Last October I released ALONE: Finding Connection In a Lonely World.
The purpose of the book was to highlight issues teenagers are dealing with as they navigate life through the lens of technology.
Texting replaced Talking.
Facebook replaced Real Face Time.
Google+ attempted to created a party online.
Twitter reduced our thoughts to 140 characters.
I thought, "Surely teenagers will see the difference between valuable relationship time, and using technology to prop up your closest friendships."
I was wrong...
I sat with a student last week, and asked, "Where do you guys go to hang out? I mean, I never see you guys walking down the street, or hanging at the mall, or going to the movies. Where is everybody?"
He looked at me with a strange stare and finally connected the dots. He pulled his iPhone out of his back pocket and said, "Why would I go hang out? I hang out with my friends every night in my room." as he held up his hand held device.
And that's when I thought, Wow, we've missed it.
Think of it like this...
When a fish is born in the Ocean, it doesn't know anything else but the water it breathes. Migration happens every single day based on clarity of the water, salinity levels, and social movement. It's not really that different with those 25 and under. They don't know life any other way.
They were born in a world filled with Technology. They don't know life without Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or cell phones. We can't hold them to an expectation of relationship as we know relationship, because they're relationships HAVE been forged in the fires of emerging communication.
So I turned to people 25-55, and I found it.
Although I still believe we have issues connecting the 25 and unders together outside of technology, it's the 25 and older crowd that knows life without Facebook. They know what it's like to play, imagine, and connect with each other in real time.
Strangely enough, it's the 25 and older crowd living life MOST ALONE. The biggest demographic on Facebook right now are 35-65 year old women. ??
There's an underlying understanding in people that grew up outside of modern internet communication, there's more to life than someone RT'ing my 140 characters or "liking" my status.
They know what it's like to share a meal with someone.
They understand the excitement of meeting new people in a new environment.
They long to be in places where they can connect together and create a story.
At the core of the 25 and under crowd, they know it's exciting to meet new people, but they still need to be exposed to environments where relationships can be made strong through common experience.
Last week I was traveling, and sat next to a 24 year old University Graduate who was simply exploring the world. He told me stories where he would meet people one at a time at various hostiles along his global journey. He'd travel for 2-3 months, and then get a job wherever he landed to make enough money to travel to the next location. It was quite amazing.
When I asked him, "Do you ever feel Lonely?" His answer surprised me.
"Not really. I think meeting people in unique situations gives me a sense I'm connecting. Then I keep their contact info, so I'm always just a text away."
In other words, the exploration and story have become the greatest form of connection in his life. He's not bound by community; rather, he's riding the amusement park ride of relationships, and when it's time to move on, it's time to move.
It's interesting isn't it.
Relationships of old were based on long time ups and downs.
Relationships today are developed on stories made together, and then the choice of connection later on.
Relationships of old were based on commitment to encouraging in dark times, and celebrating in successes.
Relationships today are mainly based on the next exciting adventure.
I'm interested in knowing what you think about this.
1. Can we truly know and be known by others through our pop-social media culture?
2. Can we truly connect with each other when our only frame of reference is based on the 'good times?'
What do you think?