How to fight loneliness in an ever-connected world - Humantold

How to fight loneliness in an ever-connected world

Megan Wessler, MHC-LP April 24, 2024

With every technological advancement designed to bring us closer, why do we find ourselves growing more disconnected?

In 2024 we are more digitally connected than ever before and also more lonely. With every technological advancement designed to bring us closer, why do we find ourselves growing more disconnected? This modern paradox of increased connectivity but decreased closeness prompts some big questions about the current nature of loneliness, the quality of our relationships and the role of technology in connection. 

Loneliness in the Digital Age

As inherently social creatures, loneliness is a very normal human emotion that most of us have experienced at some point in our lives. Loneliness can be a painful emotion, typically characterized by feelings of isolation and disconnection. In Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown explains “At the heart of loneliness is the absence of meaningful social interaction - an intimate relationship, friendships, family gatherings, or even community or work group connections.” 

Over the past few years, studies have shown that Americans are reporting higher rates of loneliness. For example, in a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, 30% of American adults reported feeling lonely at least once a week in 2023, an increase from previous years. Further, the data indicated that younger segments of the population are feeling increasingly lonely. The loneliness epidemic is a major public health concern because of the implications for mental and physical health as well as overall longevity. 

Technology and Loneliness 

There are a variety of significant factors (ranging from socioeconomic to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic) that contribute to loneliness in America but for this conversation, let’s look more closely at the quality of our connections in the context of our current digital age.

Social media and other communication platforms offer a multitude of benefits. We have access to more information than ever before and the ability to stay connected with friends and family across the globe. Making connections with potential partners, friends and groups is possible thanks to dating apps and other platforms. Additionally, virtual communities can be powerful outlets, representing a vital hub for support and information sharing. 

On the other hand, research suggests that constant digital engagement can contribute to feelings of isolation and inadequacy. Most of us will agree that social media platforms can sometimes leave us feeling depleted and in deep comparison mode. Further, the nature of online interactions can feel inauthentic and unsatisfying, leading to feelings of disconnection.

Our real time interactions can be impacted by our technology use too. Ignoring someone for your phone (or phubbing) is increasingly common and impacts the quality of our interactions. Most of us have been that friend or witnessed a friend getting distracted by incoming messages during a conversation. It’s even interesting to consider our use of headphones while commuting or walking around the city. Are we missing out on connective conversations or interactions? 

Tips for balancing staying connected without feeling isolated

When it comes to loneliness, it would be too simplistic to say that social media and communication platforms are the problem or the cure. It's the quality of our connections that matter when we’re talking about loneliness. Balancing the benefits of staying connected through technology, while mitigating feelings of isolation requires an evaluation of our current habits and some intentional strategies. Here are some ideas for achieving this balance: 

  • Get curious with your feelings: Check in with yourself and get curious with your feelings. When do I feel lonely or disconnected? When do I feel connected and seen? What kind of interactions create feelings of connection or disconnection?
  • Seek moments of connection: Meaningful moments of connection will look different for everyone. Start exploring what meaningful connection looks like for you - maybe it’s a call or text to a friend, or a conversation with a fellow commuter. 
  • Expand upon IRL interactions: Face-to-face interactions can help facilitate meaningful connections. In addition to spending time with people you already know, consider the possibilities of clubs, groups and organizations that share your interests or values. 
  • Reevaluate your relationship with your phone: Our phones can be a tool for connection, but they can also detract from the quality of our relationships. How can your phone be a tool for connection rather than disconnection?
  • Practice mindful social media consumption: Taking an emotionally present approach to social media can help us understand the role we want it to play in our lives. 
  • Embrace the awkward: Real life interactions with other humans can be more awkward and messy than digital interactions - and that’s ok! 

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