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How Social Media Affects Our Ability To Deeply Connect

May 2, 2017

I was watching a TED Talk the other day and the speaker shared that despite being arguably the most connected society to ever exist, we are one of the loneliest societies that has ever been. Do you agree?  I certainly see a lot of lonely people in my office, in the high school students I […]

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I was watching a TED Talk the other day and the speaker shared that despite being arguably the most connected society to ever exist, we are one of the loneliest societies that has ever been.
Do you agree?  I certainly see a lot of lonely people in my office, in the high school students I volunteer with, and in the world at large. It’s a little bit ironic, isn’t it?  That we are all walking around with advanced communication devices, addicted to social media of every kind, and yet, as a culture, we still have a problem with pervasive loneliness? Whether you love it or hate it, you must admit:  social media affects our ability to deeply connect with people.  
Despite our current societal condition, there are a few things we can do to achieve deep connection with those we love.  
Recognize our need for connection and what stifles it.  Humans are made for connection.  No matter who you are or what you believe about people, God, yourself and the world, it’s pretty hard to argue a human’s basic need for relationships.  When the joys and sorrows of life happen, we all want someone (or a few someones) to share them with.  
Recognize the purpose of social media.  It may be called SOCIAL media, but some of the most active people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat…and every other social media outlet…are the loneliest people in the world.  Why?  Because they are using social media as a connection tool rather than what it actually is…a communication tool.  Brene Brown discussed this a bit when I saw her speak back in March.  She said, “If you’re looking for likes, you need to remember you can’t control someone’s behavior on social media any more than you can control it in real life.” 
Real life happens in real life.  Face to face, eye to eye.  There’s nothing wrong with using your smartphone to communicate, but please don’t look to it for your sense of worth or connection.  It will fail you every time. 
Become a professional listener.  As a therapist, I like to think of myself as a professional listener.  A client comes into my office, sits on my comfortable couch, and I sit in my (not quite as comfortable) chair, directly across from them.  I ask them to tell me about their life.  They talk, I listen.  Then I talk a bit.  They do more talking, and on and on.  But you know what doesn’t happen?  The client and I are not on our phones.  We aren’t staring at a screen.  I’m watching them for body language, cues to what they are thinking that maybe they aren’t saying.  I’m giving them my full presence.  
So if that’s how I treat a client, isn’t that the very least I should do for my family and friends?  It’s such a struggle to put that phone away, I get it.  If you want (or need) to do a little social media detox, you can go here for some good ideas.  
Giving people our full attention is so important if we want to experience deep connection.  Our relationships will surely bloom and our loved ones will surely feel our love when we gift them with our full, intentional presence.  
I’m going to start by keeping my phone on the charger on the counter and not in my pocket.  Baby steps, Besties. How do you think social media affects our ability to deeply connect? What is one small change you can make to become more deeply connected today?

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