Dare to Connect Off the Internet

Dare to Connect Off the Internet
Adapted from the works of
Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.

We’re more connected now than we’ve ever been before. But are we truly connecting? Through the internet we have easy, instant access to communicate with friends, acquaintances, and strangers the world over. Yet, so many of us find it hard to say ”hello” to a stranger in a coffee shop. It seems that it’s becoming harder and harder to create meaningful real-life relationships when it’s so much easier to be in touch behind our screens.

In Dare to Connect, Susan advises that, ”It’s important to go out into the ‘real’ world and make one-on-one connections.”

That’s not to say that online relationships can’t be meaningful. They can be. Many of us know wonderful couples who met online, or friendships that began online. It’s also a great way to stay in touch with people who live far away. But hiding in the technology space is not a replacement for everyday face-to-face personal interaction. Shaking a person’s hand, giving (and receiving!) a hug, the touch on your arm when your friend shows concern, watching someone’s face as you speak with them … this physical affection and acknowledgement is vital to our very elemental, human experience.

Numerous scientific studies show that the touch of another human has the ability to reduce stress, improve communication, bolster our immune systems, and more. A recent study published last June from the University of Colorado shows that the touch of a loved one can help reduce the feeling of pain. So why do we so often choose to hide behind our screens when we know it is so important for us to be in physical proximity to other people?

According to a TED talk given by Sherry Turkle, a social psychology professor at MIT, “Technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable. And we are vulnerable. We’re lonely, but we’re afraid of intimacy. And so from social networks to sociable robots, we’re designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.”

For some, the idea of interacting in person with other people takes too much effort. By interacting online, we lower our expectations. It’s easier not having to worry about how we look, or if we act awkwardly, or say the wrong thing. And it’s much easier to disconnect when it’s not in person.

Susan knew a night club singer who always ended his shows with the line, “The most important thing that I’ve learned in my travels around the world is that there are no strangers, only friends I’ve never met.” This might be the perfect motto for the internet age. So many of us use social media with the mindset of embracing others. However, when it comes to interacting with strangers in person, we put up a wall, unwilling to reach out and comfortably interact.

Why do we feel so insecure when it comes to face-to-face interactions? As Susan wrote in Dare to Connect, we are brought up to be Somebodies – to be important and successful and wealthy, but really we wind up feeling like Nobodies because our self-worth is based on how other people see us. This conditioning, whether we are successful or not, leaves us with a pervasive feeling of being flawed and inadequate human beings. When we feel like this, we have trouble forging real life relationships.

Susan suggested, “Imagine yourself standing at the door of an unfamiliar room, facing a room full of ‘strangers’ and feeling very nervous indeed. You can’t ignore the quickened heartbeat, the churning stomach, or however else your nervousness makes itself felt. How can we overcome these feelings of discomfort? Can we ever learn to look into a room full of people and simply decide to have a wonderful time connecting with everyone we meet?”

Here is Susan’s secret: Once we understand that EVERYONE feels like this, we can use that knowledge to help us break through the barriers that keep us from personal relationships.

”By acknowledging that every ‘stranger’ in that crowded room would love to feel cared about and has often felt themselves to be a Nobody, just as we have, we are in harmony with them even before we ever say hello,” offered Susan. ”When this happens, we begin to understand the truth behind the words, ‘there are no strangers,’ and the world doesn’t seem so lonely anymore.”

So keep in touch with long-distance friends and family through social media, but don’t forget to cultivate face-to-face, in person relationships. Let’s follow Susan’s advice and stop hiding behind a screen, or anywhere else for that matter. Greet someone with a handshake or a smile. Listen to someone’s confidences. Be affectionate and kind. Let’s DARE TO CONNECT!

Copyright © 2017 Susan Jeffers, LLC All rights reserved.