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Words from the WWW #5 - Science of Loneliness and the World Poverty Problem

Updated: May 1, 2021

The IMAGINEER is back on the scene, after some weeks of R&R and general taking stock of life. I might write an article on my experience with general lack of will to write and produce, the monster that is procrastination, and other ill-fated thoughts later (when I'm through with that phase, which I'm most definitely not).

For now, and in this here fifth post on IMAGINEER's Words from the WWW, I bring you one of the latest studies regarding the science of loneliness, and thoughts on Apple, capitalism, profit, and extreme poverty.

PS: Click the header images to go through to the story source.


The Science of Loneliness

"Humans are social creatures" might have something more to it than the simple satisfaction of our physical survival instincts. That most species of animals develop social relationships and live in communities is a fact that doesn't escape our own human state - and there are reasons for that, such as protection and resource collection, that are pretty straightforward. However, loneliness may have a much deeper and grander impact on our lives than we would ever give it credit for.

Research has shown that people who report feelings of loneliness are 50% more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation and depression. Opposite of that, people who report being socially active - and socially satisfied, which is a wholly different thing - have been linked to a 50% higher likelihood of survival compared to those who feel lonely. And recent research has shown that our brain actually responds to loneliness much in the same way as it drives us towards eradicating hunger or thirst - there is a neurological mechanism that originates a "craving" for social connection as much as that craving you feel should you go half a day without food.

Further (much further) research is required to increase our understanding of this loneliness mechanism. Why is it there? Is it there to facilitate human coordination and social interaction, thus increasing our likelihood of being better protected - having more of our needs met by the collective than we could ever possibly meet alone? Is it there as a fallback for our brain not to dive into a consciousness loop that leads it to philosophically devour itself? And what sort of stimuli are required to satisfy this craving, once it sets in? Are a DM on Instagram or two hours of feed scrolling enough to quell our desire for social connection, or do we actually require the audio, visual, and energetic cues that emerge from physical proximity and interaction? Is technology-mediated connection enough to satisfy the loneliness mechanism, or is it just a band-aid?

I'm not a social scientist or a neurologist or anything of the sort, but there is a very simple line of reasoning to be found here, I think: we know that tendency for depression scales with the amount of time one dedicates to social media. There are various reasons for this: FOMO, unreal representations of real life, the increased stress occurring from the lack of visual and audio cues as to the other side's state of mind (when communication is only held via text, even with those emojis that are really just poor substitutes for actually developing our thoughts and feelings)... And more, which would lead to a whole article themselves. But if loneliness leads to depression, and social media usage too leads to depression, then while that doesn't automatically mean that social media interaction isn't enough to quell our craving for social connection, the suspicion arises that that is actually the case - and I wager that almost none of the readers of this piece would say that social media-mediated interaction is a replacement for physical, real human connection.

It remains to be seen how much our now one-year-long lockdowns will influence the state of mental health around the world (and especially in Portugal, as that's the piece of Earth I find myself in). It remains to be seen what the effects are on children's minds and psychological development of not being in a social environment, interacting with other children their age. What consequences will arise from the forced loneliness of the lockdown - and from the increased usage of social media as a way to keep contact? How will our way of connecting, forging, and strengthening relationships change in the future? Will they improve? Decay? Will they return to the point at which they were before the pandemic?

A lot of research will have to be conducted on this matter, under the risk of we having an entire generation of people who struggle with stunted emotional development due to the absence of social stimulation. We'll see where this leads us; but the current state of mental health investment and research in Portugal doesn't instil much confidence.

How do you feel about this on your life? On the way you interact with those around you? With your parents, siblings, and significant others? What thoughts does this bring you in regards to your own country and the society you're a part of?

PS: I'd really like to know.


Capitalism 101: Tech Sector vs Food and Beverages' Profit, and the World Poverty Problem

Here's some food for thought on capitalism and the power of stories: Tipalti, a company specialising in fintech accounting software, has released figures for the profit - or non-profit - the top companies in the world produce per day. And unsurprisingly, the company who rakes in more daily money is Apple, with an egregious profit of $1,752 per second, which equates to $105,116 per minute, $6.3 million per hour, or $151 million per day. I'm writing this article on a Mac, so I've been one of the ones feeding those figures.

Apple has been hailed as one of the companies who has some of the more open hiring standards in the industry, in that it doesn't just look at what diplomas their employees have - Apple hiring specialists know that education doesn't always equate with professionalism, technical proficiency or general task completion capabilities. However, looking at those profit numbers, I'm left wondering if Apple simply prefers to pay the least it can to its workers - exceptions provided for upper management and investors, of course. The beauty of everyone having a stake in a company, but its workers.

On the other side of the equation, we have Uber, the world's largest ride-hailing firm that has revolutionised transportation in urban settings. The thing with Uber though? It reverses Apple's achievements in that it manages to actually lose $270 per second, for a total of $23.3 million operating loss per day. You have to love capitalism.

... but the Food and Beverages industry is the most profitable of all.

However, you might be surprised to know that the most profitable industry actually isn't the tech sector; the most profitable one is the Food & Beverages industry, with an average profit per second set at $232 and a daily profit - get this - set at $20 million. According to Share the Meal, a non-profit organisation that works through the United Nations' World Food Programme, it costs around $0,90 to feed a child for an entire day.

Think about that for a moment: $0,90.

The World Bank has set the daily earning line for extreme poverty at below $1.90 a day. This means that anyone earning less than that is in extreme poverty. According to the World Bank, about 1/10 of the world's population (800 million people, give or take) lives below that line - and 88 to 112 million more are estimated to go back below that line due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 800 million people on this planet currently live without the certainty that they will be able to provide enough food for themselves, their elderly, or even their children. And the world's most profitable industry deals exactly on edibles.

Food for thought.


And that's all for this week. If you enjoyed any of the articles and want to comment on anything related to them, feel free. Have a great weekend!

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