With the touch of a button, we can be connected to our friends, family, co-workers, and people we’ve never even met. Today, we have such immense potential for social interaction, for connection, and for exchange with one another. So, in theory, this should mean that we are feeling more surrounded by community, more supported, and acting more socially than ever, but are we?
For many of us, an increased feeling of community and support does happen when we use technology, but these feelings are often short-lived and increased connection through technology does not meaning we feel less lonely overall. There is still a disconnect between our “real lives” and our “tech lives,” which can also be felt as our short-term lives and our long-term lives.
Technology helps us in the moment, catering to our desire for instant gratification. There are so many ways for us to constantly “connect” with one another, from around the globe to right next door, without ever leaving our homes. Because we have such access to one another, many of us are now overcommitting. Where relationships were once based upon when we saw each other or wrote a letter, our relationships now require more time and a constant investment.
So, is technology part of the problem or part of the solution? Many of us look around and see people distracted by cell phones, ignoring what is happening around them, allowing us to think that our society is growing more dependent upon technology while becoming more isolated. Nearly 80% of our members tell us that they feel we live a “lonely society,” despite the technology available to us.
While it is important to recognise the risks and potential pitfalls of technology replacing genuine human interaction, we also must realise the potential opportunities. Technology is a vast and powerful tool and should be treated as such. It only has the capability to shape our lives as much as we let it. We can choose how and when we will use our technology, but we can also choose how it will work to benefit our social needs.
If we think that technology might not be the core solution, how can we begin to feel more connected to others?
Try unplugging- I know, this tends to be incredibly difficult for us these days, but it’s important. See what your life feels like without your mobile tied to your hand.
Practice listening- do your best to be present with others, forgive missteps (in others and in yourself.) We can’t edit or curate real-life and that is the beauty of it.
Engage in the community around you- volunteer, join a club, talk to strangers! Look directly around you, find the spaces you can fit.
Practice conversation- take small steps, even if that means just making eye contact more or replying to the grocer. Stretch your social comfort zone!
Find like minds- get to know people who share similar interests to you, broaden your horizons and your social circle
Reconnect with old friends- take stock of your relationships and see if there are any you might like to revisit.
Invite people over! Sharing a casual meal, drink, or just night-in with new friends can allow you to get to know people on a level you otherwise might miss. Branch out, take a leap. Others are looking for connection and community just as much as you are.
Let us know your thoughts about tech and community in the comments below!