Social Isolation kills – period.
It kills a personâ€™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 thereâ€™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.