Status: Searching for IRL Connections.

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Can you be lonely if you’re in a state of constant connection? 

This question has been pulsing through my mind as of late. Because, I can’t remember a time when I was more connected. I mean, I never knew more about my high school English teacher’s life (she has a new husband, FYI), or my childhood babysitter’s family (her kids got sick 7 times this year alone). 

I am “connected” with thousands of people each day. I know their deepest fears, their most special moments, their annoyances and their political views. I’ve seen their lives shift as they’ve settled into new relationships and new cities. They’ve shown me their haircuts and their fitness achievements. I have lived vicariously through their month-long trips to Bali, or their road-trips across California.

But, do I really know them? 

Do I know what drives them? Do I know what makes them feel fulfilled? Do I actually feel their pain over a lost loved one, or their excitement over their engagement?

…Or am I just scrolling past it?

If we all are really, truly “connected” I can’t stop wondering why we all feel so lonely. 

Our “self-obsessed” generation is getting exactly what we asked for: Me time. Eighty-six percent of us report feeling lonely. We are four times more likely to feel lonely than 70-year olds. We commiserate over the relief of canceled plans while tweeting from the couch. We seek romantic relationships, friendships, jobs, and entertainment via the Internet. We create movements over hashtags.

All while we claim to feel more “connected” than ever.

As a Millennial who writes about Millennial things, I’ve thought about our collective connection issues a lot. And to me, connection is a force that ties an imaginary rope from one person to another. It makes your body feel alive; deeply, magically, overwhelmingly Alive. 

Connection does not have a fluorescent blue light behind it that makes your eyes hurt after 9pm. In my opinion, connection does not thrive off of the number of blue thumbs (or hearts, or smiley faces, or tacos) that surround it. 

Maybe I’m old school, but to me connection is a feeling. It’s late, wine-filled nights on a couch that end in a debate about the purpose of the Bhagavad Gita (Is it about creating community? Purpose? Control?). It’s making eye-contact with a stranger on the subway through tear-filled eyes (Emotional podcast? Difficult day at work?).

As human beings, we need to feed ourselves with these connections just like we would food or water. We need these moments to sustain our humanity. 

Or else, we might become lonely robots. Maybe Alexa is secretly plotting for this. 

Or maybe, it’s in our hands. It’s up to us to make eye-contact with strangers. To make time for old friends. To push conversations further than “Whatsup?” To boycott the scrolling, and opt for the talking. 

To search for IRL connections instead. 

Katina Mountanos