Beware the cyber-toothed tiger.
This is good advice to follow, because it may bite you in unexpected ways, as my friend Jeff used to caution.
I’ve fallen prey to this tiger in the past couple of years and I received that bite.
Technological advances have done much to offer us new ways to connect more widely with the world, especially since the pandemic. Information, entertainment and social connection are now at our fingertips.
Why, on earth, would I venture out to attend a local event when I can listen to world-leading-experts in my pajamas for free? Many people are opting to attend lectures and church services without ever leaving their homes. Convenient, for sure, but we’re robbing ourselves of an important basic need—human connection.
While at times it’s lovely to attend lectures and concerts virtually from the comfort of our homes, with the wider virtual connection comes the risk of reducing real connection with other human beings that’s vital to our health.
Instead of feeling more connected to one another, the number of people feeling lonely and isolated is on the rise globally. Our increased ability and habit of virtual connection has left us feeling more alone and lacking in close, caring relationships. This was true before the pandemic and is now even more prevalent now.
Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful to be connected virtually with family and friends when it was the only option. I used to chuckle at how we all looked like we were on Hollywood Squares, and grew used to being reminded I had to unmute if I wanted to speak.
But, all too quickly I came to rely on it. It became normal for me and, like many, I found it very convenient, too convenient.
I thought I was doing just fine being connected virtually, able to attend meetings, social gatherings and multiple spiritual services while wearing my jammies and sipping an extra cup of coffee, sometimes even puttering at housework. It felt efficient, and it was. I now realized I sacrificed connection, depth and meaning for the sake of efficiency and something vital was lost.
Compelling research reveals a correlation between use of social media and increased experiences of isolation, depression, anxiety, pain, and poor sleep quality. The more one partakes in use of social media, the higher the incidence. Research conducted at UCLA revealed social isolation also affects us physically.
Feelings of loneliness trigger cellular changes causing chronic inflammation, and predisposing lonely people to heart disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke and metastatic cancer. Mortality is increased by 26%.
We are social creatures, and benefit from being in close proximity to others and developing caring, supportive relationships. Making the effort to form social connections, to find or create a community is a powerful way to overcome or prevent loneliness.
I love the word community, as it reminds me we are coming together in a common unity, gathering for a common purpose. Community not only supports our common interest or purpose, it enlivens and supports us and our health.
Trading our devices for time spent with real people, gathering, and making connection promotes mental and physical well-being. Taking time to attend social gatherings and services matters, and is a way to build meaningful community that nourishes us.
Emojis have become the hieroglyphics of our age. Even a phone call, hearing a human voice and all of its inflections creates better connection and clarity than a series of emojis ever will. And there’s less room for misunderstanding
Mahatma Ghandi said: “Be the change you want to see in this world.” I’ve taken his words to heart and recognize the importance of not waiting for another to create what I am seeking. There are so many opportunities to create safe connection and community.
We can gather outdoors or in safe social settings, doing what we must do to feel comfortable, but remembering the importance of being together with people we enjoy and care about.
Remembering your presence matters and showing up for one another is important. So simple, so meaningful.
One person can start a chain of connection, drawing others in, turning what could be a lonely day into one where new relationships are made.
Where can you show up, extending the gift of your presence, creating community, and being the change, you’d love to see in this world?
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.