You know you live in a crazy world when people prefer to have big conversations via texts, and small conversations when meeting face to face. But before we get all judgy, let’s take a minute and think: when was the last time we had a heart-to-heart conversation with someone without technological help? Hmm… I had one a couple of days ago. With… my mom. (crying emoji face)
Welcome to the Age of Isolation. The sad reality of modern life.
Research has found that more than half of all Americans feel like no one really knows them. In January the UK appointed a Minister of Loneliness to tackle this new social epidemic, which affects 9 million people in Great Britain alone. But this is not just a sad story, it’s an expensive one too. Loneliness costs British companies up to 3.5 billion pounds a year. No wonder they take the issue seriously…
And indeed, loneliness is not to be underestimated, because its health-related setbacks are out of proportion. Feeling lonely for an extended period of time can result in depression, anxiety, suicide, but even cardiovascular problems, sleep deprivation or premature death. Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Murthy estimated that loneliness reduces one’s life span to the extent as smoking 15 cigarettes a day does. (omg)
The irony is: “we live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s” – Dr. Murthy explained. The invention of the internet provided an opportunity to connect with people all around the world. But too much texting, posting, streaming, surfing, linking, liking, tweeting, snapping… eventually made us drift apart. We are lonely together. (I love that Avicii song)
But we are not meant to fight alone.
We humans need thriving, healthy, life-giving relationships. We need each other.
So what can we do when the only eye-contact we are comfortable keeping, is with our screens?
Awareness. Social media has created the illusion that we have hundreds of friends. When in reality we barely have a handful, if any, who genuinely care about us and would be there for us in hard times. By just admitting this sad truth, we are opening up for change already.
People-time. Or conversation-time. We need to intentionally engage in meaningful offline conversations. That’s right. From now on, it’s not enough to workout regularly, eat healthy, meditate, and take yoga classes. From now on, you have to schedule regular people-time in your calendar as well, if you plan to stay healthy. Most self-reflective introverts are already familiar with this concept and have been practicing it, even though they would have preferred to stay in all day in their favourite pyjamas, drink coffee and read a good book. But that’s not how you make friends.
Being home alone is not the worst feeling of isolation though. It’s being lonely in a crowd.
In order to prevent that from happening to you at our upcoming TEDxVienna conference, we have prepared some exciting games, which will give you permission (ahem, force you, cough) to talk to strangers. So don’t forget to check out the goodie bag you’ll receive during registration. And who knows… maybe you’ll even meet your future best friend on the conference day!
Photo Credit: Eddi Aguirre via Unsplash