‘The Social Dilemma’, currently on Netflix, is the latest in a string of researched documentaries or studies adding credence to ‘back to basics’ when it comes to human connection in this digital age.

So many Industry leaders, co founders, vice presidents and ethical designers are growing in numbers to voice concerns over addictions with technology. Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive, notably expresses personal concern for helping create ‘tools that are starting to erode the social fabric of how society works.’ It’s a telling sign so many innovators or digital execs minimise access to tools they’ve helped create with their own offspring.

The digital age is here to stay as we continue racing into the future. It’s the manner in which we choose to use the tech in our own hands that helps maintain strong relationships in a hyper connected, tech addicted digital age. Here’s four ways.

Take off the masks

The first may be learned powerfully from the words of a teenage girl during a seminar I delivered on human behaviour and human connection.

‘Oh this explains so much! I get it. I was pretending to be really emo (emotional) to land the hot guy. Which I did! But then after a while it didn’t work because, you know, we’re just not that alike.’

Authenticity is a powerful causation inviting or adding value into our lives and the lives of others. Pretending for sake of connection often fuels more heartache or disconnection. Authenticity allows a healthy stickiness over neediness.

Our historical predecessors thousands of years go might have been lucky to interact with 150 mainstay connections in a lifetime. These days people invest so much time filtering highlights for highlights. Seeking to gain a far greater number from a single social post in the duration of a coffee break. Yet the price is significant. A short term dopamine fix of surface, shallow or even fake, loveliness from a digital collection of every Tom, Dick or Harriet bundled into one happy bucked labeled ‘friends’ often only serves to pull us away from the gems in this world.

The biggest dirty little secret

Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, describes the second trait wonderfully, regardless whether applied personally or professionally, as ‘the biggest dirty little secret in business.’

A lack of candour costs a business so much: trust, productivity, innovation, time, everything. The same is true for our personal relationships. They suffer where transparency is sabotaged or subterranean. If someone you truly value has upset you, tell them. Few people have developed their psychic ability to accurately or fully read minds!

The digital age seems to breed the anti thesis of candour, with phenomenons like ‘ghosting’ or a ‘cancel culture’ taking off. A conversation culture, rather than a cut off one, is better for relationships and the social fabrics of community.

Two common languages:

We live in world with 196 recognised countries and over 7000 known languages. More than half the worlds population speak the top ten. Yet there remains two common languages all understand that transcend differences, divisions and geographical boundaries.

What’s more neither require the utterance of words. And no, they are not the languages of SMS or emojis! How often do you ask friends to help you translate both!

Kindness and love are languages the deaf can hear, the blind can see and bring light to the darkest of spaces. In fact Robert Waldinger, the current director of perhaps the worlds longest study of adult life and development, shares in his TED talk (‘What makes a good life’) the secret to a happy life turns out to feeling loved and supported after all.

The context of quality and quantity

The importance of human connection minus technology is rooted in scientific reasoning. British anthropologist and psychologist Robin Dunbar calculated a magical number stumbled upon amidst studying behaviors of primate groups.
Applying the same modeling to our own primate group the predictions about the size of social circles or relationships people can realistically maintain turned out surprisingly accurate: 150.

The number is prevalent throughout history to modern day social circles: Average English villages circa 16th century (160) to modern day social gatherings (wedding invitations, 148, from a study of 18,000 brides) or even the average number of FB friends (150-200).

Even in your own world if you were to consider how many relationships amongst all connections are truly meaningful or present in your world?
Perhaps take note who your 150 are and invest more in them than strangers.

Our humanity and quality time invested in relationships nourishes their longevity. Embrace and use technology as a great enabler and connector. Perhaps be less concerned with a rush for vanity metrics or popularity. And don’t be so busy rummaging digital rocks and stones to miss real life diamonds.

Mark Carter is an international keynote speaker, trainer and coach. He has over 20 years’ experience as a global learning and development professional. His TEDxCasey talk ‘Paws and Effect: how teddy bears increase value perception was the movie trailer for his latest book Add Value. You can contact Mark at www.markcarter.com.au