artificial intimacy on the rise in the digital age

The Loneliness Epidemic

In today’s rapidly changing world, individuals often feel adrift and isolated, contributing to what has been termed the “loneliness epidemic.” The allure and ubiquity of modern technology, including artificial intelligence, offer the promise of connection and intimacy. However, paradoxically, these technological advancements may exacerbate feelings of loneliness by providing only a superficial sense of closeness—what we might call “artificial intimacy.”

Loneliness is perceived as social isolation, a lack of social intimacy, or a deficiency in social relationships. The experiences we currently have are often pseudo-experiences, giving us the feeling of something real, but they do not fulfill our deeper needs. The consequence of living in a contactless world is a lack of doubt, discomfort, conflict, or friction, which are intrinsic to authentic connections and meaningful relationships.

The neuroscientist John Cacioppo argued that the sense of loneliness has evolved as an alarm signal to ensure that we remain firmly embedded within our social cocoon (Cacioppo, 2018). This “alarm signal” hypothesis manifests as physical and psychological stress. Loneliness and a lack of social connection/stimulation affect reasoning and memory performance, hormone homeostasis, brain gray/white-matter connectivity and function, and resilience to physical and mental disease.

online dating in the digital age

Artificial Intimacy: Changing relationships and emotions

Our core identities and relationships have changed and been influenced by the rise of digital connected technologies, including social media and AI. This shift has led to modern loneliness masking as hyperconnectivity, where ambiguous loss is prevalent—people are physically present but emotionally absent. This creates a particular kind of loneliness, where individuals feel emotionally malnourished in a hyperconnected world.

The concept of “artificial intimacy” underscores this paradox. As we become more connected through digital means, the quality of our relationships may diminish. AI can provide immediate gratification and a perception of connection, much like highly processed foods offer immediate nourishment but contribute more to disease than to health.

The phenomenon can be likened to “starvation in the midst of plenty,” akin to digital diabetes. Just as artificial, highly processed foods provide immediate gratification and the perception of nourishment but contribute more to disease than health, artificial intimacy offers immediate emotional satisfaction without fulfilling deeper needs.

The rise of artificial intimacy through digital connected technologies and AI has profoundly impacted how we perceive and experience relationships. While these technologies offer the promise of connection, they often result in a superficial sense of closeness that fails to meet our deeper emotional needs. Understanding and addressing the nuances of artificial intimacy is crucial in fostering genuine connections and mitigating the loneliness epidemic.

Psychological Impacts of Screen Time

1. Immediate Feedback:

  • In-person interactions provide immediate feedback through non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, which help individuals gauge interest and compatibility more intuitively.

2. Physical Presence:

  • The physical presence of a partner can foster a stronger sense of connection and intimacy, as touch and shared physical experiences play a crucial role in relationship bonding.

3. Authenticity and Trust:

  • Meeting someone face-to-face from the beginning can build trust more quickly as there is less room for misrepresentation or idealization.

4. Contextual Information:

  • Observing a potential partner in different social contexts and environments provides richer information about their personality and behavior, aiding in better judgment of compatibility.

Online Dating:

1. Controlled Presentation:

  • Online dating allows individuals to carefully curate their profiles and control the information they share, potentially leading to idealized or exaggerated self-presentations.

2. Extended Communication:

  • Online interactions often involve extended periods of messaging and texting before meeting in person, which can create a different dynamic of getting to know each other through written communication.

3. Cognitive Dissonance:

  • The difference between online personas and real-life behavior can lead to cognitive dissonance, where the reality of a person does not match the expectations formed through online interactions.

4. Delayed Gratification:

  • The lack of immediate physical interaction and presence can delay the development of deeper emotional and physical intimacy, sometimes prolonging the “getting to know you” phase.

Psychological Effects of Online Dating:

1. Anxiety and Uncertainty:

  • Online dating can increase anxiety and uncertainty due to the lack of immediate feedback and the potential for misrepresentation, leading to greater skepticism and caution in early stages.

2. Perception of Abundance:

  • The vast number of potential matches available online can create a perception of abundance, sometimes leading to indecision or a lower commitment level as individuals might always be looking for “better” options.

3. Attachment and Bonding:

  • The mode of initial communication can influence attachment styles, with some individuals finding it easier to bond through prolonged online communication, while others may struggle without the reinforcement of physical presence.

4. Relationship Satisfaction:

  • Studies indicate that while initial stages and psychological experiences differ, long-term relationship satisfaction for couples who meet online can be comparable to those who meet in person, once they transition to face-to-face interactions.

Understanding these differences is crucial for navigating the complexities of modern dating and fostering healthy, fulfilling relationships regardless of how they begin. If you’re struggling with relationships, our team is specialized in supporting you to understand the roots of it. Call us today to speak with a care coordinator.


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7. 60 minutes AI Mental Health Chatbot: