technology. Technology is a tool like any other. The problem is using the incorrect tool or using the tool incorrectly.

  17. I have seen technology isolate families. For example, instead of actually visiting, or sending a real-world letter or card at birthday / xmas times, all they get from each other is a face-book prompted “happy whatever” with no thought or empathy involved.
    It also isolates those who WANT to be isolated – with anonymity so easy to achieve, trolls and bullies have a field day harrassing others.

    It also can bring people together. I have seen success stories where people have found each other online, and turned it into a real-world relationship, and lived happy contented lives.

    Information (particularly personal information) has been made into another commodity that can be bought and sold, twisted and manipulated. The truth becomes whatever gets repeated the most, and the internet can repeat something a LOT.

    Technology is definately a triple-edged sword.

  18. I agree with the Senior who said that he occasionally sells things on Craigslist, in that their are a number of crazies who can contact him. Not to many people seem to know this, but there is an alternate definition for the word Paranoia. And here it is: Just because your Paranoid, does not mean that someone is not out to get you! I also think that those who do not have the motivation or the ability to connect face to face with the general public, technology is a good thing. As a Christian, I do not let anything get in the way of my undivided worship and relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. Technology can have the tendency to become an idol in a persons life, just like many other things.

  19. It does both Isolate and connect, face time with the grandchildren is great but without occasional real world contact becomes less than. Technology allows me to have contacts from all over the world some people i have never met in real life and others i have met on holidays and can now keep in contact with.

    For disabled and elderly (my father is 95 and uses a computer daily) it can be a huge benefit, connecting when otherwise they would be isolation, so as Mark has said technology is a tool. Having grown up in a world where there were no mobile phones, no internet , where connecting meant getting on your bike and riding to your friends to hang out this modern world seems a little disconnected. We have as a species still not matured with our use of technology but in 20 or 50 years time it may all be moot as evolution of human condition adapts to the new norm.

    For me, the Look up video encapsulates my feelings exquisitely

  20. It does both Isolate and connect, face time with the grandchildren is great but without occasional real world contact becomes less than. Technology allows me to have contacts from all over the world some people i have never met in real life and others i have met on holidays and can now keep in contact with.

    For disabled and elderly (my father is 95 and uses a computer daily) it can be a huge benefit, connecting when otherwise they would be isolation, so as Mark has said technology is a tool. Having grown up in a world where there were no mobile phones, no internet , where connecting meant getting on your bike and riding to your friends to hang out this modern world seems a little disconnected. We have as a species still not matured with our use of technology but in 20 or 50 years time it may all be moot as evolution of human condition adapts to the new norm.

    For me, the Look up video encapsulates my feelings exquisitely

  21. Like almost all other things, there are both benefits AND drawbacks to being “connected” (mostly, via the Internet).

    An actual example:

    I have always been sentimental, even as a very young kid*. I owned a much-beloved 33-1/3 rpm children’s record album — VERY decrepit. I badly wanted a new, fresh copy! But it was obscure, by an almost totally unknown record company. Where, in my small town, would I ever find such a thing…?!?


    At the age of twelve, I sighed and gave up on the idea that such a thing would ever be possible…


    The Internet has changed EVERYTHING. Today, things are not only possible, but ROUTINE, that would have been not only impossible, but UNTHINKABLE, even as recently as the 1980’s.

    Today, I actually HAVE a copy of that record — plus at least one other! — that I had once despaired of ever acquiring. I have also been able to download the theme songs to many of my old favorite cartoon shows, from Prince Planet to Gigantor, to Astro Boy, to Gumby, and even Little Audrey! Sometimes the actual SHOWS are even available for download!

    Anyone who thinks our interconnected world is a curse, needs to reconsider the issue much more carefully than they are currently doing.

    Yes, like almost all other things, there are both benefits AND drawbacks to being “connected.”

    Enjoy our brave new world, folks; it only gets better from here! :)

    *And on THAT subject, I MUST make note of a primer on writing children’s books that I read once. “Kids are never sentimental,” it said, earning my instantaneous disgust, not only for that totally unjustified statement, but also for its use of the word “never,” a word which people tend to use FAR too carelessly!

  22. It connects but also isolates. Would day 49% connection, and 51% isolation. Or perhaps the other way around. Maybe half and half. So the bottom line answer is: it does both. So now having determined that, what can we DO about it. The figures, if not shocking, are at least disturbing. The issue has to be dealt with somehow, so let’s now get together and try to devise a solution.

  23. I certainly believe technology has advantages. But like a lot of things in this world there has to be a balance. I use email, text and whatsapp with family and close friends and thats it. No Facebook, or tiktok or the hundreds? of other social media apps out there, because my time is my time and if I don’t want to share it it is my decision. I don’t believe I am insular and I am very outgoing with people I know and I am not interested in what is going on in other peoples lives unless they have an influence on me or my family. By that I mean politicians and suchlike. I don’t care about influencers or personalities. Call me boring and I will only see that if you respond to this email. I wasn’t going to respond to this thread so have broken my principle but only this once. Leo asked Isolate or connect. I answer Both in reason.

