We are all aware by now about the technology addiction and lack of human connection that is taking over our society. Whether we are at work or on the subway, we see it everywhere, people choosing to stare at their phones and eat alone than to make connections with another human and there is no other city to best observe this than where I live, New York City.
In Manhattan we are constantly surrounded by people, personal space doesn’t exist here. But despite the constant physical element of being surrounded by other humans, emotionally and spiritually we are all checked out. Everyone is heads down staring at their devices and New York ettiquette seems to be that the person next to you is allowed to be right under your arm pit, but don’t say hello and don’t make eye contact. We are a lonely bunch because of this and it seems we are not the only ones. A third of Americans are suffering from anxiety and depression and if it’s not you, there is someone close to you who is suffering.
The problem is that people are relying on technology too much for connection and not forming any real and lasting human connections. We should be using our devices as a bridge to form new relationships not as a barrier. It’s scary, but statistics show that we touch our cell phones every 15 minutes, that’s 2600 times a day!
Not having your phone has become the new vacation. We are overworked and burnt out because of these devices permanently attached to us. When you think about it, we are all working “on call” jobs now. We can be contacted 24/7 and we are expected to answer that work email even if it’s 6am on a Sunday, it has become the new normal.
People are paying thousands of dollars for disconnect retreats just so they can have an excuse not to be on their phones. Our phones have literally become a “job” we need a vacation from and not disconnecting is making us miserable.
So many people talk about doctors and how hard it must be with the long hours and constantly having a pager alerting you back to work. Well what do you think that little device in your pocket is right now? It’s a pager. Constantly buzzing, alerting you that there is a situation you need to deal with and look at. We tell people you can page me anytime, it’s on us 24/7 and we even sleep with it.
Our work environments and how we engage with the people we work with on a daily basis is extremely important as we spend a third of our lives at work. Globally, 85% of the workforce is disengaged or actively disengaged, due to the fact they don’t like the people they work with or they hate their job. Most people don’t have any real work friends and they are feeling isolated even in large corporations. Emloyees will get lunch and eat it at their cubicle instead of asking a co worker for lunch because they would rather be emailing or texting. It’s much more convenient to use technology than going and having a face to face conversation.
The problem with this is that if you don’t like your work environment, you are going to be disengaged and unhappy and it will 100 percent affect your personal life.
The average work week for an American is 47 hours, but that doesn’t take into account the amount of unpaid over time and your boss having constant access to you via your “pager”. Europe has recognzied the importance of work/life balance and in France they have a right to disconnect, you cannot email an employee after work and if you do you will be fined and in Germany they are fighting for a 28 hour work week.
When I lived in Berlin, I had a friend who worked as a mechanical engineer. The corporation he worked for required their engineers to come in everyday, but they could set their own hours. They could come in for 8 hours or two hours, it didn’t matter, just as long as they got the work done for that day. Their moto was if you can get the work done in four hours instead of 8, why would we want you sitting around not being productive for those extra four hours. My friend said there was no less productivity, in fact he thought there was improved productivity, as the employees didn’t feel trapped in their cubicles trying to pass time. This freedom and flexibilty led them to have more time with their families meaning they were happier in their personal lives and that spilled over into their work lives. So everyone was happier and more productive.
I thought this was genuis as we are all so different and we work differently. For instance, I am extremely productive from around 6am to 10am everyday, but some of my friends hate mornings and are much more productive later in the day. If you are forcing people to come in and work when it’s not their best productive hours, you are pretty much just paying for them to not work. If you work around someones productivity schedule, you will have more alert, happy employees and productivity will increase.
This all comes back to building a healthy lifestyle.When going into the workforce you need to figure out where your strengths and passion lies and be in an organization that supports that. Be in an environment where the leaders emphasize with you and understand where you are coming from. Be in a workplace where you can show up 100% human meaning you are not expected to decompartmentalize your life. Make sure you can talk to your co workers about your emotions, what’s going on outside of work, other projects you are working on and share ideas with them.
Big companies are realizing the importance of healthy employee mindsets and having therapists in the workplace are becoming more common. The old saying “leave it at the door” deosn’t apply anymore because not talking to your employees about something that is going on in their personal lives and being empathetic will affect their work productivity. In turn that energy will flow through the rest of the workplace creating a toxic environment and this means having less people engaged and more people looking for other jobs which will cost businesses more money and time training new people.
Leaders can learn to use technology properly by using it to get people together, but once they are all together, put the phones away, so they are all present and engaging with the people around them. Brainstorming and ideas will be flowing much stronger.
When it comes to our personal lives, the use of technology and forming relationships is just as bad. Someone with the average of 100 facebook friends only has 3 real friends they could rely on in an emotional crisis. Facebook and social media has given us the illusion that we have all of these friends, but think about how many of those friends you would call if you were in the hospital or were going through a tough time emotionally. I would guess, maybe a handful.
It gets worse when it comes to romantic relationships. We are a generation that comes to expect instant gratification, we want everything yesterday and we have forgotten what it’s like to have patience and put in the extra effort to get better results. So we are actually taking less and less time to get to know people on a deeper level and form strong, lasting connections.
Men have traded their legs and mouths for their phones and thumbs and women have agreed and said it’s totally fine for you to swipe right, send a “hey what’s up” text and you get to date me. But what’s worse, are the conversations people are having through their devices with people who they haven’t even met yet and creating fake attachments. I often hear of people in a text exchange sometimes for weeks and then say they got “ghosted” because the other person stopped responding to their texts.
This makes me laugh because to me they were always ghosts. If you look up the definition of a ghost, it is an unknown person who is only heard, never seen, always hidden. Isn’t this a normal relationship via dating apps?
So many people are having ghost relationships that are taking up so much space in their heads and they haven’t even met face to face. If you had to describe this person you would only be able to describe their superficial details, hair color, eye color, breast size etc. But you couldn’t tell me anything about their laugh, their mannerisms, how they treat you, how they treat others, how you feel around them. Yet so many people form strong bonds with these “ghosts” and what’s scary is that it’s real for them and something they need to recover from like any breakup.
I have nothing against using the dating apps as I have a couple of friends who did end up having a successful relationship after meeting on them. I would just like to see people using these apps and also approaching people in real life.
I for one have never been on a dating app. I am a hopeless romantic and a big believer in serendipity and I love the romantic stories the older generation tells us about how they met their partners. It’s always sweet or funny and more often involves the man serenading and using romantic gestures to whoo the woman. I fear the stories we tell our future grandkids of how we met will sadly be all the same, “Well darling dad thought mum’s picture was hot, so he swiped right.”
I know we are a hard working generation and we have much less time than our parents did, but I know we still have enough time for romance and true connections. We just need to put down our phones, look up and and interact with the people right in front of us.
If we don’t start forming these real, emotional bonds, I fear as a society we are going to spiral into a deeper depression, and romance and real human connection will be in a museum next to the dinosaurs.
So please stop having device relationships with ghosts and instead put down the phone, smile at the cute guy or girl at the coffee shop and have a real connection with a real human. This is what you need, this is what they need and this is what the world needs.