Isolation kills

Social Isolation kills – period.

It kills a person’s hope, kills their spirit, and kills their potential.

I know a little about this phenomenon but thankfully less than a lot in the realm of those people who are living with a disability. I know a lot more about it second hand too; the stories visit me in my home, in my work place and yes even while on the net. And while it certainly isn’t just a problem peculiar to those with a disability, it’s certainly one peculiar to humanity.

Now, if you’ve read my about me page you’ll know I used to be a mechanic before my accident 25 years ago that caused my change in direction (to say the least). As a Mechanic in my former life one thing I know about is tools.

So, now I’ve established I know two things – social isolation and tools – why am I telling you this?

Well, because tools can save us from the effects of social isolation.

The tools we use in this age are increasingly being virtualised and currently being collected in a virtual toolbox which is surfacing as Social Networks.

There are a couple problems I see emerging around use of these tools.

One is that we have these deeply ingrained mindsets. I’ve battled against people and systems with these mindsets too for a while now. In fact I’m battling one about access through the Human rights and Equal Opportunity Commission as I write. There are mindsets in architecture and building codes. Mindsets in employment that put people living with disability in ability-boxes and design support around them that excludes those not conforming to the box. Mindsets in care that don’t see the person in the context of a life. Mindsets of designers that make an environment for people having two legs, good balance and a certain height. Then there’s the mindset I’ve been personally butting heads with for a couple decades – the mindset that computers are just toys, play things. That there’s little real life benefit from having access to technology. They couldn’t be more wrong.

So we come to the second problem. This centres on the terminology we give currently to the ‘network toolbox’ – Social Network. The problem is the label “Social”. In reality it isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a problem. I mean, we are all social beings. We don’t, in fact can’t, exist in a fully functioning state in a social vacuum. And what is it we have in the flesh with the people around us, no mkatter where we are, if it’s not a social network?

It seems that there’s an intersection of these things happening.

We are trying to define a way of using tools in a new and emerging virtual context with a mindset rooted in something we do naturally in the physical world. Often it’s just too limiting.

Part of the issue is just like the battle of getting to see the real life benefits that can come from people living with disability having access to technology. The results are often life changing, not merely life enhancing. And the long term spin offs are phenomenal. But here’s the rub – they aren’t neatly and easily measured like business likes it to be. The benefits are qualitative first and foremost. The measurement needs to be told with stories and examples not numbers and charts.

And this too is the power for technology, to tell and share stories – stories with authentic voices of shared learning, experiences gained, lives changed. This is the potential power of social networks – applied in any context.

However it depends on access and access depends on attitude. Without access there can be no connection and, as I wrote back here about a year ago – Marginalisation occurs when something on the edge is unconnected.

We are social beings who need connection.
Connection happens when stories overlap.
Mindsets further entrench isolation.
Isolation kills.

10 thoughts on “Isolation kills

  1. Dude – left a comment on JP’s blog wot points to this:

    Thanks to Laurel for her post:

    For a timely hint about the intersection of QUALITATIVE and QUANTITATIVE – ie tools wot can measure extent of network (connectedness) and potentially impact of stories.

    Gotta be a way for DIRC to provide value to government and clients here somewhere.

    Fang – Mike Seyfang

  2. Mate. Can’t see your JP comment…maybe a moderation time issue.

    Laurel’s post does highlight some way forward or at least part of the qualitative puzzle….even though it’s still looking a lot like quantitative statistics.

    You know, when writing the ‘isolation’ post, I had a reference to our musings about the long tail jewels.
    Specifically these bits " We just want to start a conversation about IDENTIFYING ‘disconnected stuff‘ in the LongTail and DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

    Lots of unrealised potential value goes untapped in the long tail."

    I was thinking how that’s relevent for this concept of being connected and not isolated. So much value (in people) in the long tail.

    You right though re Laurel’s post – these tools do show the importance of connection. BUT we must remember the issue and debate we had around Shirkey’s law – qualitative analysis must resist the temptation to value things in the short head more just because they exist in the short head.

    As to DIRC providing value – you’re still talking about ME whenever you talk about DIRC and this stuff. I’M TIRED. Ask me later.

  3. You’ve opened doors. Isolation is one. Studies are appearing that say the majority are isolated. Some have only themselves. Another challenge is that there are tools. And so, there are tools. But what of it?

    If only we were able. Something of this is the oldest and most rugged of all writings.

    Is it universality we are yearning, or enabling, or mere value for cost? Damn but it will be difficult to finish your post. Because we’re excited that links to pages has evolved toward links to faces, will meaningful connections emerge beyond 2.0?

  4. Brian. Thanks for your comments. I am having a little difficulty understanding some of the points you’re trying to make. I’d like to hear more.

    From what I *think* you’re saying, I offer this.

    I believe that meaningful connections will emerge. I believe that the tools will also emerge to make this possible. I believe this because I believe a culture creates the tools it needs to fulfill its desires.

    The big question is how will the tools be distributed? Will they be used to enable the disenfranchised or simply to further enable the already enabled? (eg: greed v good)

    This, of course, is largely a matter of access and a matter of human will and endeavour rather than technology advance.

    Meaningful connections like anything meaningful and of value takes time.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

    Where you from Brian, BTW?


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  8. I just wanted to say that I felt from my heart what you are talking about, I have been disabled for 7 yrs, not to your extent,… but I struggle with the isolation,… it does kill,… and I admire your cause.

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