by Pat Vitale, LICSW
In this fast paced electronic world we live in, staying connected has become increasingly challenging. Finding ways to stay present in the moment and connected to the relationships that feed us―in a world of cell phones, instant messaging and social media―is the challenge of the next generation.
In late March, a new study published by the National Academy of Sciences tied social connections to longer, richer lives. Even people who believe they are happier on their own live shorter lives than their socially connected peers, the study says. As I look at the many electronic tools that seem to disconnect us, I wonder how our children will create the connections they need to live healthy lives.
Today’s teenagers are quite sophisticated with electronic connectedness. My 12-year-old son plays multiplayer games online with friends from around the world. One might think this is not really a way to feel or be connected. Talking to people you have never met, how could that make you feel connected?
I was quite impressed by a conversation I overheard my son having with a young girl half way across the world while they were playing on line. You see my son lost both of his grandmothers a year ago within months of each other. The girl he was talking to was in the process of losing her grandmother, who was very ill.
As I listened to their conversation about what it was like to lose someone―and to hear my son console her from his experience―it totally changed my perspective on electronic communication. Two young kids, connecting through gaming, were building a supportive relationship. Even in the midst of online gaming, we are compelled to connect and find a sense of belonging and understanding.
Our children will redefine the means by which relationships are created and maintained via this electronic world. But make no mistake about it―they still need to connect, even if it is in the middle of playing a game.
So, I ask you to consider these questions: How do you maintain a sense of connectedness? How many different ways do you have for staying connected to the people that mean the most to you? How do you create your community?
What I have come to understand by seeing the world through my son’s eyes is that it really doesn’t matter “HOW” we stay connected, just so long as we have a way of building and maintaining meaningful relationships. We need a way to create a sense of community that feeds us, nurtures us and creates a sense of belonging.