Digitally wired yet disconnected. The epidemic of loneliness
It’s hard to reconcile that loneliness and disconnect are a common phenomenon, when advances in technology mean we have a plethora of connection mediums available. And yet a surprising number of clients report a growing since of isolation. It’s not just an issue for singletons; loneliness in relationships is on the rise. And paradoxically, the technology that is designed to facilitate connection plays a massive role in our sense of seclusion. When it comes to emotional and mental wellbeing and fitness, a sense of belonging and connection along with an ability to connect to the self and others in an empathetic, compassionate manner are essential. And yet, our ability to communicate openly and effectively in more emotionally charged conversations is deteriorating.
Presence, patience and empathy are imperative communication skills that are on the decline. We have a world full of distractive options and we’ve become habituated to instant gratification as the norm. If someone we are engaging with doesn’t respond quickly, we have a myriad of others available at our fingertips. If we are experiencing conflict, we can instantly deflect and post a photo on Instagram and feel instantly validated. If we have a pressing conversation we don’t want to tackle, we can bury our head in a gulf of newsfeeds. Consequently, we can avoid dealing with the more challenging issues for a lifetime. It also means we seldom have to sit with our own internal experience; anytime a negative thought or feeling pops up, we have an app to squash it.
The irony is we think this is a good thing. Ask most people what they’d prefer to go without for 24 hours; their phone or their partner and more often than not, they’ll opt for their partner. We are addicted to the stream of entertainment and boredom is becoming an outdated concept. However, it’s to the detriment to our relationships. We rarely have deep, meaningful conversations without a phone pinging in front of us. Studies show that even the mere presence of a phone reduces the openness and vulnerability element of an interaction. We connect digitally but seldom organically and it’s killing us.
Yet not all is lost. Empathy and connection are skills that we can consciously choose to practice. Purposeful efforts to communicate may sound very clinical and manufactured however it’s necessary to feel better. Practicing skills like emotional awareness, presence, vulnerability, empathy, active-listening and healthy conflict resolution promotes stronger resilience and fulfilment. Ultimately, we all want to feel appreciated and understood and this seldom happens in digital communication. It’s a reciprocal process where we actually take time to be present with someone, to try to understand their perspective. So, take the time, give the time and feel the difference.
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