Did you know that one of the biggest challenges for Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) is loneliness?
During our daughter’s college orientation at Boise State, we were educated on the loneliness epidemic and the prevention and intervention programs the school is investing in to holistically support their students. In addition to this challenge for Gen Z, we know that the pandemic has left many of us disconnected and wondering how to build and foster connection in new ways. How do we support Gen Z and each other to build critical connections that fill our tanks with trust, love, support, security, and happiness?
This is not just a Gen Z issue. In a time where we all have instant access to just about anyone or anything from our phones, we are missing something critical: human connection. The concept of connection is multifaceted and different for pre and post cell phone generations. This digital-aged Gen Z is consumed with “connection” through social media platforms that expose them to upwards of 8 plus hours of screen time a day, yet they crave true meaningful connection. The rest of us aren’t doing much better; however, most of us have experienced connection before the digital world was so prominently part of our lives, so we know what it looks and feels like. We all struggle with distractions and spend too much of our days using computer and cell phone screens to work and collaborate, but also to block out the physical world around us and search for quick dopamine hits.
In short, we are trying to replace the benefits and feelings we get from connection using technology and other distractions. We’ve brought more access to everything into our lives while simultaneously depleting our ability to build deep meaningful connections. The downstream impact of connection and community deficits seep into personal and professional relationships, contributing to long-term mental health issues, and creating trust and engagement deficits.
How do we build connection and what does it look like when we have connection? Focusing on removing distractions and truly being tuned into the person in front of you takes us a step forward toward connection. We can all start by being intentionally present with family, friends, coworkers, and teammates. Creating this space lays the foundation for connection and trust. We can then notice the subtleties that reveal themselves when we are tuned into someone. This then opens the door to being curious as to what else might we explore and learn about this person and creates the opportunity for us to share a little more about ourselves. Bit by bit we uncover and build layers of meaningful connection and create guardrails protecting us from loneliness.