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Social Isolation and the Mystery of Daily Programming

I’ll admit it.  I woke up this morning and when I sat down to write a post for AKA.CLouise,  I had nothing.  In fact, less than no idea on what to write, I just didn’t want to write.  I felt empty somehow, like I was missing something, and like I was meant to be somewhere doing something else.  I wanted to be active, to be engaged with – something.

And I couldn’t figure out what, but writing, a rewarding but sometimes very isolating endeavor, was not it.

So I decided to hop onto YouTube and watch an episode of Last Week Tonight.  Something to distract myself from the feeling while I mulled over ways to reinvigorate my productivity.

Now, I don’t have a television, and I don’t normally watch much of anything anymore – movies, TV Shows… in fact, cartoons do make up the wide majority of the small amount of pre-packaged entertainment I actually do consume.  So it was surprising to me when I found my spirits immediately lifted by a familiar face, by a familiar voice, and by the laughter and groans of the audience in the background, more so because the episode was about the past two weeks of non-stop, treason-level scandals coming from the Trump White House.

I watched all twenty-four minutes of the episode, feeling the high of watching one of my favorite television hosts wane as the episode came to a close, and all the while the realization that this – my day’s worth of televised “programming” – was a clear replacement for actual, face-to-face social engagement.

It made me miss the conversations I have with my family and friends, made me miss eating breakfast with my partner in the morning (his job now has him up and out before I wake), and in general miss the beautiful gift and curse that is human contact.

Now, this has only happened this morning, but the extent of my depression, and the similarity between the feeling I had been nursing before deciding to watch the video – and then again afterward – makes me wonder how much of mental illness might be spurred on by our culture of fast-paced work and passively enforced, structural isolation.

Suburbs are purposefully constructed to isolate entire groups of people from “the world” outside its gated communities, the 9-to-5 work life makes it so that many, especially those with children or other responsibilities, have to go above and beyond to maintain a regular social life, and then of course there are mental illnesses like social anxiety, for me at least brought on by past trauma, that make it difficult of it not constructively impossible to push oneself to engage with others at all.

Is he kind of entertainment we consume – that I consume – regularly, just a way to cope with this isolation?  Is it similar to the link between fast food and depression, where consuming the product invariably raises chances for related mental illness to occur?  Or is it just… loneliness on my part?

Maybe.

I don’t have many of answers to these questions, but as I start my day, I have definitely done so with new questions in mind: what is it in our daily entertainment/programming that has us truly coming back to it?  What is entertainment really?  And why did I feel so sad before I decided to consume it?

At the very least, I can’t complain however.  It did get me to write.

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