I’m writing this post as I fly across the country to surprise my sister for her 51st birthday. And although we text each other almost daily, talk frequently, and have a continuous, ongoing game of Words With Friends, I haven’t actually laid eyes on her in over eight months.
She is one of my VIPs: my very important people. Being with someone in person, seeing their subtle facial expressions, responding in real time to jokes, even when you are in frequent communication, that is something we all need. It’s something we all crave. And it is something that is increasing lacking in our culture. We are becoming lonelier than ever, even with all of the technology connecting us virtually.
And perhaps not surprisingly, it turns out human connection is vital to our health and well being. A recently published 80 year Harvard study found the number one factor in people living a long, healthy life is whether or not they have deep human connection.
Not kale, not planks, connection.
I tend to be a homebody. I love nature and love being with friends and family, but I also love puttering around my home. I work from home so sometimes days can go by without me leaving our property. If I didn’t have people also living in my home, I might go days without seeing another person (and let’s be real—even when you live with busy teenagers and a busy husband running his own business, our interactions are often monosyllabic—not exactly deep connections).
But I agree with the Harvard study. We need to connect deeply with other humans. The tricky part is that we have the perception that we are more connected than ever with modern technology and social media. It’s easy to feel like we’re connecting with other people through social media, but in reality it is shallow and false, and ends up having the opposite effect. When you only see the curated reality that people want to present to the world on social media–friends in fun places, doing fun things, all smiles and no arguments, it can have a twisted affect on self-esteem. And it’s easy to feel lonely and even more isolated.
The first step with any situation you want to improve is awareness. I’m aware of the fact that I have homebody tendencies and need to connect with people more. I can think of several ways to do this.
1. I have some great friends that I just need to put a little more effort into seeing more often.
2. I need to carve out time each day to connect with the VIPs in my life, like forcing my teenagers to put down their devices and talk to me for more than a minute about what’s going on in their lives.
3. I can set aside time and money to travel more frequently to visit my siblings who unfortunately all require airline miles to see in person.
It’s a matter of making deep connection a priority. Knowing that it is the number one factor in living a long and healthy life requires making it a priority. What step will you take to make sure you are connecting deeply with other human beings?