My reflective lessons in an increasingly virtual world

Whether you’re re-evaluating your priorities in life or considering whether you’re on the right path, there are times in your life where you may need to reflect and reset. Here are three lessons I learned from such a break that gave me valuable reflections about business and life. 

Lesson #1: People are not islands. Socialisation is a vital aspect of being healthy.

“Man is not an island”, as they say. Our social lives are not only vital to our mental wellbeing but to our physical existence, with research showing that loneliness is as deadly to humans as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. We are social animals, and a genuine connection to other humans is a basic biological need. This explains why research found that those who have a strong sense of belonging to social groups are happier than those who don’t. In simple terms, we are wired to need human connection. 

So, when you next feel unmotivated to go out and socialise, consider all the good seeing someone you care about could bring you. Constant socialisation is not for everyone, but do make time for others – spending most of your time by yourself can deprive you of a lot of genuine joys life has to offer.

Lesson #2: Technology is here to stay. But we have control of how that looks.

Humanity has been heading down an increasingly digital path for a few decades now, with a lot of us spending ever more of our time behind screens. Now such devices have become many people’s primary method of social contact with the outside world. While tech has enabled us to communicate, advance sciences and do some incredible things with art and text, it can sometimes feel like we are stuck in a dystopian novel where much of human interaction happens behind a screen. 

But, life should not be 2D. No amount of Zoom or FaceTime can replace the physical connection of eye contact, body language, hugging, and so on. Virtual connections may offer a thin shield against loneliness (and one that is better than none), but real human connection is found when we turn off our screens. Technology also excludes an incredibly large number of people who need us, especially older relatives and members of the community. Consider my 86-year-old grandad is in a care home with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative eye condition, and very poor hearing. He cannot access the web and connect with us unless we make time and visit in person. A reliance on tech for social interaction isolates those who can’t afford or use it. 

My hope is that rather than pushing ourselves further into this virtual world, we see the importance of the real world and the value of our 3D life (yes, I realise the irony that I’m posting this online).

Lesson #3: Real life is a rich tapestry. Let’s enjoy it

Another bad habit the everyday person/ digital user has: forgetting to appreciate small everyday things and taking experiences for granted. Things happen without us noticing them or their effect on our mental and physical health: your favourite TV show, song, destination, pastry, or book. These things might not be necessary to our physical survival, but they do help us to live a varied, well-rounded life, and to foster that vital sense of connection and belonging. They’re what makes life more than just work and survival.

Sometimes, all it takes is a small period of separation from these experiences to appreciate how valuable they actually were. When I was stuck at home with a virus for a few weeks, I realised I shouldn’t take for granted meeting friends for tea and cake, co-working, rocking out at gigs, watching the works of Shakespeare brought to life on stage, and travelling the world to see other cultures (note that none of these things happen through a screen). 

Bottom line for me:

If living in this highly virtual world has taught me anything—it’s that real, physical, 3D human life happens out there, in the world. Rather than retreating further into our virtual worlds, I hope that we take this time to appreciate and immerse ourselves in the real world.