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Sci Tech    H4'ed 11/15/18

#TheEssay today

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This essay appears to be -- at least for me -- an attempt at a bilateral exchange of ideas -- gifts, if you were, between Alotau, Papua New Guinea, and Christchurch, New Zealand. I'm writing it today because an editor of a journal may have inspired me to do so. But I just won't write it to him.

And, I won't write it today. Today, I will send a series of texts to people "over there". They may reply, they may not. They know, sometimes, because I told them, and sometimes they knew this already - sometimes I send texts that may seem odd.

As we know, a lot of the time, the internet, including social media, politics, medical and scientific literature, as well as traditional journalism can appear to be polarised and even toxic about anything. There are so many different views out there. So many that at times, for me, I can internalise all this focus inward rather than outward at the many dozens of people I virtually always have surrounding me.

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There are people who read, view and listen to the internet in many different ways and many different contexts. This may cause "cognitive dissonance" in some natural abstract thinkers, sometimes with unintended consequences.

Having using the internet as much as I have over my lifetime, I am unable at points to navigate it without it developing some of these feelings, entirely by accident. Some other people, at various points in their lives, may have feelings of loneliness and disconnection, and I agree with many other clinicians that they are not necessarily symptoms of a mental or physical illness. Clinical misunderstandings can certainly occur due limited time and contexts in clinical settings, in any of our specialty fields of medicine.

There are countless benefits of the internet to us as young people, and to us as clinicians. However, at least for me, I slowly and carefully readjust my relationship to it, so that I can focus on it when necessary. Sometimes, with my kind of career, necessary is more than a lot, and it appears, at least to me, that no one knows how much is "too much connection". However, when I attempt to re-focus, carefully, I can then start to focus on the people around me. This is because I know, as some other people do, they are much more necessary to me than my internet connection.

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But, that is just me.

So back to Papua New Guinea. I have visited parts of the world, and paid a little heed to them, a little more than others have, such as Papua New Guinea. Which as many people know, is a fascinating, amazing, paradoxical place. When I write, I sometimes try and consider the people there, as they gain access to the internet. You see the problem with writing, especially as opposed to speaking, sometimes is, especially for me, simply this. When it is truly intended to stimulate discussion and lateral thinking, it can stimulate other emotions, including anger. Sometimes, unfortunately this appears to occur especially to less-enfranchised people, or people who have that perception, or similar perceptions. To them I do try to understand, when not thinking far too much, or writing far too impulsively. However, I never truly understand, because they're different people. I just have repetitive attempts at empathy.

Sometimes, because of this, I even consider my publications to be "leaks". I call them "leaks" because I am inspired when writing, including when writing scientifically for medical journals. My writings are "leaks" of my own life. I'm identifiable by anyone that tried, and that's both good and bad. However, I often worry too much, and then I have no idea the significance of any of this. I was concerned for a very long time that some problems would end up in war. As have countless upon countless other people. This is why I suggest to myself and sometimes to others, where possible to ask little questions, rather than big political ones.

Some people from Britain, paradoxically, have started to think a little more compassionately. I agree with them, today. Some of them even appear to be approaching the big question, of "too much connection" with many little questions. I really like this approach, but again, that is me. I agree with these people, and many other people in my life. The problems with the world are many. Sometimes, though, perhaps even a lot, we need the old people to help ask the questions, that's what can seem counterintuitive to me sometimes, because so many young people are asking for them. Even more paradoxically, perhaps a lot of the old men have many of the answers when they think carefully and strategically. I think that some of these people with so much power, today, are "nightwatchman navigators". However, that's just my own opinion. I really have no idea.

I suspect that some of these people even understand this: the problem with loneliness is that it's a natural state of mind, when necessary. It can inspire you to connect with other people. The paradox with the internet is that other people "appear" to be very much less lonely "over there".

As we do sometimes know, they're often just as lonely. The baffling thing, is that the internet comforts us, connecting us, and we can see each other more than we ever could before. But still, for many of us, it worsens our loneliness at the same time.

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I appear to have written the essay.

(Article changed on November 15, 2018 at 10:45)


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Peter is a medical registrar in Melbourne, Australia, with experience and interests in Infectious Diseases and Addiction Medicine. He is currently completing a Masters of Science (Infectious Diseases) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical (more...)

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