There is an arguable debate that our digital age makes it easier for people to connect. Emails, messenger apps, social media platforms, dating apps and even video gaming have become the social norms for connecting. Yet, the rate of suicide continues to rise in the US. Perhaps we are missing a very obvious and overlooked point
Human interaction is a foundational element of connection. It is also an integral part of the health of our country. Consider important parts of society such as: education, medicine, law, police/fire/ems and homeland security. In order to successfully operate in any of these fields, human interaction is required.
Yet, we continue to place such tremendous value on technology that our skillsets are becoming obsolete. In our quest for time optimization, we have created suboptimal methods for establishing and maintaining healthy connections. Every year that we advance technologically, we step further and further away from true connection. The results are increased rates of anxiety, depression and suicide.
Families text one another from room to room in their own households. Online courses are becoming a primary source of education. Text messaging is considered an acceptable way for partners and spouses to communicate with one another and online relationships are now considered intimate forms of connection. We are losing touch with one another and simultaneously losing the foundational pieces needed for health in society.
Boil it down to the basics, you can’t digitize human connection. Manners can’t be learned from online platforms. Love cannot be fostered exclusively through words typed on electronic screens. Respect can’t be taught through a Marvel movie or a YouTube video. Health cannot be learned by viewing fit bodies on Instagram. And medical assistance cannot happen without connection. Now, consider the tremendous irony of our digital age with regards to receiving help or support.
When someone is in emotional or psychological crisis, we implore people to open up and talk about how they are feeling. We tell: our kids, our students, our peers, our family members and our public servants to reach out. Here is the logical and obvious question that is continuously overlooked. How is someone expected to reach out and connect when their primary habits of engaging have rendered them so disconnected?
Seriously consider the gap at play here. We are asking someone who is suffering to miraculously access, and/or suddenly acquire, a skillset of vulnerability to connect using a method that is no longer the norm. And to further complicate the already overwhelming challenge, to suddenly defy their own habits of connection. The expectation is that someone will easily reach out when it requires connection in a way that has become so foreign not just in sentiment but in their actual neural coding.
Please continue to reflect on these points when you find yourself so shocked over how many children and teens are taking their own lives as well as members of the military, law enforcement and first responders in our country. Life is precious, but we are placing more value on technology.
Don’t wait for crisis to understand connection, or the lack of it in your lives. Take the time to slow down. Take the time to learn how to connect. Start with yourself, then your families and as crazy as it may sound, begin to reflect on your community and building connections. Technology doesn’t breathe. You do, your peers do, your teachers do, your partners, your neighbors do. Stay connected. It is a matter of life or death