In the era of social media and over-connection to the Internet, loneliness may seem counterintuitive, but many people report feeling lonelier than ever. It seems that we as a changing culture in the digital world have forgotten the art of face-to-face communication, or maybe young people do not have experience with the benefits that "real" interaction can provide. Not only that but as a society, we have undervalued its importance for overall wellbeing and happiness. No matter how quickly your thumbs pluck away at your smartphone, screens will never be the same as face-to-face interaction. To improve wellbeing, you should practice face to face communication with others regularly. Here are some reasons why:
Did you know that the majority of communication is nonverbal? By some estimates, only seven percent of communication is verbal. The rest of the communication is made up of body language (55 percent) and vocal tone (38 percent). Think about the last time you were misunderstood via text message or the last time you became offended by a text message. Misunderstandings abound when it comes to screen-based written communication because we do not have body language or vocal tone to accompany the written word. With so much missing, it can leave us guessing as to the person on the other end's actual meaning.
Communication technologies via webcam, such as Skype and Facetime, try to overcome this screen-based communication dilemma. However, even video calls do not allow us to see a person's entire body language, for example, which way their feet are pointing, their hand gestures, and their overall posture. The communication method that most minimizes misunderstandings is, and always will be, face-to-face communication. There is no technology that can mirror this type of communication completely.
If you have ever heard bad news over the phone, you know how inadequate a voice is when you are in need of comfort. Serious, life-changing news is best heard in person. This is also true when it comes to forming deep connections. For thousands of years, families lived together as one unit, and deep-rooted human relationships happened more organically as a result of proximity. But with the advent of globalization, family members and friends can be scattered all over the world. This separation impacts the ability of people to have a deep, meaningful conversation with close loved ones. If you really want to connect with someone, take the time to sit down with them in person, invest some time, and experience a different type of conversation.
Learn From Experience
Some people may be surprised to learn that they really have a lot in common with other people and can relate to them. Chances are that the situations you encounter in life have been encountered by someone else similarly in the past. There is evidence that happiness is related to a greater sense of connection to ourselves but also to people outside of ourselves. The best way to connect is to share your experiences and to openly listen to the experiences of others. Talk to someone - particularly someone who is older, with more life experience. He or she will likely have enlightening wisdom to share about overcoming a similar situation or at least help you to get the sense that you are not alone in your struggles. Talk to someone with different life experiences than your own to deepen your understanding of yourself and relate to other people's perspectives as well.
Quality Over Quantity
Many people report having many friends and acquaintances over the Internet and in social media platforms, but that much of the conversations experienced are brief and barely scratch the surface below daily life. Sharing a photo or describing what you ate for dinner does not tend to compare with getting a hug from a friend when you need comfort or seeing someone's face during a joyful experience. We tend to feel more positivity and connection when we share more deeply. As humans, we have an innate desire to feel known, understood, and accepted. These are hard states to achieve in relationships in which so much is held back or kept to yourself. People often report that they are more likely to share positive experiences on social media or feel pressured to put their best impression forward on social media. Social media puts a high value on popularity, likability, even perfection, and many images that people portray of themselves online just are not realistic. Online platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram can even allow people to change the way they look. Some people do not use real names or personas. For these reasons and others, relationships on the Internet can truly pale in comparison to what it is like to know someone in real life. Real life can be gritty and even bleak sometimes. We burn dinner and have bad hair days. You may be questioning why it is important to recognize negative emotions and experiences, why can't we just spend all of our time with the positive images? Again, because as people we have experienced on the other side of the spectrum, and if we do not have people to share those with, we can feel isolated. We have a desire to be genuine.
Increase in Mental and Physical Health
People who are open and freely express themselves to others tend to be happier and healthier, both mentally and physically, theoretically due to this greater sense of connection and good support. Talking to others allows you to vent negative emotions so that you do not have to carry them around with you any longer. Not only that but if you share positive emotions with others, it becomes a celebration!
Sometimes people long for connection but do not have anyone available to turn to. Maybe you are geographically isolated, struggle with how to develop friendships, or perhaps you do not have a lot of practice talking about yourself. Maybe you are not feeling like a good company or you do not know where to begin to develop other ways to interact with others. A therapist can be a good person to turn to if you are feeling stuck. A mental health professional can help you overcome barriers to connecting with others and build new skills so that you feel more confident getting out with other people and developing genuine relationships.
BetterHelp is an online platform with therapists available to speak to you at your convenience. This article has argued that it is healthy to connect with people in person, but if you need some practice first, an online therapist could help to bridge the gap perhaps between internet-life and conversing with someone face-to-face. Online counseling is confidential and affordable too.