Does the internet and social media make us more connected or disconnected? You have probably heard this question being discussed on many occasions. Although there are various ways of looking at the topic, I will share my experience.
When I asked this question to a group of students in Mercy College during my Stress Mastery presentation a couple of months ago, at first the students did not want to respond. When I spoke about it a bit more and invited a response, I saw the students’ eyes well up, and quite a few said they feel isolated and lonely all the time.
And when we did a connection exercise together and some humanity was exchanged, tears were rolling down most students’ cheeks regardless of gender. Even the “tough”-looking guys showed their feelings and were emotional.
Did you know that there are studies showing that loneliness is becoming an epidemic in many countries, threatening physical health more than smoking and obesity? Obviously, mental health and well-being are also affected by persistent feelings of loneliness, and studies do talk about that as well.
Here are two of the articles that discuss the topic, from Harvard and from WebMD.
Summarizing one aspect: the nation’s 75 million millennials (ages 23-37) and Generation Z adults (18-22) are lonelier than any other U.S. demographic and report being in worse health than older generations at similar ages. Both articles mention this quote:
“Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.” ~Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, former Surgeon General of the United States
So, what can we do to help ourselves and those around us?
Let’s understand what connection is. Connection is not an exchange of information, it is an exchange of presence, emotion and humanity. As human beings, we are wired to connect and have a community, so first let’s be aware of that.
This is a big topic, so for now I want to give you some steps you can start implementing or do more of, to help move in a good direction:
- Be authentic, and trust that even with our imperfections, our presence and connection is important and valuable
- Be genuinely interested in others, because every person wants to feel cared about and connected to others
- We communicate in many ways, so remember that a smile, a word of interest, a touch (when appropriate), can all make people feel connected, including oneself!
These are skills we can all learn. I hope you can enjoy practicing and connecting.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou