We are living in a time of incredible advances in technology, including Artificial Intelligence or AI. This is exciting! We now have machines to do a lot of the mundane, repetitive, routine work we once had to do. We even have access to our own personal, virtual assistants, like Alexa, to do more of the work that can take so much time. We don’t even have to leave the house to get work done or connect with people. This is great news! We now have less work and more time than ever to do the things we love with the people we love, right? Or do we?
What if we’re losing as much as we’re gaining with these technological advances? What if we’re losing a part what makes us human; a part of the human experience that is vital for our survival?
We are social animals! Our brains are wired for social connection – it’s a basic human need.
We have more connections than ever before, but that doesn’t mean we actually feel more connected. With so many connections, you may be surprised to know that…
- Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out (Cigna)
- Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations. (Cigna)
- Only around half of Americans have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, daily. (Cigna)
- Anxiety is on the rise, affecting millions of children. Social anxiety is one of the most common forms of anxiety. (Anxiety and Depression Association of America)
- Lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure, according to one study. (Stanford Medical)
It’s important to distinguish between digital connections and in-person, human connection. Consider the power of a smile. “Each time you smile, you throw a little feel-good party in your brain.” Smiles release natural stress relievers, pain killers and serotonin, all which help us feel good. And…smiles are contagious! So, your smile doesn’t only help you feel good, it does the same for others around you. In case you’re wondering, you don’t get the same effects from a smiley face emoji! 😊
How does social connection improve physical health and mental and emotional well-being?
- Higher self-esteem
- Greater empathy
- Better emotion regulation
- Decreased loneliness
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Increased longevity
We’re not going to stop advancements in technology; we don’t want to. But we do need to pause and consider how we prioritize human connection and a human experience that allows us to thrive in the midst of incredible technological advancement. At least until we become machines ourselves. 🤔
Today, I ask you to join me in putting down your phone, stepping away from your social media and sharing a genuine smile with someone, looking someone in the eyes and thanking them, giving someone a hug and telling them you care. Our health and happiness depend on it!