Divided by Pixels; Connected by People

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Screened Apart: Isolation & Connection

Navigating personal and professional relationships is seldom easy. It takes time and effort to learn each other’s nuances, a task made notably more difficult as we become increasingly separated by screens. Last year, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy drew attention to something many of us had been experiencing—an epidemic of loneliness and isolation.

As the notoriously commercial Valentine’s Day descends upon us, the symptoms of this silent epidemic may become more poignant. Some attribute the cause to be an increasing absence of community spirit coupled with the ubiquitous prevalence of technology in our lives. Exaggerated political division has further exacerbated the collapse of community and separation via technology, as discussed in this podcast with psychologist Kurt Gray.

The more we focus on our differences, the less we recognize the things that connect us. We all have a common, intrinsic need for connection, as illustrated by psychiatry professor Robert Waldinger in the video below. Though nuanced between our individual personalities, we all thrive when we have flourishing, stable connections in our lives. Yet the more we immerse ourselves in technology, the more we become saturated in division and isolation, as delineated in this report by the US Department of Health & Human Services.

The growing absence of community requires a conscious effort to remedy. We remedy it when we consciously look away from social media and other distractions to pay attention to the people around us. We remedy it when we make conversation with others, or when we make a phone call instead of a text message to friends and family.

Loneliness may be an epidemic, but happiness can be an active choice. It’s no secret that we feel a spark of elation when we help others, but generosity can help us build a bridge from isolation to connectivity, as conveyed in this TED Talk by Asha Curran of the global generosity movement, GivingTuesday.

We can build a sense of community and connectivity when we endeavor to expand our horizons beyond the bezels of our screens.

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
– Herman Melville

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