Roundtable on Loneliness & Technology
The Values-Based Leadership course uses Socratic dialogue to explore the tensions in leadership to achieve goals while remaining anchored in values. The course is designed for accomplished leaders who are seeking to build on their traditional skills to hone the purpose of their lives and their organisations. It comprises three Seminars of five days each. The final seminar of the Inaugural Edition (4–8 January 2021) graduated 19 Fellows. The class was moderated by Aditya Natraj and James Abraham. Aditya is a Kamalnayan Bajaj Fellow and Director, Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF) and the Piramal School of Leadership; James Abraham is a Kamalnayan Bajaj Fellow and the Founder and Director, SolarArise. He is also a Trustee of Ananta Centre.
DECEMBER 18, 2020 / Ananta Centre, in collaboration with Aspen Digital, organised two roundtables in India on the challenges and opportunities at the intersection of loneliness, technology, and social connection in India.
The first roundtable, ‘Loneliness and Technology’, centred around the definition of loneliness that has developed over the years. In ancient Indian texts and traditions, being alone was an integral part of one’s journey to know the self. However, the amplified point of the discussion was that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. These ancient texts and traditions highlighted various states of minds and, over time, they identified certain mental disorders. The post-colonial era saw the emergence of modern psychiatry, which informed policies in this space. However, these policies failed to address the socio-economic and political inequity that engulfs the people of this country.
Many people do not access mental healthcare facilities because of cost and stigma. India is a heterogeneous country; there is no common vocabulary for mental health, which also leads to ignorance and neglect. The nexus between technology and growing awareness around mental health disorders was another foci of discussion. One cannot undermine the benefits of technology and the growth of social media in raising awareness of mental health. However, on the downside, researches have often shown that social media can end up aggravating certain mental health conditions such as depression anxiety and stress. The discussion further expanded on the existence of loneliness in India as a continuum to that of solitude. Thus, remarking that the focus should be more on providing people with necessary skills in order to navigate their loneliness rather than try to find a cure for it.
The second roundtable focused more on connectivity across the country and the existence of a rural-urban divide. The number of people having access to digital platforms in the country is astounding even in the rural areas. One can tap this digital access in order to bridge the gap between the rural and the urban communities and their access to platforms guiding people on mental health issues. However, the problem that remains is that of priority. Many people living in these rural areas struggle to meet even their basic needs, such as food or clothing. Social inequity thus continues to be a problem in the country. This further adds an impetus to exclusionary behaviours and aggravates issues of loneliness in these societies. Navigating through the lens of inaccessibility, developing skills in order to cope with loneliness can also be a matter of privilege. Even though there has been no blanket definition to explain loneliness across the country, the efforts to deal with it should remain constant.