Odds are that you are reading this on a phone or computer and as a result have access to unlimited “connection” in your pocket on a daily basis. Your smartphone is at your fingertips to check emails, text, read the news, play games, check social media, or watch videos. Yet the very thing that our phones were originally invented for is often the last thing we use it to do: connect.
Truly connecting to people is a practice that many have lost. Social media posts have become the norm and having a meaningful conversation with someone is all too often a thing of the past. People are suffering from dreadful loneliness, even in the middle of an ocean of people.
It’s not accurate to blame smartphones or social media platforms alone for this circumstance. They are merely the latest developments in technology that have been creating more and more distance (both literal and figurative) between us for decades.
It started with the automobile. When we lived close together in villages, the difficulty of traveling long distances kept people close to home. We could all share resources and have safety in numbers, as well as enjoy deep relationships and connections that were generational. Not only were you friends with your neighbors, but your friends’ children were friends with your children and theirs after that.
With travel becoming more accessible, it became easier to move away from our family units and have infrequent communication with our original source of comfort and safety. In order to stay connected with the people we care about, we have developed many technologies (like our phones) to bridge the gap of time and space.
But these technologies are a double-edged sword.
Though it may feel as though we’re constantly connected with these technologies, it’s actually a fallacy. We’ve mentioned it in our last article, but it bears repeating: the connection we experience on forums like social media is an illusion that scratches an itch but is not a fulfilling replacement for honest to goodness, face-to-face connection.
As people spend more time watching others live their lives instead of being present in their own, they spend a significant amount of time comparing themselves and getting FOMO. In fact, studies highlighted in this Huffington Post article indicate that social media engagement can lead to lower self-esteem and decrease happiness. People who feel entirely disconnected have no hope and are filled with despair and sometimes hatred, for themselves and the world that they see as rejecting them.
It’s easy to see the evidence that disconnection is damaging and pervasive in our culture. Look at the symptoms: the opioid epidemic, soaring suicide rates (particularly in our children and veterans), school shootings, and skyrocketing diagnoses of depression.
Someone who feels like they belong and are loved and supported does not kill themselves or others.
Recalibrating your level of connection is in your control. You can make small tweaks to your life that will get the ball rolling for you to reconnect with those you’ve drifted away from or to create connections with new people.
- Be intentional with your social media. Limit social media time and when you are on social media, be mindful and choose to interact in more connective and meaningful ways. Focus on creating value in your posting rather than merely offering your opinions and arguments.
- Schedule intentional connection time. Turn off your phone and focus on the people in front of you. Create quality time with your family members, friends, and co-workers. Share experiences with them in the real world!
- Connect to your community. Volunteering, joining a club, or starting a new hobby are all opportunities to cultivate a renewed sense of belonging. Not only will you have the chance to be around other people, but you’ll also be able to focus out and build up your self-esteem in the process.
If you’re feeling isolated and disconnected, it’s probably because you are. There was a point in history where if we didn’t have a tribe of people surrounding us, we would die. What if we treated our ability to connect with others with the same level of urgency?