How Creating Social Connections Remotely is Good
I got a lot of comments about last week’s article on the need for social connections.
Readers made comments such as:
“I feel like people wore masks and suddenly stopped looking at other people, and now that the masks are off, we still are not looking at each other.”
“I feel lonely at work, and I am not sure why.”
“I want to get together with my co-workers, but I am not sure how to approach them.”
What is influencing this sense of dissociation at work?
Technology – We have never lived in such a fast-paced society. The influx of technology has accelerated the pace of productivity and overwhelm.
This same technology that should make social connection easier made many of us turn inward or tune out. Social media can be a lifeline for some people who need social connections, but we often use it in unhealthy ways that just leave us feeling worse.
Societal Issues – The issues we see on the news are wreaking havoc on our psyches. The specific issues change, but things like pandemics, climate change, political unrest, and war affect us in ways that we may not even understand.
In the case of a pandemic (or other crisis), staying safe at home was a physical barrier to our ability to connect.
Other societal issues may not make us hide behind physical walls, but they are so divisive that you might find yourself uneasy around the same people you used to hang out with. Uncertainty and constant stress is exhausting. The related anger, fear, and trepidation wears us down and leave us feeling myopic.
Changing Work Landscape – Many businesses realized getting rid of the office and having employees work remotely saves them money and boosts productivity. It is a win-win. Many employees like the arrangement because they have more time when they are not commuting, they have more autonomy, and they have more freedom to schedule their work.
However, the problem is that many people, especially those isolated in other areas of their lives, need the social connectedness their jobs provide.
Staying connected should be easier now than ever. However, more and more people feel lonely and isolated.
How can we overcome these issues and start connecting with each other again?
The same tech that divides us can bring us back together again.
Allows Us to Connect Across the World
One of the most obvious benefits of connecting with people through technology is that it transcends borders. You can make and maintain relationships anywhere with internet or phone access.
Convenience – Even the most laid-back social event involves getting ready and going somewhere. Working remotely does not take anything more than an internet connection.
Introvert Friendly – Some people find it hard to be in social situations surrounded by people. It is not just an inconvenience for introverts – it can be emotionally and physically exhausting. When connecting through technology, there is a buffer between you and the physical world.
Affordability – Travel is expensive. Even going out for a night can be pricey. Staying remote can be relatively affordable. Host a virtual happy hour or coffee. Schedule dinner to be delivered at the same time and share a meal on a joint video call.
The Tech Exists – You might be old enough to remember when video calls were just on Star Trek. If you are not that old, you may still be old enough to remember when a video call was so pixelated, and the sound was so delayed that it was painful to participate. Those days are over. Even the most entry-level smartphone can provide a solid video call experience. Outside of the most rural areas, internet speeds are fast enough to stay connected.
Addresses Mobility Issues – Many people deal with mobility issues. If you are not as mobile as the general population, then something as simple as getting together for a coffee might be a huge inconvenience, if not impossible.
Staying connected remotely provides most people with a chance to connect, regardless of their mobility. This is an especially beneficial feature for an aging population. Historically, as older adults’ mobility decreases, so do their social connectedness. Staying connected remotely is one way to mitigate increasing challenges.
Germ-Free! – Before the virus, we did not think about contactless anything. However, pandemic or not, communicating without spreading germs is important – especially to certain parts of the population.
Similar Health Benefits to Social Connectedness
Last week’s article mentioned the massive benefits of social connection. Basically, all areas of your life benefit from social connection – physical, mental, and spiritual.
This study that suggests social technology use among older adults mediates loneliness touches on a few of the similar benefits:
The current study demonstrated that social technology use can be beneficial for older adults. Greater technology use was associated with better self-rated health, fewer chronic conditions, higher subjective well-being, and lower depression. The current study extends previous theoretical and empirical work on the benefits of social technology in many ways. It provides a confirmatory test of previous research on the benefits of Internet use among older adults by showing that new technologies can also confer these benefits, particularly with respect to health outcomes. It also provides a psychological mechanism through which technology can improve the lives of older adults.
Diversity – Connecting with people through technology can cross borders, races, religions, and ethnicities. Many barriers that used to divide us disappear when connecting with people online.
This diversity can open our eyes to entirely different viewpoints. It can challenge us to consider things we never thought of. It is a chance to learn about people and places that we would never have the chance to visit otherwise.
Continuity of Relationships – Technology allows us to stay connected, no matter where other people are or end up. When I was first in the Navy it was tough to stay in touch. You had to write letters, and then mail them.
Now, staying connected is easy with a little effort.
Breadth of Different Experiences – Staying connected online is not just about Facetime and Zoom and Skype. My friend, Rob Ferre is an expert at bringing people together virtually with games, quizzes, music, and competitions. You could host a virtual games night. Many media apps now offer “watch parties” so you can binge-watch your favorite shows with friends. Live concerts and virtual dance parties happen regularly.
We routinely host wine-tasting happy hours with my friend, Rashmi – https://www.facebook.com/rashmi.malhotra.92 as wine host. We discuss business issues and wine. (Let me know if you want to be added to the list! Everyone is invited!) The good news is, no matter your mobility levels or comfort – you can reach these events from the comfort of your own home.
While technology can get a bad rap at times, we can use it to it still provides many social connectedness benefits.