In trying to prioritize the news that have resonated with me lately, I put as No. 1 learning that the UK has a new minister of loneliness. How many times do we hear that we need to develop skills for the unknown jobs of this century? It never occurred to me that a job of this century would be Minister of Loneliness. And yet, how much needed!
People say that what we are seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think this is what we’re seeking. What we are seeking is an experience of being alive.
I don’t have to go too far in time to identify a moment when I felt alone even being surrounded by other people. Yesterday to be more exact. Are we (humans) hiding? This was the question at my dinner table last night when we were discussing the new Ministry in the UK.
As I observe the behaviour of our society, we seem to have found a good place to hide in our own comfort zones. Cellphones, books, computers and the sort are good excuses to avoid eye contact and the awkwardness of having to start a conversation with someone that we consider a stranger. How different from my father’s time! Many times I rolled my eyes witnessing him start a conversation in any places and with everyone. Nobody was a stranger to him.
Technology is playing a role in creating this lonely society. While some people argue that technology connects us more, studies on the quality of the connections we get through our social media apps show that we feel more alone now. “[A] recent study found that 48% of respondents only had one confidant compared to a similar study 25 years ago when people said they had about three people they could confide in. So, as we have built expansive social networks online, the depth of our networks offline has decreased,” says Margie Warrell, a contributor for Forbes. Since it is inevitable that we continue inviting more devices and technological solutions in our daily lives, finding an answer to our loneliness should be important.
Changing the discussion of fear and confusion, that only leads to apathy, to one of understanding and possibility brings opportunity. Facebook and the fake news on its very popular platform have made us aware of the dark side of these technologies. Despite that, after many years of being reluctant to create a Facebook account for me, I’ve decided to sign in! Why? It has become part of our social fabric, as other technologies are and will be.
Wearables will say if our bodies are alive, even before being born. 21st Century Retirees will use technology to be more active and engaged. Saying “Hey Google, remind me if I took my vitamin D3” will be par of my daily routine and a Smart Cane may guide my way back home. Technology will make us more adventurous because we will feel safer. This feeling creates a big opportunity.
What will make us feel safer around other human beings? What will make our souls feel alive? Certainly not technology.
I suggest 3 things will do:
- Look into someone’s eyes and share a story; your story and her story without judging.
- Forget what divides us. We are all human beings searching for happiness.
- Live this moment. It will be lost if you don’t listen to it and observe it.
You will have to forget technology and the fake news, the fake happiness, the fake everything that technology simulates for us. What is real is already around us to enjoy it, to experience that we are alive even if when we turn 109. This is a much bigger opportunity.
Raise your hand (more like add a comment) if you have an advice for UK’s Minister of Loneliness.