You've Got Tons Of Facebook Friends. So Why Are You Lonely?

A fresh and subtly soul-wrenching visualization adds to the whole is-social-media-antisocial debate.

It’s nothing we haven’t heard before: the modern human presented as a slave to Facebook likeage, afraid of being seen sans-Instagram filter, preferring "poking" (or WeinerPic-tweeting) to actual touching but, look, he has 5,000 friends. The debate rages on over whether social media makes us lonelier and more self-absorbed than ever, with the verdict usually being that it does.

Regardless, social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. This visualization by graphic designer Shimi Cohen, based in Tel Aviv, is a fresh and subtly soul-wrenching reminder of the way our screens can become cells of solitary confinement. It drives the point home with a carefully parsed narration that might make you consider, for a second, throwing your computer out the window and starting a Luddite Revolution (but how would you recruit members without Twitter?).

The animation was Cohen’s senior project at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. Based in part on MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together and Yair Amichai-Hamburger’s article "The Invention of Being Lonely," inspiration also came from a personal place. "Like many others," Cohen tells Co.Design, "I became addicted to socializing through my phone and social media. This started to bother me and intrigue me at the same time."

After three weeks of sketching out various ways to translate each idea in the script into a visual, he created the 2-D animation in Adobe After Effects and Cinema 4D. He avoided using faces and complicated forms, sticking instead to four colors and geometric shapes to keep it as "minimized and focused" as possible. "There’s something about simplicity, I think, that makes the message stronger," says Cohen.

"We collect friends like stamps," he says in the video narration, "sacrificing quality for quantity." But despite this commentary, he wants to make clear that he’s not a raging Facebook-basher: "I am not against social media." To the contrary, he says, "I think it has many beneficial aspects and is a huge step toward creating a more global community. But—and here’s the thing—because all of those benefits, we tend to forget or ignore some of the downfalls of this media, which in fact hurt us as along the way."

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