We live in a new culture where traditional social interactions are often discouraged in favor of efficiency. Acts of kindness, respect, and simple acknowledgement of the people around us used to turn into friendships that knit us together. Many normally interactive routines have disappeared in our fast-paced world. We’re not encouraged to casually speak face-to-face with each other any more than necessary.
My hunch is that the resulting percentage of people experiencing chronic, low grade loneliness is well above the reported 40% — there’s an ugly stigma tied to feeling lonely. We hide it, even from ourselves, as we glorify busyness.
Researchers say soaring statistics around loneliness — directly attributable to our electronic obsessions — are bound to worsen without dramatic change on the parts of users. Let’s do something about it.
- Give up or limit electronic use for a period of time
- Focus on connecting with people — That’s it.
2 experiments for myself:
- No automated anything. No pay at the pump, ATMs, online interactions. No screens at all (phones and computers) for a short period. Engage more face-to-face, even when it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable.
- Severely and systematically limit Computer, iPad and Smart phone use. Turn OFF all notifications — for a week. Engage more face-to-face. Intentionally create opportunities to connect and know people, risking they’ll think I’m strange.
The Goal — jumpstart to abundant Life. Wholeheartedness. Vibrant Connections. Messy, meaningful sharing of life with others. Friendships with skin on. Community. Finding God’s path…
If you’re convinced that more facetime and less screentime might enhance your life, make a plan, any plan… The point is to realize how intrusive and addicting electronics can be; and that there’s opportunity costs in all our clicking. My guess is our lives will be ENRICHED in many noteworthy ways. Not the least of which might be creating time and space to pray. Prayer is our number one connection.
Other tips: Assume interactions are meaningful. Engage others where silence is the code. Like elevators — how scandalous. Really see the people around you. Ask questions, and reveal something of yourself. Learn names. Watch an episode of The Waltons, Happy Days or The Cosby Show to remind yourself how much life has changed in a short period of time.
Information technology is beneficial and here to stay. As a user, I just need a bit of retraining: To stop being a modern-day electronic lemming. To discover how my habits might be isolating me and steering me down a dead end street. And to get a jumpstart on the road to Life.
Would you consider accepting the challenge? I’d love to hear how it goes. Below are a few sobering eStats to give you a push.
- 70% of Americans sleep with cell phones within arm’s length. 1/3 get online before getting out of bed.
- 61% check our phones at least EVERY hour.
- Adults spend at least 8-12 hours staring at screens. That’s more time than we spend on any other activity, including sleeping. (messy house? Fatigue? No wonder!)
- Despite the fact that most young people have an average of 243 Facebook friends, it’s not translated into real-life friendships. (Adults too?) Researchers theorize we are spending so much time online, that we no longer have time to go out with our non Facebook friends.
- More than half of us admit that we find it more difficult to make friends in “real life” than online.
- “Skin hunger” is a real condition that is impacting more and more of us… Eighteen-year olds are as lonely as eighty-year olds, and they want a friendship service because they can no longer make friends the traditional ways.
- Why do we keep clicking? One possible answer: Dopamine, which regulates our reward and pleasure centers. We get a “hit” when we get a technological ping. What is the result? For a brief moment we feel known. Research proves when we get low levels of dopamine (hits), we are prone to addiction. (Davis, Connecting, 47-49)
- 91% of adults use a cell phone – the cell phone is the most quickly adopted consumer technology in the history of the world – and youth ages 12-17 put their cell phone adoption at 78%, and 37% of all teens have a smartphone
- A recent study of Facebook users found that the amount of time you spend on the social network is inversely related to how happy you feel throughout the day. (slate.com)
- 67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating. (Pew Review)
- The increased mortality risk of loneliness is comparable to that of smoking and about twice as dangerous as obesity.
- Social isolation impairs immune function and boosts inflammation, which can lead to arthritis, type II diabetes, and heart disease.
Admittedly, I’m a little anxious, but … HERE GOES.