In my sleep, among the Brexits, mini-bonds and phoenixing of my dreams, I reach for my phone. Feeling blindly in the night for another hit; to be soothed by the reassuring presence of a blinking light that whispers “you have messages”. I am powerless to its allure, even in slumber. Another dopamine hit to the contact-starved, affirmation-hungry modern brain.
Yet caught up precariously in this worldwide web of lies is the heartbreaking fact we have never felt more alone. Indeed, recent research suggests loneliness may be the next big public health issue, on a par with obesity and substance abuse.
So why are we getting lonelier? Changes in modern society seem to be to blame. We live in nuclear-family units, often residing long distances away from extended family and friends. And our growing reliance on social technology rather than face-to-face interaction is only making us feel more isolated.
It means we feel less connected to others. Our relationships are becoming more superficial and less rewarding.
After all, we are social animals, and need to feel that we “belong” and are connected to one another.
Social pain is as real a sensation for us as physical pain, with research showing loneliness and rejection activate the same parts of the brain.
For businesses, social media should be a means to an end. It is one of the great many tools available to help your firm in its success; or at least it should be.
But even intuitively knowing this, most of us do not use it to its best effect. This might be because we are not addressing the real reason we are so addicted to social media in the first place.
Often, we don’t constantly check these platforms because it’s a purpose-driven activity, like reaching new prospects, responding to clients or building a brand profile.
We check them because they fulfil a core human drive for connection, meaning and affirmation, associating likes, comments and shares with self-worth.
There is nothing (really) wrong with that, but it is important to be clear what we are doing and why; what it costs and whether the returns we are hoping for are materialising. Otherwise, we are just distracting ourselves from the real work.
If it is not in some way aligned to the creation of your business vision, you are wasting hours and hours on an activity that generates a return on investment of zero. That is outrageous – and I am as guilty as the next person.
Phil Wickenden is a consultant