Let's talk about connection
Updated: Jul 19
Connection is kind of a big deal.
Let's learn why.
Connection is the publicly acceptable c-word that everyone’s saying now. Everyone’s all about the connecting, aren’t they? We don’t meet someone, we connect. Relationships – friendships and romantic – end because there was no connection.
Why is it so important?
Simply, connection is kind of a big deal. Connection is the antidote to loneliness and feelings of social isolation (a term that is more socially acceptable than loneliness, but more on that in another post). As my intellectual crush Dr Brené Brown puts it, humans are social creatures and we are hardwired for connection. We humans need to be seen. We need to be heard. We need to belong. When we feel that we are not seen, heard or do not belong, feelings of loneliness or social isolation start to creep in.
We all must have connection in our lives and, where we don’t, we work to somehow fill the void that the absence of meaningful connection has left within us.
Think about this: do you feel like you belong where you are? Do you feel like you belong to yourself? Do you feel like you belong in your workplace? Do you feel like you belong in your community? If one or more of the answers to these questions is a no, you’re likely to have felt at least frustrated and possibly lonely (or socially isolated, if you prefer).
Conversely, where do you feel like you belong? How do you feel when you’re there? You feel connected, right?
What does connection even feel like?
I could provide some dry definition, but connection is a feeling that I can best describe from my own perspective. I’ve learned to pay attention for what I call the ‘spark of connection’, which for me is a shiver up and down my spine when I’m feeling seen and heard by the person with whom I’m speaking and I’m really in the moment. This feeling is everything for me and is a reliable sign that I’ve gone from a mere social interaction into real connection. The spark also happens when I feel like I belong somewhere, like what I’m doing aligns with me and I am part of something bigger than myself.
Do you get this feeling too? Or is it just me?
Connection can also feel like those kinds of conversations, tasks or other activities where time flies by we forget to check our phones.
Three pillars of connection hold up the connection ceiling
In my work on loneliness and connection, I’ve come to realise that there are three pillars that hold up the connection ceiling. I believe that each of our three pillars of connect MUST be as strong as the others if we are to feel connection. The problem is that we often rush to work on two of the pillars and leave out a third. Sure, two pillars hold up much of the connection ceiling, but not all of it.
The three pillars of connection are:
1. Connection to self
2. Connection to others
3. Connection to where we are
It’s clear that connection means connecting to others in our lives. Connection to our where we are in the world (like our communities, workplaces, groups, clubs, etc.) is also important to cultivating the feeling of connection. But it’s all meaningless if we’re not connected to who we are.
If we spend time connecting with others and our communities through the masks that we wear and connecting in a way that we think others want us to be rather than our real, authentic selves, then that connection is not real (more on this in future posts, I promise).
Looking for connection in all the wrong places
In our too-busy lives ruled by commitments, obligations and, well, busyness, we feel that we don’t have the time to cultivate the type of real connection that nourishes and uplifts us. We want a short cut to feel seen, heard and belong: that spark of connection.
Instead of investing time to put our real selves out there, we look for connection in convenient ways: including quick hook-ups and mindlessly scrolling social media. Don’t get me wrong, hook-ups can scratch an itch (whether you’re gay or straight: the itch is the itch) and social media can be a POWERFUL tool for connection.
The problem comes when we reach for our phones and mindlessly scroll through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tinder, Snapchat, Grindr, Tik Tok or the dozens of other services that the kids use these days (deliberately sounding like an old man here, now get off my lawn!) The problem is that the mindless scrolling and ‘liking’ and hook-ups feel like connection. But they’re not.
I’ve got three things to say now:
- Hitting ‘like’ does not meaningful connection make;
- Reaching for social media when feeling lonely (or socially isolated, if you prefer) is akin to drinking saltwater when thirsty. It feels like you’re drinking something, but it ultimately does you harm;
- Your need for connection was not met if you leave a hook-up feeling emotionally and mentally emptier than when you arrived.
What we must do instead
Let’s go retro. Let’s connect the old-fashioned way. Put yourself out there. Prioritise the time needed to really connect with those around you. Prioritise the time needed to really connect with your community. Prioritise the time to really connect with yourself.
While this may sound quaint and old-fashioned, as you’re reading these words, you’re likely holding in your hands the most powerful connection tool the world has yet known. You can use social media to call someone and speak to them with your voice, and they can see you in real time.
We need to use social media for good.
To connect is a verb. Get doing.
You're too busy for all this?
Yes, you’re busy. We’ll have a chat about busyness in a future blog, but for now I call bullshit on your busyness. I’m sure if we did an audit of your typical day, we could find 15-30mins (or more) that you spend mindlessly scrolling social media or chasing your next sexual hit to devote to real connection to yourself, those around you or your community.
Being too busy to connect says to me that you’re not prioritising connection over whatever else you’re doing.
Let’s connect, shall we?
Is there a friend with whom you haven’t spoken for a long time? Why not reach out to them immediately after reading these words and asking if they’re free for a chat right now. If they’re not, make a time – and treat it like the important meeting it is – and connect later.
You get extra credit points from me if you told them about this article and my work.
Want to use social media for good with other men like you? Subscribe to my website and help me build a global team of men who want to de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection for men through a Facebook group for the exclusive use of The Loneliness Guy subscribers.
Where to now?
Connection is the antidote to loneliness. Stay connected with me and my work by subscribing to my site. Together, we'll build a community of gay men who want to de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection within themselves, with others and their communities.
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