The photo to the right encapsulates the narrative that surrounds the “connection economy” we live in. This narrative is a story of a world in which people are more connected to one another than at any time in human history and the connections simply keep growing. Through social networks we have instantaneous access to more people than ever. I can snap a 15 sec video and within seconds all of my friends know what I am doing in that precise moment. Even more precise is my ability to leverage live streaming platforms – my family and friends can literally see things as I see them, in real time.
However, the “connected economy” is an illusion. The opposite is actually taking place – we are becoming less connected with one another because of our belief and dependence on the connection narrative. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – they are all shortcuts. Shortcuts around the process of actually taking the time to connect with people at a human level. Shortcuts around calling all 15 individuals that you sent your most recent snap to and actually sharing with them how you are doing.
This illusion is like swimming with a life jacket on. In a life jacket we are confident, we feel like we are one with the water. Likes and follower requests play the same role in the “connected economy”. Our 5,000 followers on Facebook and our 500+ connections on LinkedIn make us feel connected – one with all of the people in our lives. However, the moment we are setting ourselves up for is the moment when we have to take the life jacket off and attempt to navigate the waters of life. In that moment we realize that we don’t know how to swim. It is in that moment, the moment in which we need human connection, when we really need people to call on, that we feel like we are drowning. This is because we have spent our lives learning how to build relationships wearing the life jacket of social media. It is in that moment we realize that we have been fooled by the illusion of connectivity and instead are more alone than ever.
It is not that social media outlets and the access they afford are inherently negative and have no benefit in the world we live in. Instead, I believe they are tools and should be used as such. Relationships are like building a house. To build a house you need tools – hammers, screws, nails, etc. However, the most important part of a house is the foundation. The foundation of relationships starts with meaningful human interaction. The role of social media is that of a tool that we can use to enhance the foundation.
I think connection and meaningful relationships are the scarce assets of our generation. I am interested in exploring ways to help all of us put down the hammer and the nails and instead, figure out how to make the foundation stronger.