  24. I’m in my 70s, and I’ve formed my opinions, based on my decades of life experience, not what others tell me to think, and I start with respect for other people, unless/until they show me they don’t deserve it. Essentially, I believe that what’s good for the goose (me), is good for the gander (others). I assert that everyone has a right to their own opinion on any given topic, as well as the right to voice that opinion. No one has the right to push/force their opinions on anyone else. In other words, you can say what you think, but you can’t expect me to agree with you.

    With all that said, as Leo says, technology is a tool, and it can be used for good, or ill. I choose to connect with others, so I engage with them in any way I can. I’m a GNU/Linux guru-wanna-be/enthusiast, so I joined “It’s FOSS” (, a GNU/Linux website for GNU/Linux enthusiasts/newbies. On “It’s FOSS”, I engage with other members/visitors on the community site ( I have developed friendships with people from the Middle-East, Germany, Australia, and all around the world.

    I enjoy experimenting with my computer, so I write (usually long) posts about my adventures (each adventure is a new experiment) on “It’s FOSS community”, to share my experiences, and what I’ve learned from each adventure. My fellow FOSSers often respond with suggestions or observations about what I write. The greatest fun I have with writing those posts is that I never know where the discussion will go after I publish my latest experience/adventure. I usually find that I learn as much from my fellow FOSSers responses as I do from any single adventure/experiment I embark on. The rules of engagement on “It’s FOSS” are similar to those here, on Ask Leo. Treat each other with respect, and never verbally abuse those with whom you interact, or engage in vulgarity (children may be watching).

    As for technology polarizing/isolating us, that can be rectified with education/training. I agree with Leo when he says, “It all depends on how we use it”. When you give your children access to a smartphone or computer (or start using one yourself), teach them/yourself how to use it (and the attitude needed), then monitor their/your activity, and look for educational opportunities. If they/you have a social media account, pay attention to their/your behavior/mood. If they/you seem a bit down, try to find out why (they/you could be victims of social media abuse), and try to guide them/yourself regarding how to handle the issue. Knowing that you actively care, could make all the difference for them/you. On the other hand, your children/you could be the social media abusers (not victims), so you should be open to that possibility. If you find they/you are, try to find a way to teach them/yourself to do better than that, just as your parents did for you when you were young. If you use social media, and you encounter objectionable/abusive content, report it. When/if you encounter misleading information, call it out for what it is as politely as you can (abusing back never helps), using verifiable facts to support your response, then ignore any abusive retorts.

    This is my attitude toward technology, and how I use it. I hope something I’ve said here helps others,

    Ernie (Oldster)

  25. I agree with Larry Giacobbo
    May 5, 2015 at 9:16 am
    …. “When our children and grand children come to visit us they seem to be on these dam phones or ipads or whatever they are called, texing or playing games. No time to visit.”…

    I did this with books when I was younger. It disconnected me from everyone around me. When you are present with someone, the cell screen should go off and in your pocket. Look around, be aware of people, even strangers, try talking to someone and/or listening to someone. There should be a social rule along the lines of “when present with people, put it away”.

    One of the problems with the tech also is that.. Facebook isn’t showing you Twitter isn’t showing you xxSocialxxWhateverxx … So if you’re on Twitter, not on FB. . . etc… You may not reach other people.

    Another thing someone gave the example of being able to reconnect via FB for a gathering high school friends. Sir, that’s true of any medium even just plain telephones. I could call someone from highschool days who knew of someone else, and so forth, and we could connect a lot of people. The primary issue here being whether these people want to be connected, and also how far you went breaking ties via normal communication systems. But even FB at some point is just another normal social connection for reconnecting to other people.

    I might call X, they look up Y on FB, who runs into someone at a grocery store, who finds A via twitter, who finds another person by calling their phone number from 20 years ago, who finds…. get the idea? just 1 link in a chain.

    The problem is more the magnet that draws your eyes away from the world (people) around you, than it is just FB or just a game or whatever. Nothing should be done for more than 3 hours straight. It releases so much dopamine that it drains you and you do it more and more becoming a negative addictive behavior.

    • “I could call someone from highschool days who knew of someone else, and so forth, and we could connect a lot of people.” I got in touch with over 50 high school friends in a couple of weeks and got together with about a dozen people. That would have taken months to organize and with expensive phone calls. Ask any class reunion planning committee how social media has helped them. and telephones are primitive social media devices that were once frowned upn by many.

  26. As a final thought to my earlier post, the thing that’s isolating us is not social media, it’s how we use it. Social media is a tool, nothing more. Whether it’s good or evil is up to us, the users.


    Ernie (Oldster)


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