Today I am feeling inspired by the people around me. More specifically, I am inspired by those who live with the intention to connect with those around them, those who create a sense of belonging both for themselves and others, those who value the concept of community. By our very nature we are social creatures, and I feel that as a society (specifically the millennial generation) our social lives are both on over-drive, but at the same time a little lost.
Recently, through my work, I supported a webinar that featured a neighbourhood project out west called Abundant Community Edmonton. While on this webinar, Anne Harvey from the City of Edmonton said something that struck me – she said that as communities we have lost the art of neighbourliness. I began to think about this and Anne couldn’t be more right. Although there are many people, associations and groups that volunteer their time create a sense of community where they live, the reality is that the majority of us have truly lost the art of neighbourliness. In a world where we are capable of being connected to one another on a constant basis – we seem to be so disconnected.
I recently attended a concert in Toronto and as I looked around I saw hundreds of young people watching the concert through their phones – taking pictures to post on Instagram or capturing videos to post on their story on Snapchat. I can’t count the number of
birthday celebrations, family holidays or ladies nights’ out that had us spending way too much time taking selfies or buddy pics and posting them on every social media platform we have. How often do you go out to a restaurant or even a bar and a group of friends, maybe even your own, are gathered together, heads down, texting people that aren’t there rather than talking to the people that are, being entertained by someone else’s Snapchat story, rather than experiencing the moment happening right then, or being more concerned with getting the perfect picture than having the perfect night.
I participated in a women’s focus group/coaching workshop with a variety of young women like myself a couple of weeks ago. The topic of social media came up and of course issues of self-esteem, self-confidence and body image were mentioned. But the topic we explored on a deeper level, and what I have found to be so interesting about social media today, is its power to create reality and validate experience.
I’m sure many of you have heard of the philosophical question “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Today’s philosophical question for the millennials might read as follows: “If something happens and it’s not posted on social media, does it really happen at all?”
Now I don’t pose this question out of ridicule, judgement or criticism – I truly think this is a fascinating aspect of millennial culture. So many of us, including myself at times, feel this urge to capture everything we can on social media. We feel a sense of urgency to make sure that all the things going on in our lives, whether it’s skydiving, partying, reading or having a coffee, are shared as soon as possible, if not instantaneously.
Despite the glaring disadvantages of this urge to experience through our social media accounts, I do not share these thoughts in hopelessness. Some people may look at this phenomenon and simply conclude that the millennial generation and our obsession with social media is one of vanity, self-obsession and a tragic need for instant validation via double clicks, likes and views. And to a certain extent, they may be right. It is true, a lot of our behaviour screams “I’m not really living if no one’s here to see it!”, but I feel that the vanity theory is much too simple for such a complex, ever-evolving generation such as ours.
This vanity theory also doesn’t explain the majority of activity taking place on social media – you know what I’m talking about… a little thing we like to call creeping. And it is this need to creep that gives me hope.
Now, to be fair, I did not find a research paper that proves that the percentage of time millennials spend on social media creeping is greater than that which they spend posting about themselves but I know from personal experience and the experience of those around me that this assumption is probably true.
So how do we explain this need to creep? Of course there’s the age-old theory of “keeping up with the Joneses”, but isn’t there a possibility that part of the reason our generation is so admittedly obsessed with social media and posting our every move simply because we have an innate desire to share and be connected? Human beings are naturally social creatures and some might say that our connection to one another is the very thing that makes us human. I am not naïve – I am aware of the ways in which technology has the potential to disconnect us, but in a busy and demanding life, our generation has found a way to connect and rediscover our humanity in way that suits the society we have been brought up in. In such a fast-paced world, we have found a way to pause and capture the moments that make up our lives. And bonus! We can share those moments with our online community.
I strongly believe that community doesn’t have to be where you reside, although for many people it is – community is about where we spend our time and where we create connections and build relationships. So the question that arises is this: How do we bring the art of neighbourliness online?
I am a strong believer in the positive potential of technology and social media, however, I think it’s time we take a step back and reflect on how we exist in our corners of the universe. Now is as good a time as any to make our online worlds just a little more meaningful.
To you, my fellow millennials, I extend a challenge | 10 things you can do to bring the art of neighbourliness online and create a new kind of connection:
- See something you love? Share it with someone else
- Did someone else’s post inspire you, motivate you or just make you smile? Let them know they made your day
- Bring the connection offline – is there someone you’re constantly connecting with online? Ask them to grab a drink or go for coffee
- Out in public and you see that person you’ve been creeping? Smile and say hello! Let them know you recognize them from the dance videos they post, the hilarious selfies they take or the inspirational words they share – let’s be real we don’t post just to post, we post to share with others, let’s stop pretending it’s weird to acknowledge that 😉
- Notice someone’s posts have been a little blue? Reach out to them.
- Find something online you think someone else really needs to see – tag them in it!
- Remember to always be purposeful in what you post and acknowledge the impact
- Don’t just creep – connect
- And when you do creep, focus on the positive – allow what others share to brighten your mind and let go of judgement or negativity
- And last but not least, never forget the value of attentive face-to-face connection and real human experience – implement the cellphone pile once in a while 😉