While reading several books about the global acceleration of technology, it was predicted that the highest paying jobs in the future will be those that combine science and technology skills with the ability to relate well with other people. I also read that trust – not technological savvy – between two people is the key to success, both personal and professional.
As a psychotherapist, I’ve observed that profound isolation is the great pathology of modern life. And so, in a desperate attempt to feel “connected”, we turn to technology. How many people do you know who cannot tear themselves away from their phones? Even when they’re with their friends at a restaurant? Even when they want to/need to go to sleep? Even when they are walking down the street, missing a million chances to look at and smile at real people. Why do we do this? With phones, we have a sense of being in control. With real people, we don’t.
“We are powerfully connected electronically but increasingly disconnected interpersonally”, said Dr. Edward Hallowell, an expert in the field of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “People everywhere are starved for human connection, which I call ‘the other Vitamin C’. The beauty of this Vitamin C is that it’s free and infinite in supply; the problem is people walk right past it.”
Phones are wonderful tools: computers in our pockets. Life before phones was so different: How did you let your friends know you were running late? How could you look up something without running home to your desktop computer or even going to the library? How could you let your bestie know you’re thinking of her/him?
Technology – like phones – has much to offer to make us more productive, healthier, smarter and more secure. But we will get the best of these technologies only if we don’t let them distract us from making deep human connections and addressing our longing to feel loved, appreciated and known by other people.
The more complex the world gets, the more we each need to be anchored in at least one trusting, healthy community, a community that gives to us and that we enrich in return. This is the “cure” for isolation. This is the “other” Vitamin C: a connection to people who know us, love us and will kick our asses (supportively, of course) when we go off-course.
Sounds good, but how do we do it? When the speed of daily life continues to accelerate, it’s easy to feel unmoored, adrift, lonely, anxious and depressed. COVID has exacerbated that sense of isolation, but, now that we are – today, anyway – moving back out into the world of other people, how do we get that Vitamin C and feel grounded, anchored, loved and safe? Here are a few suggestions:
Make a list of people in your life that matter to you. Meet up with them in person. Talk to them. Reconnect. (I recently did this myself and it feels great).
Put your phone away or turn it off on a regular basis. Notice what it’s like to relate to real people. You may have lost some of your social skills. Not to worry, they’ll come back to you once you lessen your dependence on your phone.
Look at people’s faces. Try a simple smile, “Good morning” or another simple greeting. Notice how much better you feel, how connected you can be with people on such an easy, basic level.
Find your community – people you trust – and focus on what you can give to them, not on what you can get. This isn’t easy when you’re feeling scared or alone, but it is a great cure for isolation. When you focus on what you can give, you get out of your head and feel less afraid. And when you’re part of a community focused on giving to its members, everyone wins.
After two years of COVID-fueled isolation, it’s time for some Vitamin C. Don’t be electronically connected but personally isolated. Find ways to enjoy being with other people again and use your phone as a tool, not a friend substitute.