The song suggests, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” and even provides some reasons. “With holiday greetings and gay happy meetings… when friends come to call….”
I’ve found this to be true and almost unconsciously allow more time when I “run into town for a few errands” this time of year. For one thing, there are more people around doing likewise. For another, most–even though busy–are feeling a bit festive and anxious to get and give a handshake, a hug, and a hearty hello.
“There’ll be much mistletoe-ing and hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near…” Well, given the current political environment we may choose to suppress the “mistletoe-ing,” but our hearts do glow when loved ones are near. Much like plugging in the lights on the tree, we seem to get more connected this time of year. That’s a good thing.
But I recently ran into a sobering statistic. A public health survey conducted in 1980 showed that 20% of the people surveyed described themselves as “lonely.” The survey was recently repeated and 40% of the respondents described themselves as “lonely.” So in spite of technology and social media, there’s been a doubling of “loneliness.” How can that be when we live in such an expanded world?
There are those suggesting we are actually losing the ability to connect in a nurturing, meaningful way. There are, it seems, some interesting social trends that deserve our attention. Consider a few:
- online shopping–it’s now possible to do all of our holiday shopping without contact with a human being. Yes, it can be quite efficient and cost-effective. But it also means we don’t “rub elbows” with others… share frustrations, ask others opinions or just occasionally allow someone to go ahead of us in the check out line because they have only one item.
- celebrating occasions–I recently discovered the death of a friend by reading a Facebook Post. There will be no services, but I am invited to post my condolences online in a “memory book.” I find myself wishing I could hug some of the people he has left behind. And, while we weren’t really close, I wouldn’t mind getting a hug back. I liked him and will miss him.
- distracted everything–most people acknowledge the hazards of texting and driving (but do it anyway). But what about distracted visits? Another friend posted a funny-but-not Christmas Photo on Facebook. She and her entire family are sitting on a comfy couch, looking very festive, the obligatory Christmas tree in the background. The caption was something like “A (last name) Family Christmas.” Of course, every member of the family is not looking at the camera… they are looking at their cell phone screens.
Technology has, in one sense, expanded our worlds but with it comes the danger we actually become more isolated. Social media is about big numbers–big numbers of friends and frequent contact. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it’s not very nourishing and nurturing.
Maybe instead of sending emojis and stickers, we make this a wonderful time of the year with some connections that include a warm touch and a look in the eye. It’s a wonderful time of the year to delve into our humanity in addition to our technology.