Are you lonely? If the answer is “yes”, you can take solace in knowing that 40% of the adult population feels socially isolated. Our ability to digitally tie-in to each other has soared in the last two decades. But the number of folks who say they feel socially isolated has nearly doubled.
We are sharing more – but connecting less.
There is a hefty health cost to our lack of emotional connections. Being chronically lonely carries the same mortality risk as smoking. Think about it for a moment. We can eat right, exercise regularly and get proper sleep – but without intimate personal connections, we have the same mortality risk as if we smoked 15 cigarettes a day.
The feeling of isolation isn’t dependent on how many, or how few, people we chose to interact with on a regular basis. Some of us are happiest pursuing primarily solitary interests. Some of us prefer social activities involving hordes of others. But, whether our social circle is limited to a group of three, or we regularly ride with a posse of thirty, without emotional intimacy we feel isolated and alone.
In other words, most of us don’t need to include more people in our lives, we just need to step up our emotional intimacy game.
Changing the way we interact with social media is a great first step.
Unless you are a brain surgeon on call, turn your phone off during conversations with family/friends. Fully engage in exchanging thoughts and feelings with the folks who are actually present without interruption or distraction from the folks who are not.
Decrease the amount of time spent “capturing” or “sharing” fun or interesting experiences on social media. Increase the amount of time you spend just living in the moment and sharing the experience with – again – the folks who are actually present.
Unless your job depends on it, limit your social media use to two hours a day. Spending more than two hours a day on social media can actually double your chances of feeling socially isolated.
Try sticking to these three rules for just a week. Once the withdrawal pains subside, you might just find yourself feeling more intimately connected with the folks around you.