Finding Your Inner Wifi: How can we build human connection in a digital world?
Holly Niemela is a Wellness Expert at Mindful & Peaceful Interventions.
Human connection is one of the most significant and beneficial connections we can have in life. It is even essential for our survival: if newborns are not touched, hugged or nuzzled, they can have reduced brain development.
As adults, when we feel support or kindness we can more easily become supportive and kind. When we feel content, we can more easily give compassion, empathy. When we feel satisfaction, we can more easily be engaged in our lives—professionally and personally.
However today, human connection is being usurped by technology. The digitalisation of our daily lives is rapidly eroding those passing smiles, those quick chats or sit down exchanges because our eyes are glued to our phones, screens or apps. And we are much too busy to stop! Full-plate, empty-life syndrome is rampant in today's world. We send an email or a text rather than call. We workout online rather than go to a gym. We download, search and buy with a computer rather than strolling to the local shop, boutique or store. We touch our smartphone an average of 2,617 times and receive 121 emails every day, not to mention our activity on Whatapp, iMessage, SnapChat or social media. There’s simply no time left to stop and watch the world...
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not against technology. I am a user of social networks, an avid (!) watcher of series on Netflix and a believer that our society can flourish in the digital age. That is, if we can reassert our humanity as humans – being and not doing – behind the various digital devices that have supposedly given us more free time and liberty than the gadgets of the 50s that freed us of many mundane physical tasks. But there is nothing mundane about a good conversation, being heard or feeling touched by another human being. I recently read that developers wondered if it was better to code compassion into the algorithms of their software because they felt humans would not always choose the compassionate response. Is that our world of tomorrow?
How do we tackle this problem of too much online connection and not enough interconnection? For me, individual consciousness and choice needs to be aroused, awakened. We have seen a tremendous growth in personal development practices, from yoga to chi gong to aikido: all embodiment practices to help render an individual more aware through the alignment of the body and the mind.
Thanks to the relentless work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his MBSR programme (mindfulness-based stress reduction), since the 70s many people in the world have consciously chosen to train their brains to be online, present, to live in the now: mindful instead of mindless. Along with the hike in evidence-based neuroscience research studies behind mindful meditation practices, self-awareness and emotional intelligence, we have seen global companies, hospitals and even governments (for example Mindful Nation UK) jumping on the bandwagon to provide balance to our digital lifestyles.
For me, teaching others to train their mind and attention, to know when to shut off their phones and devices in order to be connected to their own inner wifi, is the first step towards reconnecting humans to humans.
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