Prior to the pandemic, I never thought the loneliness of the connected age would affect me. I thought I’d be surrounded by friends and family all the time. I grew up hanging out with friends and going to my nan’s house every Saturday to play with my cousins. We were always social. I knew the pandemic would change relationships but I feel like it has changed the way we connect as well.
In this article I’m exploring how our innate humanness requires connection to thrive. I’ll also be providing some tips to help you get the most out of your daily interactions especially if you’re feeling the loneliness of the connected age too.
I blame social media. Not completely but it does have a lot to do with this disconnected age we’re in.
I was recently at a dinner and two of the 6 people were on their phones. It made it difficult for someone like me who wanted to talk, to connect, to be able to spark a conversation with them. I sat there for about an hour, hoping they’d get off their phones and as soon as one put theirs on charge, I leaped at the chance to talk.
I used all my coaching and listening skills to engage with this person and they found it really difficult to talk to me. They thought I was prying into their life – I wasn’t. We hadn’t seen each other since the pandemic so I wanted to genuinely connect.
After a while, the conversation with them was so unbelievably boring, I stopped being bothered. They went back to their phone. I realised that they didn’t know how to converse anymore. This person used to be really fun and interesting. Now he isn’t because he sees life in a false reality based in social media, likes, videos and people he doesn’t have true human connection with.
Add to that the number of ads we see telling us to buy and to follow more people. Or the changes in how we work, people moving out of cities and the unbelievable amount of fear-mongering from the media. It’s actually not surprising that we have lost the way to connect with each other.
People change. We grow and change all the time but this new wave of fast tech and the pandemic is changing us almost too much too quickly.
At every turn there are new ways to disconnect with each other. The Metaverse whilst it may have its upsides, also has masses of downsides. If Zuckerberg and his mates couldn’t get social media right by this point, how is the Metaverse going to be any better?
The answer is that it won’t be. The ‘end user’ – us, you – must keep consuming.
Whilst people change organically and through the experiences of their lives, there always remains the need for connection. When our mental health suffers, it usually begins with disconnection. With the added layer of social media, it’s no surprise that our mental wellbeing is suffering at an all time high!
Considering our human history, this to me, is not evolution for good.
Your daily interactions provide some excellent opportunities for real connection. There are moments you can create or be a part of if you truly want to feel connected and gain a sense of belonging.
If you don’t, you’ll be susceptible to feeling less connected and your view of the world/ reality will be skewed. Then, those little voices inside you will start to make you the problem. You’re not the problem. This is something affecting so many of us and we need to talk about it more often.
I love to walk and I recommend it to everyone. Try to walk where other people are walking like in a park or by the river. Not everyone is friendly and depending on the route you take, you may not even meet anyone so choose more social places where other people are walking too.
I live on a canal and the other people who walk on the canal are doing the same thing I am. They are walking for their health and there’s this lovely appreciation of being able to take these walks. We always smile and share a greeting. It’s the smallest interaction but one that’s so full of love and connection to another soul.
Top tip: You can’t be on your phone. Listen to something, yes, but you actually need to look people in the face to connect.
You might already do this especially if you’re a work from home hybrid. Coffee shops are great for wiling away the hours, people watching and sparking conversations. It doesn’t matter what you talk about, make the small talk and see where it leads. Learn about other people. You never know what you might gain and at the very least, you probably had a positive effect on someone else and the by-product of that is a positive effect on you too.
Top tip: To make sparking conversation easier, ask an open question that’s about the other person or share something funny you both experienced whilst getting your coffee. Get creative, there are loads of conversation starter posts on the internet, prepare and connect.
Look I know that some of you might cringe at this but community is on your doorstep. You can’t be complaining about being lonely and not actually doing anything about connecting with others. You don’t have to make new friends, just connect.
Show up at the local church event, check out the posting in the coffee shops or libraries. You could even scope out work-related events near you – I’ll even suggest using social media to find them!
Connect with other human beings. Listen to them. Enjoy them and the disconnection of our connected age will become easier to tolerate because your social skills are still being used.
BONUS POINT – If you’re feeling lonely, then you have to also put in the effort to connect with others. You may have to try a few different ways but commit to yourself that you’ll do it. It’ll benefit you in so many ways but you have to be willing to try.