American psychiatrist Edward Hallowell writes, ‘Never in human history have our brains had to work with so much information as they do today… We have a generation of people who are so busy processing the information received from all directions that they are losing the ability to think and feel.’
The explosion of social media has turned the world of face-to-face interactions upside down, opening up previously unimagined opportunities and ways of connecting with our friends, peers, existing and future clients, and complete strangers worldwide — all at the touch of a button. We are more connected than ever before through our smartphone, the internet, instant messaging and social media.
According to statsita.com, ‘The power of social networking is such that the number of worldwide users is expected to reach some 2.95 billion by 2020, around a third of the Earth’s entire population.’ New social networking sites are popping up every minute. LinkedIn is growing at the rate of two new members per second.
With the increase in ‘connection’, however, has come a parallel increase in ‘disconnection’ç.
In her book Alone Together, social psychologist Sherry Turkle argues that our relentless connection to the digital world is actually driving isolation. On the whole, she says, we are now ‘more lonely and distant from one another … This is not only changing the way we interact online, it’s straining our personal relationships, as well.’
A 2013 study by Hanna Krasnova and a group of researchers from two German universities examined the impact of envy on Facebook. The study concluded that one in three people felt worse after visiting Facebook. ‘Lurkers’ who spent time looking at everyone else’s content, while not posting any of their own, felt especially dissatisfied. This behaviour led to feelings of loneliness, frustration and anger.
Even the term FOMO is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media’.
Social media encourages one-way communication – if we let it! Status updates and shout-outs, overloading and oversharing of personal information and hashtags — #kidspam, #foodenvy, #bestdayever, #grateful, #inspired — make us look ‘good’ but feel ‘bad’, and add very little of actual value to our lives.
In reality, our actual conversations tend to be brief, fleeting and superficial. A quick scan of any café, restaurant, bus, train or footpath will suggest we’re more interested in what is happening on our screens than in the people next to us — even our children, who are now babysat with Peppa Pig on the iPad.
Sure, we’re more connected than ever before, but increasingly to the digital world rather than to the real world and each other.
Any yet the realities of networking and connecting for personal growth and success rely on two-way communication: the mutual exchange of information and value.
It’s simple really – you cannot get anywhere in life on your own. Every one of the people I have worked with or spoken to prove that the power lies in surrounding yourself with a small yet strong, trusted and tight network – a network that works for you. It’s about the quality of relationships and never about the quantity of people that you know.
It’s up to you to start connecting the right way – two way conversation, the giving and taking of ideas and insight, supporting each others dreams, simply checking in to ask “how are you today?” without any other agenda in mind. It’s up to you to invest the time, and energy to build quality relationships and to commit to not getting lost in a field of ‘likes’ and accepts.
I’m wondering who I’m going to really connect with this week – what about you?