I was listening to a radio interview today of the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murtny. He puts forth that we are in the moment of a national health crisis. This crisis is not from an airborne illness or some biological mess-up. It is because of our loneliness.
As soon as I heard this, I had an “AH-HA” moment. I like many others have a number of social media networks. I feed these networks so I can be connected and have relationships. The truth, though, is that through these networks i don’t feel really connected. What are we truly going to share about ourselves in a public forum? Recipes, photos, events we attend.
What about what makes our heart soar or ache. What about the struggles we are having the we are even a little afraid to mention out loud? What about a hug or a kind touch or maybe just a familiar smell?
None of this is possible through our online connections. I’m not being a luddite and suggesting these mediums are bad. What I am saying is they are not a substitute for in-person connection. We are becoming more isolated and this isolation has significant health and well-being impact. I don’t have solutions to offer today. I do recommend you read Dr. Murtny’s article in the Harvard Business Review: Work and the Loneliness Epidemic.
I’m moved by this challenge to our society. For millennia, we banded together for our safety. As we have “evolved” we feel we don’t need others to survive, perhaps we have misunderstood survival. You see, merely breathing and eating and going to work isn’t living. We have the potential for so much more as humans, why deprive ourselves of a full life for a life where we merely get by?
We don’t solve the problem by going alone to a place where there is a crowd. Go to a mall or airport and people watch for a while. Look at all the islands passing each other without any recognition or interaction. Most people are looking at the smart phones or listening to music or in some other form of self-imposed isolation. They could pass the most interesting person in the world and they would never know it.
What will you do today to connect more with people in person, share of yourself and allow yourself the opportunity to feel more alive?