We live in a world which is more disconnected than ever. Despite advancing technology, such as the internet, social media and smart phones, which are meant to bring us together, we feel lonelier than ever. Facebook friends and likes have replaced close personal friendships, we prefer to swipe right or left instead of mustering up the courage to talk to someone who we find interesting and attractive and texting has replaced face to face conversation.
Part of the issue is that that internet has made this an age of instant gratification where we expect everything to be handed to us on a silver platter. This has resulted in less tolerance for anything that we have to put effort into such as close personal friendships and meaningful relationships. This is why we are more disconnected than ever.
This has reinforced the illusion of separation and isolation. In fact, one of the greatest epidemics on the planet today is that of loneliness which is ironic in an age when the internet was supposed to facilitate greater connection amongst ourselves. It has done this to some degree but what is missing is the emotional aspect of connecting with another human being which is lost in the digital space.
We can still enjoy the benefits and convenience of the internet but the only cure for the illness of separation and loneliness is direct human to human contact. To this effect I have a list of ideas of how to cultivate connection in your life.
1. Smile at strangers. You may feel a little odd doing this but you would be surprised to know that most people will smile back at you. Try it and see!
2. Reach out to estranged family members and friends who you have not connected with in some time. This does not have to be a laborious pursuit because you are not trying to get anything from them. You are simply reaching out and asking them how they have been and what is going on in their life? You may be able to reestablish ties and rekindle old friendships but, even if you can’t, you’ll feel the joy of connecting, even if it is only a one time occurrence.
3. Join clubs, organizations, activities and sports that genuinely interest you. You’ll find like minded people who you can get to know, socialize with and possibly even form lasting friendships with.
4. Go to work-related events such as seminars, workshops, conferences and social events. This will provide another venue where you can connect and socialize with others.
5. Introduce yourself to your immediate neighbours and get to know them. Organize neighbourhood social events such as barbecues, kids’ parties and outings to local parks.
6. Go to local Meetups that resonate with your interests. You’ll meet fun and interesting people who could become long-term friendships.
7. Strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. This could be at the grocery store, the post office, while waiting in line at your bank or anywhere you carry out your daily errands. There is no agenda here as you are simply saying hello and asking them how their day is going. This could simply end right there or continue into a longer conversation which all depends on the person you are connecting with. This may seem daunting at first but what do you truly have to lose by saying hello to a total stranger? I’m not saying that this is going to lead to a close personal friendship or a romantic relationship but one thing is for sure. If you do not make the effort to talk to total strangers you will never expand your social circle and you will miss out on many potential friends and dating opportunities.
Connecting with others may seem overwhelming at first, especially if you’re not used to it, but you don’t have to implement all of my suggestions at once. Try even one of the ideas above and watch how your mood and overall wellbeing change in the process. This is an experiment which will always give you positive results but only if you have the courage and resolve to take the first step. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, especially overcoming the feeling of separation for real human connection