Updated: Jun 4, 2019
In today's world, we have the tools to connect on a scale that was considered science fiction when I was born, forty some odd years ago. Generation X started their journey in the communication dark ages and grew with a world that became more digitally connected and more isolating.
According to research, social isolation is has doubled since Generation X were teenagers. More people are dying alone, without family or friends by their side and this will only get worse as many Millennials and some Generation X have chosen to not have children. We blame society, technology, and past hurts for our self imposed isolation, but how did we really get to this place of hyper connection and increased feelings of disconnection?
I remember watching a news broadcast, years ago, about Faith Popcorn and her theory on how our culture was going to disconnect through cocooning. It sounded like an odd idea at the time. How could we, as individuals, isolate ourselves from each other?
Well We Did
Do you remember playing with your young friends all day, heading down to the local teen hangout, or spending hours on the phone talking to another voice? Children are no longer able to run outside and play with friends without adult supervision, which is time restricted. Video arcades and other teen social hang outs no longer exist and texting or online communication has taken over from talking. Cinemas used to be a weekly treat, but they made way for video stores and ticket costs skyrocketed.
Gone are the dinner and movie dates, they've been replaced with Netflix and chill.
Drive through options extended isolation into our cars where we pick up food, coffee, and groceries. Amazon and Online Shopping keeps us out of stores and malls enabling us to shop from the comfort of our homes without ever chatting with a salesperson.
We have slowly been removing social hang outs for teenagers and they in turn, have nowhere to go. Most helicopter parents won't let their kids 'hang out' anywhere because they might get into trouble.
Our children are learning how to stay home alone.
We Are Home Alone
My bank account dictates whether or not I can hang out in coffee shops. With the skyrocketing cost of living in the city, my time in these establishments has started to dwindle. Even when I am in these places for long periods of time, I hardly meet anyone new. Everyone, including myself, is behind a laptop or looking at their phone, the two items that tell those around you - I'm busy, buzz off.
Not to mention I live in a city known for its isolation. Dating in this city is nearly impossible, let alone finding people willing to invest in a friendship. Everyone is busy, they mean to get together with people in the real world, then when they look up the year is gone, then two. There is nothing like the age of other people's children to measure the time that has past since you last spent real time with them.
Work has even become more isolating as many people, like me, work from home. To save money, companies are opting for more remote arrangements for their employees. Making it even harder for people to connect. We drive into our garages and build higher fences to avoid having to talk to the neighbours. We move away from our hometowns to build a life for ourselves, only to leave behind family.
Social media and online tools have grown over the last ten years to improve personal connections, to keep in touch, share our experiences with those we know and love. Are we really connecting though?
I spend a lot of time online. Taking online courses, writing, posting on social media, tweaking my website, watching Netflix, dating and applying for work. I am chatting with people, virtually meeting new people, learning about people and telling people about myself.
What are your thoughts? Which generation do you think was more connected to friends and family in their forties, us or our parents?
What to do
Getting out into the real world and saying "hello" to people on transit and coffee shops, is a start, which risks the one thing people fear - Rejection.
Volunteer for a charity or cause.
Text friends to see if they want to do something.
Go out into the world for a mini staycation adventure with your kids to build stronger connections with them. The bonus is getting acquainted with the city you live in.
Use Online Tools
Attend events advertised on Facebook.
Go to free seminars promoted on LinkedIn.
Attend meetups to get out of the house, and more importantly, out of your comfort zone. Learn something new while meeting new people.
Use dating sites to make real world meet and greets in a public place, not text endlessly because all this means is you are building a relationship with your phone.
The key to connecting through events is consistently showing up and making an effort to connect with the people you meet there one on one for coffee.
Which online connecting tools do you use to help you get out and make connections in the real world?
Make it a goal to smile more, get out more, and live more. Maybe you meet someone new, maybe you don't. At least you lived.
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Shannon Peel is a Professional Marketing Manager and Storyteller. Her company, MarketAPeel, helps Professionals define their personal brands and tell their story through different channels, including writing their book.