by Deborah Hartung, founder of PivotPeople Tech
We live in such exciting times, where technology has truly enabled us to break down the barriers of space and time and to forge new paths and discover new frontiers in business and our personal relationships. But the same technology that has liberated us in so many ways, has enslaved and imprisoned us to the point where we aren’t able to make and maintain true human connections. In our world of DMs and FaceTime and same day delivery or click and collect, we have convenience and near instant gratification at our fingertips. But we are lonelier and feeling more isolated than ever.
It’s no secret that I wasn’t born yesterday. I’m a proud Gen X-er, born in the latter half of the 1970’s and raised during the 1980’s. Back then, we didn’t have 24 hour TV channels. Watching TV was a family affair, as most homes had only one television and viewing options were severely limited. There were no smartphones or apps. We played outside, rode our bicycles and read books. Grocery shopping was an entire event that required military precision-type planning, with carefully planned shopping trips because the 24 hour convenience store or petrol station mini mart had yet to be invented. Even mundane activity was an opportunity to build relationships and form connections. We spent real, quality time together.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I love technology and I am a major fan of all the things that make my life so much easier. I can work from anywhere. I can collaborate with people from all around the world and I can keep in touch with friends who have moved to other continents. I can close a 6 figure deal over the phone, sitting on my bed in my PJs with my wild morning hair and nobody is any the wiser. Technology truly is marvelous and I would be lost without it. But the dim glare from a smartphone or tablet cannot replace the warmth of a hug from a friend or a smile from a colleague.
Entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, remote workers who telecommute and gig-workers are most likely to feel isolated and lonely due to both the nature of their work and the ways they are working. But don’t be fooled – the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or a stay-at-home mom or contact center agent could all be feeling just as lonely and disconnected as the freelance graphic designer who works from their apartment and buys everything online so that they never have to leave home.
Here are 3 practical steps you can take to start reconnecting with humanity again and busting the blues caused by loneliness:
Countless studies have been conducted globally, showing the correlation between exercise and improved mental health. Physical activity is beneficial to your heart and your mood and can literally increase levels of happiness and reduce depression. If you’re feeling lonely, best to get outside and participate in a more social type of exercise such as Zumba or Parkrun. Some fantastic ideas for the best exercise to improve mental health are right here.
Strike up a Real Conversation
Technology often fools us into thinking that texting or the odd comment on a social media post, is enough. Humans are social creatures and we have an innate need to feel a sense of belonging and community, so actual verbal conversations or face to face meetings, are integral and necessary to keep us feeling connected. Instead of commenting on a friend’s post on Facebook, give her a call and have an actual conversation about it. If that seems a little overwhelming, how about starting with something smaller? Next time you go on a coffee run, actually say a few words to the barista. Instead of doing all your shopping online, stop by the local market for a few essentials and exchange pleasantries with a clerk or cashier or stall owner.
Acts of Service
When we are serving others or our broader community, it is a lot harder to be as self-absorbed. Invite a new colleague for coffee or lunch or volunteer with a local charity of your choice. Not only will you be doing something active to serve and uplift your broader community, you will also be meeting other likeminded people and building real life relationships. Your focus will shift from a feeling of isolation and a lack of meaning in your life, to one of purpose and a sense of contributing to the greater good.
Technology is wonderful, but it cannot replace real human emotion, vulnerability and emotional intimacy. Those things cannot be found on a touch screen and instead, have to be experienced in person. It’s ok to start small and emerge from your self-imposed exile, taking tentative steps towards real human connection.
Deborah Hartung is a consultant, coach, author and speaker, and the founder of Pivot PeopleTech. She loves helping entrepreneurs find their unique voice and leadership style in order to empower them to create amazing places where people truly want to work. She has spent the majority of her career in HR and labour relations management and consulting, gaining experience in all fields related to the human experience in the workplace. While her main focus remains on consulting, coaching and training in the HR and labour relations space, Deborah is passionate about people and technology and the opportunities for the advancement of humanity in the digital age. Professionally, Deborah is known as an HR turnaround specialist with a proven track record in improving workplace culture, employee engagement and organisational effectiveness. www.pivotpeopletech.co.za
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