The musings of an empathetic mum, teacher, leader and global digital citizen
(aka Mrs V)

PART 8: Genuine Human Connection?

Genuine human connection has been the backbone of society for a millennia. Cultures have transferred their entire histories through storytelling, rituals, routines and human interaction. As a modern community, we have rushed headlong towards the new era of ‘connection’. We can all reach out our hand and hold up our smart phone, tablets, or console and revel in its ability to connect us instantly with other people and cultures around the world.

Now, more than ever, we have an opportunity to connect with each other in mere seconds. Text messages, phone calls, email, Facebook messages, Tweets and Instagram photos. If we want to reach out to anyone at any point in our day, we can. Where once we would meet for coffee and cake, now we sign in to a Skype call. Brief emoji-laden text messages have replaced phone calls, and three-line emails have replaced hand-written letters. But have we forgotten how to connect with each other on a human level. Experts warn that millennials are the most ‘connected’ generation to have ever lived but a significant proportion of them report that they are plagued by loneliness.

So let’s consider a few statistics… did you know that?

  • It takes 90 minutes for the average person to respond in email, but it takes on average only 90 seconds for the average person to respond in text message.
  • 80% of smart phone users check their phones within 15 minutes of waking up every day.
  • More than 90% of all smart phone users say they have their phones within reach 24 hours a day 7 days a week — scarily this statistic was from 2007. These days, the experts’ best estimate is much closer to 98% of smart phone users keep their phones within reach 24 hours a day.
  • Psychologists report that constant checking is becoming a phenomena. It is leading to stress conditions, issues around self-worth, and disconnection within the community.
  • Ironically, those who check social media the most are becoming the ones that feel most disconnected. Reports show that 44% of ‘constant checkers’ expressed feeling disconnected from their family and friends even when they are with them.

Fun Fact: Did you know that it has only been 10 years since the iPhone was released! I wonder… can you imagine life without your smart phone in 2019?

Genuine Connection: How connected are you?

So how connected are you? I want you to consider the following statements and see how many you can agree with:

  1. I have written a handwritten card or letter to a close friend or relative in the last fortnight.
  2. I have suggested and carried through with a ‘face to face coffee catch up’ with a friend or family member in the last week.
  3. I have shared a meal at the table with my family, with no devices (including mum and dad’s phone) in the last three days.
  4. I have actually followed through on most of my ‘we will have to catch up soon’ texts and messages sent in the past month.
  5. I have practised restraint in replying to messages, choosing to wait at least a full day to respond to texts and emails.

If you said yes to all of these statements, I applaud you and aspire to be you. However, I suspect that most people —like me — will have struggled to say yes to two or more of these statements.

So as we prepare for this Christmas season, I encourage you to consider true human connection. What did it look like in the past, what were the best parts of human connection that you would love to reinstate this Christmas season, and what would it mean to you and your loved ones to really spend more time together  being truly connected?

And so I challenge you at this special time of the year to prioritise people, connection and genuine face to face communication… prioritise them over texts, typing, emails and tweeting. I have included a few suggestions which you might like to try over this holiday period:

Mrs V’s Christmas Challenge:

  • Declare a device-free zone in your house. In this area there are to be no phones, tablets, laptops or gaming consoles. Perhaps bring out the board games, puzzles or cards and just sit them on the floor in this space. See what happens.
  • Draft and implement a face to face family communication expectation, where it is agreed that when two people are speaking to each other that they place their devices face down on the table, or against your leg so that you can maintain eye contact and genuinely listen to what is being said.
  • Attempt a Screen-Free Day, or if you are game… a screen-free week!
  • Attempt a text-free day where all conversations are carried out in full, either face to face or over the phone.
  • By the end of the school holidays get every family member to write a letter or postcard to a friend or relative.
  • Challenge yourself to wake up, have a shower and eat breakfast before you check your phone in the morning.
  • Check your usage statistics (now available on Android and iPhone). Each week over the holidays try to improve your efforts in decreasing screen time and social media usage.
  • Follow up with at least one person to whom you have texted or commented ‘we should catch up soon!’ and actually catch up with them 🙂

All the very best, friends. I have loved talking with you, challenging you and myself to seek to understand more, try more and talk more with our children.

All my love and Merry Christmas!

 Mrs V xox

(Novice Minecraft player, Level 11 Clash Royale Clan Leader, firm but loving digital parent, mistake-maker and Head of Junior School)

References: [source from Morgan Stanley]