Listen to “How to Feel Connected in a Disconnected World”.
No-one can deny that we are more connected through technology than ever before. We can connect to everyone and everything, no matter where we are in the world. So why are so many of us feeling more disconnected from the world around us and increasingly feeling more alone?
One of the reasons is that our relationships have become more superficial. We can’t form meaningful relationships with people unless we talk about real issues and share real problems. Unfortunately, that’s not what happens on social media.
On social media, there’s a lot of pressure to make your life look better than it is. Rather than share what’s really going on in our lives, we are far more likely to talk about our latest accomplishments, holidays or meals.
The need to keep up a façade that everything is perfect often spills over into real life and means that relationships become superficial. Without meaningful connections, we feel lonely, even when we’re surrounded by people.
Studies into social media suggest that there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens when we use sites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. When we look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to assume that other people’s lives are better than yours.
Dr John Cacioppo, Professor of Neuroscience and director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, is a leading researcher on the effects of loneliness and human health. He is also the co-author of the best-selling book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, hailed by critics to be one of the most important books about the human condition to appear in a decade.
According to Dr Cacioppo’s findings, the physical effects of loneliness and social isolation are as real as any other physical detriment to the body , such as thirst, hunger, or pain. He says that “For a social species, to be on the edge of the social perimeter is to be in a dangerous position.”
Studies show people check their phones, on average, between 35 and 74 times per day, with younger people being more likely to check their phones more often.
Today, most of us scroll through social media to see what other people are doing, rather than paying attention to the people who are right in front of them. However, we can’t have quality face-to-face interactions when we’re distracted by our phones.
One of the greatest modern ironies is that reducing our use of social media actually makes us feel less lonely.
Humans are social creatures. We innately want to interact with other people. A lack of deeper connections to ourselves and others leaves us feeling empty and as though we are adrift in a sea of strangers, unable to know who we are, what we want or how to get it.
How connected we feel to others is a reliable indicator of our happiness and our feelings of self-worth. We all need to feel loved and deserve compassion, empathy, love and support.
If we want to matter, we have to change how we operate. If we’re going to stop feeling invisible and really connect with other people, we have to get off of our phones and computers. We have to have real relationships with other people, and that means visiting them, caring for them, helping them, and being present for them.