We humans value our sense of connection. So how is it when living in a world more connected than ever, we can still feel alone?
Look no further than social media to learn that our digital age has highlighted a piece of human nature many of us weren’t aware existed. We value ourselves based on the perceived quality of our connections, and compare that against the connections of others.
What sort of value is there in connection? In business terms, disconnected employees have been measured as the most likely cause of low productivity. When workers lack a sense of connection to a business or the work they do, absenteeism is high, so too presenteeism. They’re ‘there’, but not there. This lack of engagement adds up to around $34bn a year. Yes, that’s billions.
But people aren’t a dollar figure. They’re human first and foremost. When our sense of personal connection is lacking, the value we’re losing is huge. Feelings of disconnect are precursors to poor mental health. And the stats suggest one in five people will experience poor mental health inside the next 12 months. Should a persons’ feelings of connection disappear altogether, a lack of self-worth is soon to follow. No connection, no value, no hope.
There’s always an inevitable irony to being human. Whilst connection is something we crave, it’s also something we fear. Our fear of being misunderstood, or judged incorrectly, creates a perception that we might be putting the value of our connection at risk. Particularly true for anyone who’s mindset has started heading a little south. They might instead have their fears leading them to disconnect and pull back, as some form of defence. A bit like running away as a kid, or wanting to remove ourselves from bad situations for some time to think. Odd yeah? We feel disconnected, then crave connection, even though we’ve retreated away from it.
Well, we can’t have it both ways. We can’t yearn for it and be frozen by our fear of risking it. The truth is, the best connections are the ones we create and maintain. But for those of us with wavering mental health, the efforts required can, at times, seem huge. Sometimes we win, sometimes we don’t. But I learned a long time ago that the key is to keep at it.
The efforts I had to employ to develop and maintain a connection, during a time where my mental health saw no value in doing so, were by far the most rewarding efforts I had chosen to make. throughout those years, it took time and energy, but giving up was not an option. My desire to recreate a meaningful connection meant I had to dispel a myth or two. There are no mind readers, and no wishing for people to step in and connect with us. It was up to me to contribute and keep my connections alive, engaged, and providing the value I was after.
It was then that I began to see them as a method of mutual support. And in those moments, my positivity began to return.
The strength we gain from our feelings of connection contribute to our sense of belonging. We feel worthy, valued, and capable when we connect, engage, and contribute. Our primal/tribal instincts run deep. Knowing we’re accepted creates feelings of stability and belonging. The waters feel warm and calming as we swim in our sea of like mindedness.
And given the oxymoron that is our “connected better than ever” lives, I reckon we could start in some very simple ways to turn that irony around. How? Don’t walk away from the world and everybody in it. Stay interested, help to maintain a connection. Invite people out, engage them, encourage them, converse with them, acknowledge them.
But if you aren’t in the best of head-spaces right now, try this. Just get out of bed, and try to do the simple things. You will push through, and recreate a connection. No, it’s not easy. But the longer we humans remain disconnected, the harder it becomes to feel the positives that a quality connection can bring.