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Social Media creates the Illusion of Connectedness?

Connectedness is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as, “the state of being connected and having a close relationship with other things or people”. What I am curious about is: 

  • What being connected on social media really means?
  • Is social media significantly contributing to more connectedness? 
  • How do we make social connections meaningful?
When are you actually connected to someone?

Edward Hallowell, a Harvard psychiatrist coined the term ‘human moment’ to illustrate a meaningful connection and described it as ‘an authentic psychological encounter that can happen only when two people share the same physical space’.

Is social media significantly contributing to more connectedness?

According to a nationwide survey (Global health service company, Cigna), America is currently undergoing a “loneliness epidemic” with almost 50% of participants feeling lonely. Internet users grew from 413 million in 2000 to almost 5 billion in 2020. This “loneliness epidemic” seems counterintuitive given that there is more connectivity there ever.  Could it be that connectivity does not necessarily mean connectedness?

Connectivity does not guarantee being connected

I recently watched a video called ‘The illusion of being connected’ presented by General McChrystal on Ted Talks. He argues convincingly that connectivity does not guarantee being connected and that connectivity gives the illusion of knowing. He further suggests that real connections happen when people engage, make eye contact and interact. As he explains, “Real connections are built. You first go through something and they are based on relationships.” I tend to agree with the General.

Do connectivity and metrics like ‘No. of followers’, foster a false sense of connection?

An interesting article by JoAnne Funch explores this notion. She asks the question, “… has LinkedIn created the illusion we’re connected or do most people really feel they are connected?” In her words, “I’m in the business of connecting people through networking and relationship marketing. I see how social media/LinkedIn connects us, makes us feel we have more friends, followers and connections but when I asked others, many say they don’t even know the majority of people they are connected with on their social media sites!”

Where does this leave us? Are we really engaging? When are you really connected? In a sense, social media platforms have been promoting social distancing for several years and I do think that social media platforms have contributed to the ‘Illusion of Connectedness’.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what is not being said” (Peter Drucker) 

How do we make social connections meaningful?

So, given Edward Hallowell’s term ‘human moment’,  is it possible to create a virtual human moment?

I believe the answer is yes and that it depends on your groundwork and purposeful methods. I have several thousand connections on LinkedIn and I have meaningful connections with a few dozen. The variance is the extent to which I intentionally and openly engage, and respect the communication space to nurture virtual human moments. I have found the following approach to be useful:

  • Engage with purpose and with reciprocal value in mind. Connecting is not about you, it’s about them.
  • Be intentional about why and who you connect to (Requests sent and received)
  • Be authentic, open and honest. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Avoid sales pitches.
  • Engage outside of social media as soon as you can (Phone, video call). Nothing beats face-to-face interaction.
  • Take your time. Follow-up. Relationships are not built overnight.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (Maya Angelou)

Happy Connecting!
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