It’s early morning and your alarm has just sounded its daily wake-up chime. Without thinking about it, you reach straight for your phone and scroll through social media seeing what all your friends and favourite celebrities have been up to since you last scrolled your feed 7 hours ago.
A notification pops up, it’s the little head and a plus sign, you’ve got a new follower! Filled with an immediate rush of endorphins, you head to their page to snoop some of their recent photos, leave a few likes, post some meaningful comments and follow them back. ‘Wow, we have a lot in common, and they don’t live too far away from me!’ you think. When your new follower reciprocates with interaction on your account it the coming days, you’re sure you’ve made a new virtual, perhaps soon to be in-person, friend.
A week passes and you remember that you should message that new follower to see if they’d like to catch up some time and then the realization hits — you’ve been unfollowed and you can’t help but feel disheartened by thinking your previous interactions on social media were more than a vain ploy for more likes, more comments, and more followers. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s making us forget how to truly connect with people in today’s technology obsessed world.
Sure, technology has completely changed our lives and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities that technology has brought me. Writing this article on my laptop from home, for instance, once wouldn’t have been possible without the internet and all the information available at our fingertips.
The question remains though, how do we properly connect with people beyond our laptop screens and the often-false nature of social media? Here are a few ways to authentically connect with like-minded people in-person, just like our parents and grandparents used to.
Smiling is powerful. It indicates to the world that you’re open to meeting new people and starting a conversation. Even if it’s a friendly nod as you run or bike past someone, it fosters what we all ultimately want — connection and belonging. As Paul Ekman, one of the world’s leading experts on facial expressions found, ‘smiles are cross-cultural and have the same meaning in different societies.’
Next time you’re thinking of ordering your food or coffee through an app on your phone, take the extra time to visit your favourite coffee shop or restaurant and order in-person. Walking into a space with a positive outlook and a smile on your face will bring other high vibe people into your world.
Find local meet-ups or activities that like-minded people attend
This might seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out! Use technology to find ways that will help you connect with like-minded people. Search for local meet-ups, a new gym class or in-person educational class or training and sign up. Don’t overthink it! Just sign up, show up and see who you meet along the way. Being in a room of like-minded people instantly gives you something to talk about and helps foster connections that you wouldn’t otherwise find scrolling through your newsfeed.
Turn off notifications
A 2016 study by dscout, found we touch our phones about 2,617 times a day! The constant ding and beep of our devices has made our attention spans short and interrupts us when we’re working, and more importantly when we’re spending time with loved ones or out making new friends.
Give yourself time each day, or each week if that’s where you need to start, with phone notifications turned off. Not having the constant buzz of phone notifications will allow you to actively listen to conversations and properly appreciate your surroundings when you’re out and about.
Just say yes
When someone invites you to a new place, new activity or on an adventure, just say yes. Don’t overthink things and see what new opportunities and people come into your life as a result of getting out and about in the world. This doesn’t mean you should be constantly running around with no down time, but when someone suggests that you grab that coffee ‘sometime’ or asks you to fill in on the social soccer team, just make a plan and stick to it.
Learn to be on your own without technology
This also relates to the point above. Saying yes to meeting new people and putting yourself out there by attending local events or classes doesn’t mean you must be constantly out and about. If you’re an introvert or know you need some downtime by yourself each week, schedule it into your calendar. Knowing you have that set time each week to unplug and read or book or get outside and exercise will help with recharging your energy. After all, once we can be by ourselves without constantly checking our phones, we’re going to be so much better at connecting with people in-person too.
While technology has helped us do things we never thought possible, taking the time to experience the world without being constantly tethered to your device, observing your surroundings and making the effort to meet like-minded people will help you truly connect with people.