Years ago (circa 2010), I resisted buying a smart phone because I didn’t want to feel too “connected” to others. I didn’t want to see my emails as they arrived in my inbox all day long. I didn’t want to be able to browse Facebook while I rode the BART train. Having a cell phone on my person at all times was connection enough.
Now, it’s normal to be online at all times, to be reachable 24/7. In many cases, it’s what’s expected of us.
In 2013, I caved and got my first smart phone. Now, I can’t imagine life without it. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that.
Social media, telephones, email, DMs, Instagram, FaceTime, text messages, smoke signals, The Internet…
They were all created so we could connect more easily with one another. No matter the distance. Or the time zone.
But how connected are we…really?
According to the Health Resource & Services Administration: “Two in five Americans report that they sometimes or always feel their social relationships are not meaningful, and one in five say they feel lonely or socially isolated.”
In 2020, we have more ways than ever of staying in touch and connected with our loved ones. Why, then, have rates of loneliness doubled in the past fifty years?
The answer is likely multifaceted, but I wonder if part of it has to do with the quality versus quantity of connection.
In my work as a clinical psychologist – as well as, you know, being a person in the world – I’ve encountered so many people who say that they feel overwhelmed and actually stressed out by all the different methods of communication at our disposal. Instead of interpersonal connection being a source of emotional replenishment, relaxation, and just plain fun, it’s begun to feel more like a job. Another item to check off our already-packed to-do lists. AKA High quantity.
In addition, although advances in technology have made makes it easier for us to communicate, I’m sure I’m not alone in noticing that it has also allowed our communication with one another to become…briefer. People used to write each other long letters. Then it was long phone calls. After that, long (by today’s standards) emails. Then, posts on each other’s social media walls/feeds. Now, instead of commenting on someone’s post, we click and there’s a like, heart, laugh, cry, or angry emoji to replace a conversation. A quick acknowledgement, designed to say: “I see you.” “I hear you.” “I agree with you.” “That’s funny.” “That makes me angry.” “That makes me sad.” AKA Lower quality.
Tons of messages and notifications may be coming in all day every day, but in 2020, present, mindful, engaged communication and connection is becoming harder to find.
If what I’ve written so far resonates with you, or even if it doesn’t, I have some questions for you:
When was the last time you experienced meaningful connection/communication with another person?
What do you think made this possible?
What do YOU need to feel you’ve connected in a meaningful way with another person?
How do you make the many means of connection (email, text, phone, social media, etc.) work for you without becoming overwhelmed?
Though liking and sharing these blog posts is always welcomed, in the spirit of examining communication, I challenge you to write a short (or long) comment below, sharing your answers to one, two, or all of the questions above. I’d love to read what you have to say and respond to you (yes, you).