It feels like these days we have a hundred and one options for contacting people, but few for making a real connection. It’s hard to tell whether the internet is a blessing or a curse for genuine human connection – it’s much easier to say that back in the day we wrote letters, called round each others’ houses, and knew each other well.
But weren’t we just socialising with the same people over and over? Did we really make more connections than now, or were we just forced to interact with the same type of people?
Like many things, it can go either ways. Certainly the internet has been bad for some people; leading them into gambling addictions, losing them money through phishing scams, even losing real-life relationships because of too much time spent in front of the monitor. But it’s also been an amazing way for people to meet likeminded individuals, through interest sites, social media and chat rooms.
Some people have found a lifeline they would never have had without the internet, and it’s opened their eyes to new opportunities and horizons. It’s allowed the disabled, the anxious, and the timid to find other people like themselves. Heaven knows how many suicides it’s prevented.
But that doesn’t mean we should stop connecting with people on real terms – we shouldn’t lose our ability to talk face-to-face, or make important physical connections like touching a shoulder or hugging.
That’s why I would suggest that we each try to take some time out in the next week to make a genuine, human, IRL connection with someone.
It could be someone you’ve never met, but wouldn’t usually talk to, like a homeless person who might have been blindly ignored all day. Or you could make a point of forming eye contact with a friend or acquaintance you’re usually too afraid to. Or even take the plunge and meet an online friend (only if you absolutely know who they are, and you are capable of looking after yourself, and you meet in a public place – there’s no need to be reckless) you might have known for years but never dared to really meet.